Marketers Use Online Tactics More but Are Skeptical

Effectiveness remains a concern, according to ANA poll

Marketers are spending more than ever on online advertising channels. So, obviously they’re sold on them as a viable investment, right? Not so fast.

Search engine marketing and search engine optimization are still relatively new, and there’s still no universal standard for measuring their effectiveness, according to Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. In that context, the main takeaway from a new ANA poll—that both usage and skepticism around online marketing are up—makes perfect sense.

Across the board, the use of six online tactics (display ads, social media marketing, SEM, SEO, mobile marketing, and video) has grown since the ANA last polled marketers in 2009. For example, 89 percent of the 92 marketing executives that the ANA polled currently use social media in their marketing—up from 66 percent in ’09 and 20 percent in ’07.

When asked to assess the effectiveness of the tactics, however, all but social media and mobile marketing declined. Some of the falloffs were small. Thirty percent said display ads were effective, compared to 32 percent two years ago. Still, it’s clear that marketing chiefs aren’t sure what works.

“When you immerse yourself into something brand-new, you don’t always know the reasons why you got the results or why you got the experiences that you did,” explained Liodice.

To some degree the usage findings reflect peer pressure or keeping up with the Joneses. Chief marketing officers just can’t afford to eschew certain types of digital marketing. Now, questions about media measurement in particular are driving a joint initiative of the ANA, 4A’s, and Interactive Advertising Bureau to develop a common standard for measuring and comparing the reach of all media channels. The initiative began last year and is entering a pilot phase.

“There’s so much we don’t really know, and I think that much of the measurement is a home-grown, back-of-the-envelope, internal-to-the-company approach toward attempting to understand the level of effectiveness,” said Liodice. “So, by all means, these results and the amount of usage that is taking place underscores with great emphasis that we need to ratchet up our measurement capability.”

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