Did Putin send his minions to take over AdAge? And comScore, Yahoo, and MediaVest? All at once? This is the worst propaganda piece I’ve read this year:
Just look at this headline:
“Why CPG Brands Better Buy Paid Search;
Sponsored Text Ads Increased Awareness 160%”
The search world must be awash in pom poms and champagne today. Every SEM consultant probably sent his or her client a copy of this 1200-word AdAge hype. In sum, it concluded that sponsored search advertising, those tiny little text ads most people don’t see when they use Google or Yahoo search engines, is empirically proven to raise unaided brand awareness, “even among consumers who never click on them.” Less important, but a billion times as laughable, was the finding that consumers have a better perception of the #1-positioned advertiser than those in lower positions. Duh.
No one will challenge the study. Except, of course, this lonely little blog. It’s why Lairig Marketing exists.
The study was conducted on 6000 comScore panelists, recruited due to their history of searching on CPG-related keywords. Given the way results are presented, it is doubtful the panel was segmented for distinguishing characteristics such as prevalence of sponsored-ad versus organic-listing usage, and frequency of search.
Study Dynamics - Part 1
The panelists were shown “simulated” search results. There is no information whether the panelists were told of the study’s objectives nor what they were instructed to do during the simulation. For example, were they told to take a look way over on the right margin, even though some of them might never do so normally?
Study Dynamics - Part 2
What were the panelists shown for sponsored results? Real ones, or mock ups with stronger brand wording? This statement from the article is chilling: “the simulated setting also meant less ad clutter than real-world media studies typically involve.” Huh?
If you don’t think real world is important, try a Google search on “shampoo” and tell me in three days if you can remember the #1-ranked “brand.” Will you remember TGel? Unaided? Did you even see TGel?
You can’t define brand awareness the way a taxi cab instructor defines road sign awareness. “OK - what did you just see? A stop sign or a yield sign?” Brand awareness is not measured in minutes or hours. As a panelist under simulated conditions, you can bet I’d commit everything I saw to memory. Like a good panelist should. Like a real consumer doesn’t.
There is no argument that some consumers click on sponsored search results in the CPG space. It’s one reason why Google’s stock price is so high. Attempting to tie text ads to branding, however, sets us back about 25 years vis-à-vis the tenets of brand marketing.
Where is Al Ries when you need him? Putin must have gotten AdAge to muzzle him, too.