It’s a Bird… It’s a Brand… It’s Brand Response!

(As published in the DRMA Voice, a publication for the Alliance for Performance-Based Marketers)

When it comes to marketing a product or service, there are typically two overarching objectives: create awareness and drive revenue. With the multitude of marketing platforms available in today’s media environment, media strategies are much like a Rubik’s Cube: there are a number of approaches to take, and the several moving parts are ultimately massaged into place through the right balance of sophistication, discipline, and perseverance. We’ve all heard the nomenclature: “I am a brand advertiser,” or, “I am a direct response advertiser.” But, today, what does that really mean?

Direct response advertising has the very specific purpose of eliciting a response from the consumer upon seeing an ad, whether that purpose is to order a product/service online, via a phone call, or at retail. It is more targeted than brand advertising – it is optimized on a far more granular level and meant to be seen primarily by those who are most likely to take action. Direct response advertisers track response metrics closely to optimize a campaign towards the strongest ROI. Brand advertisers on the other hand, are interested in exposing their brand to as many eyeballs as possible. Of course, delivering on those eyeballs efficiently is key to the strategy, but the overall objective is top-of-mind awareness. The next time a consumer needs something they sell, brands want consumers to think of them first.

Tactically, there are some key differences between brand and direct response advertising. What are the creative and offer strategies? What are the media buy tactics? What are the attribution practices? These have traditionally been obvious differentiators between brand and direct response advertisers. A clear line in the sand, so to speak: top-of-the-funnel awareness vs. bottom-of-the-funnel conversion.

But now, more so than ever, the lines continue to blur between brand marketing and direct response. The influx of multimedia content and various platforms combined with the emergence of cross-channel data analytics have driven brand marketers to the world of performance media, expressly concerned with key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive consumer action and return on investment (ROI). More and more, brand advertisers are evolving their media mix and incorporating performance-based media across channels, resulting in strategically balanced “brand response” campaigns designed to open the top of the funnel as wide as possible, within the confines of attributable and profitable metrics.

So, is there still a clear delineation between brand advertising and direct response, or is that becoming an antiquated view? Certain product or service categories lend themselves to lower-funnel metrics. Others require top-of-mind consideration. Some have the ability to educate and tell a powerful story in 30 seconds; others may require 60. That will likely never change, meaning there will always be a dichotomy of brand vs. direct response advertising tactics.What has changed however; is the way advertisers employ and rely on data analytics. And that has resulted in a new breed of advertisers. Visibility into how consumers are engaging with brands at each stage of the consumer journey is powerful information that is transforming existing and emerging brands into brand-response advertisers, pioneering the way towards heightened levels of consumer engagement and the type of accountability that results in smart, scalable marketing initiatives. One can only assume that as technology, visibility, and standardization continue to advance, the worlds of brand and direct response will only continue to look more and more alike.

Jeff Lazkani is Vice President, Business Development and Strategy, at Los Angeles-based Icon Media Direct. Sylvester Phifer is senior director of DR multimedia sales at ESPN.  Both are members of the DRMA TV Everywhere Committee.

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