Careers: Interviews
Rick Bruner: Renowned International Expert in Internet Marketing Research, Celebrated Author/Editor/Journalist and Research Director, DoubleClick

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, DFNPA, CNP, has an exclusive interview with internet marketing research expert and noted author, Rick Bruner.

Rick Bruner, DoubleClick's Research Director, joined the company in 2004. Prior to that, he ran his own market research practice focused on Internet advertising called Executive Summary Consulting. Before that, he was co-founder and VP of research of IMT Strategies, an e-business strategy firm affiliated with the IT consulting company META Group (NASDAQ: METG). He has consulted about e-business, e-marketing and e-media for companies including American Express, Gillette, IBM, New York Times Digital, MSN, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Online Publishers Association and many others.

He is also the co-author of the popular book "Net Results: Web Marketing That Works" and "Net Results 2.0" (Hayden, 1998; New Riders, 2000). Earlier in his career Mr. Bruner was a journalist, having co-founded and served as editor in chief of Budapest Week, Hungary’s first independent English-language newspaper, as well as writing for Advertising Age about online advertising, Wired, Boston Globe and other publications.

As a result of Rick’s widely respected expertise in Internet marketing, he keynotes at numerous conferences around the globe including at the 2005 e-Financial WorldExpo, October 27-28 in Toronto.

Discussion:

Q: Rick, as the Research Director for DoubleClick, a leading provider of digital advertising technology and services, we realize you have a particularly demanding schedule. We thank you taking the time to share your valuable knowledge and experiences with our audience.

A: Thanks for inviting me; it's my pleasure.

Q: You have many career successes over a sustained period. Which ones stand out as producing the greatest lessons—lessons you would want to share to mentor others?

A: I guess I'd say the best career move I made was to have faith that the Internet ad industry would rebound after the Internet bust of 2001-2003. The consulting company I was with from 1998 to 2001 did not survive the recession, and at that time a lot of my former colleagues in the industry decided to pursue careers in finance, heath care or other industries. I had faith, however, that Internet advertising would recover. It was obvious to me that the future of the Internet as an information, entertainment and commerce medium was strong, and it was also clear that consumers were continuing to use the Internet more and more during that period – so I figured it was only a matter of time before advertisers returned to it in a serious way. We saw online ad spending turn the corner in 2003 and then come booming back in 2004, so my bet paid off as I'm now one of the veterans who has been in the sector for almost a decade.

Q: Share with us three case studies from your consulting and research?

A: Earlier this year, we released a report I think would be of interest to many of your readers, "The Decade in Online Advertising." Since the first banner ads appeared on the web in 1994 on Hotwired.com, we decided to reflect on major trends in the first 10 years of this vital advertising medium. I'm very pleased that the Online Advertising Association has included a copy of that report in an exhibit they have sponsored at the New York Public Library about the history of advertising.

Also, in a report we released this September, "The Evolution of Rich Media Advertising," we include a case study from a leading interactive agency we work with, Digitas. It explains how they helped a consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) company introduce a new men's grooming product to the market with a rich media ad campaign. One of the things that made this campaign worth profiling was how a traditional CPG manufacturer recognized that rich media gave it the ability to track not only the brand impact of the campaign but also the customer engagement of people who interacted with the ad.  I refer to this kind of marketing strategy as "brand-response"; a combination of branding and direct response objectives. I think this hybrid approach is much more sensible for most campaigns than thinking in terms of mutually-exclusive brand or direct-response strategies.

Another interesting case study we published last year was with Continental Airlines called "In-direct Response," which examined the impact online ads can have on sales even when a person does not click on the ad. We call these types of conversion "view through." We can quantify that a large number of people exposed to many campaigns never click the ads but obviously see them, because they show up later at the advertised site and conduct a transaction. In this case study, we exposed one group to the ad and another "control group" to a Red Cross ad, and then we looked at what percentage of both groups ended up going to Continental's site and buying the advertised ticket offer. By comparing the exposed group to the control group we could conclude that 67% of the people who saw the ad and then visited the site for a purchase, (without clicking on the ad), did so because of the exposure to the ad.

Q: Can you distill for us, key factors that make for marketing success using the Web?

A:  That's a broad question. I could say a lot about that; in fact, as you noted, I wrote a whole book on the subject! But here are a couple of important recommendations:

  • Measure strategically. The Internet is by far the best marketing medium for measuring the "ROO" – return on objective – of marketing programs, but many marketers don't take time to measure what's really important. It's tempting to want a simplistic number to see in a report to judge at a glance whether a program is successful, but simplistic metrics like "click-through rate" may not tell the whole story or be closely tied to real objectives. Did the campaign help raise product/brand awareness? Did it positively impact attitudes towards the product/brand and lift purchase intent? Did it drive sales? Was it efficient and cost effective? More effective than other marketing channels? More effective than your competitors?

  • Optimize.  Think of marketing programs, not just campaigns. The key here is learning: lather, rinse, repeat. Traditional direct marketers have a concept they call "champion and challenger." Every wave of a marketing program (or "campaign" if you must) seeks to learn from the successes and failures of the previous, and in this way each new campaign is a challenger looking to unseat the success of the current champion. In this same way, online marketers should seek to constantly improve their programs and campaigns. Campaigns should be staged in waves to build in time for creative testing and making improvements based on success metrics.

Q: What do you forecast the DoubleClick Touchpoints studies for the future will reveal about interactive marketing—online advertising, websites, emails, and search engine marketing? What will be the impact on purchase process on different products across categories?

A: More, better, faster. Simply stated, the Internet shows tremendous impact on the purchasing process for almost all industries. I expect that impact will only grow as more consumers get on broadband, (more than half of U.S. Internet users connect via high-speed accounts already), and thereby spend more time online, and as marketers continue to get more sophisticated about how to use online the media you mentioned.

Q: What kinds of research methodologies do you use?

A: We use a number of methodologies, including extracting and analyzing data from our own service networks (we have thousands of clients using our ad serving, email and search solutions), surveys of consumers and marketers, and specialized services from partner research and analyst companies such as comScore Networks, Nielsen//NetRatings, Dynamic Logic, Jupiter Research, Forrester Research, eMarketer and others.

Final comment: Rick, your deep insights are so valuable to our audience and we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. We thank you for taking the time.

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