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MillwardBrown-Digital-Branding-Promise-June2014While almost 60% of digital advertising dollars this year have a direct response objective, per eMarketer, the researcher also expects that by 2017, digital advertising dollars will be almost equally split between branding and direct response objectives. Marketers do indeed indicate a strong shift from direct response to branding, but, as a new study from Millward Brown Digital attests, digital marketers aren’t yet confident that digital is delivering as a branding vehicle.

Millward Brown surveyed 300 digital marketing decision-makers over the age of 25 who work at a Fortune 5000 company or advertising agency in the US, asking them to rate their level of agreement with the statement: “Digital held promise for brand marketers, but for all its promise, it has never delivered as a branding vehicle.”

Exactly half of the respondents either somewhat agreed (19%) or strongly agreed (31%) with that statement, with only 28% disagreeing to some extent. (The rest were neutral on the topic.)

Despite that, the flow of money to digital branding ads continues. Some 94% said they will increase their digital branding ad budgets in the next year; 42% will increase their spending by more than 20%.

Currently, the most popular ad formats used by respondents are social media ads (73%), email marketing (73%), native advertising (68%), mobile website ads (61%) and in-app mobile ads (55%). Asked which they feel are the most effective in meeting their digital branding objectives, respondents cited social media ads (51%) first, followed by native ads (46%) and email marketing (36%).

A quick note here: some of the press coverage surrounding this study features headlines about social ads being more effective than email, or something to that effect. But the study specifically questioned respondents on the digital ad formats that are most effective in meeting their branding objectives – it’s not surprising that social ads top that list. After all, advertisers have said that branding is the main goal of social ads. That’s not to say that social ads aren’t necessarily more effective in meeting other goals; for the purposes of this study, though, respondents are noting their experience with branding objectives.

What are those objectives? A majority said their branding objectives are: promoting their products or services (62%); increasing purchase intent (57%); and promoting their website, unique landing page or mobile/tablet app (47%).

Other Findings:

  • Digital marketers’ biggest concern with programmatic buying is knowing where to being to optimize and improve their ads.
  • Among those concerned with “banner blindness,” 81% feel that emotional targeting can help.
  • Roughly 9 in 10 respondents said that they would spend more on digital branding ad formats if they made emotional connections.
  • The main objectives of making emotional connections, per respondents, would be to build brand recognition (71%) and to build brand trust and loyalty (70%).

About the Data: The survey was carried out in April 2014. Some 45% of respondents are CMOs (16%) or direct/department heads of marketing (29%) at a Fortune 5000 company.

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