I had an interesting call with a potential client last month. The company was selling a new consumer technology and the CEO wanted to know whether I thought there was an opportunity market their product on PPC. I started to explain how consumer electronics are marketed through AdWords when the CMO joined the call. The CMO, it turned out, was an old-school brand marketer. The conversation went something like this:

David: If you have a ‘new mousetrap’ type of product, you need to think about advertising on the Google Content Network – it’s a great place to engage users before they even know that they need your product. I think of GCN as a “demand creation” platform, whereas Google Search is more of a “demand fulfillment” medium.

CMO: Do you know approximately what percentage of sales comes from direct marketing for manufacturers?

David: I have no idea.

CMO: 7%!

David: OK.

CMO: So the point is, we shouldn’t waste any of our time on PPC because that’s not how you sell products.

David: Do you think you can hit your profit objectives simply through branding?

CMO: Yes, absolutely.

David: OK, go for it.

And that was the end of the conversation. My rule of thumb with new clients is that I never try to “sell” them on the concept of paid search marketing. If they haven’t already bought into the concept, I don’t have the time to educate them on the benefits. And this CMO was clearly part of the flat-earth society when it came to PPC, so there was no point arguing with him.

But the idea that he could actually hit his ROI metrics solely through branding did get me thinking a bit. I’m quite skeptical of most branding campaigns, simply because I suspect that most brand marketers can’t really quantify the ROI of the branding. But this CMO was confident that his branding would be ROI positive, and I can only assume that meant he had some clear metrics in place that would support that thesis.

If that’s the case, its hard to argue with his approach. He knows branding, and he knows how to measure branding, so why should he invest money in a medium he doesn’t understand if he can hit his metrics through his bread and butter approach?

I thought about it a little more, however, and realized that the CMO was missing one other crucial point: PPC can also drive branding and can often be the “last mile” that drives a conversion from branding. Let’s say you spend $1 million on a Super Bowl ad promoting your new “Gizmo Technology.” A day after the Super Bowl, people do a search on Google for your technology and all they see is ads for your competitors. Your branding may have just created a boon for your PPC-savvy competition! I actually saw this phenomenon at work in the mortgage business. When a competitor ran a front page promotion on Yahoo or another huge media buy, we would see an increase in conversions from our paid search!

On top of that, on AdWords and GCN, you can drive millions and often billions of impressions for pennies. I had a client that got more than one billion impressions at a CPM of less than $.10. That’s a lot of eyeballs for a little cost. The next generation is going to spend more time on the computer than they will watching TV or listening to the radio. If you aren’t placing your brand front-and-center on Google and Facebook, you are probably missing the biggest mass medium opportunity there is.

So I’m not against branding per se, and I am impressed by anyone who can measure the impact of their branding dollars. But branders have to meet us direct marketers half-way and acknowledge that PPC can and should be a significant component of their branding campaigns. Relying on branding alone in an Internet age just won’t cut it anymore.


  1. Sanjay Malhotra January 28th, 2010

    I think it's worth noting that the former "boundaries" between what is considered brand marketing vs what is direct marketing are at this point sufficiently blurred that most companies do see the value of a blended approach.AdWords, GCN and the PPC model in general actually provide a strong brand building tool – with a measurable ROI! How is this a bad thing for your brand? Done right, it gives you another way to drive your branded awareness while testing certain models for their effectiveness.I came from the brand/mktg side of things and now with the experience of direct mktg under my belt it seems a no-brainer to blend the streams to create a comprehensive brand strategy.But that's just me ;)

  2. David Rodnitzky January 29th, 2010

    Sanjay, you are absolutely right and I think you explained by position much more succinctly than I did.One thing us PPC'ers need to do more of is quantify the brand value of our campaigns – so far that isn't a priority for most.

  3. Anonymous January 29th, 2010

    There is a huge advantage to increased brand awareness through the GCN, whether its site targeted or keyword targeted the opportunity for exposure on seemingly relevant sites is certainly available. Put a unique URL in the display ad and then you can measure ROI.I would recommend that a close eye is kept on the GCN sites that spend a significant amount to make sure they are highly relevant as its very easy to blow your budget on irrelevant domains. Run the site placement report every 2 days and that will keep you in check

  4. Sanjay Malhotra January 29th, 2010

    Good points re GCN. The mantra of any direct mktg campaign is Test, Test, Test – which means you're to be constantly aware of which media (domains/sites) are performing and which are not – priming the former with ad $$$ and cutting the latter with all speed. While that may not sound like a good brand strategy, it actually can be very effective, since you use it to augment your larger brand strategy and not necessarily make it the central focus.

  5. John January 30th, 2010

    "had a client that got more than one billion impressions at a CPM of less than $.10. That's a lot of eyeballs for a little cost."Did you just brag about that? Didn't the title of your post include the word "quantifying"?

  6. David Rodnitzky January 30th, 2010

    I think you took that out of context, John. The point of that paragraph is that if you are going to care about branding metrics like eyeballs, GCN is about the most cost-efficient eyeball gathering technique there is.I might add that the client that got a billion impressions was also getting very high ROI, so the eyeballs were purely ancillary to the primary objective!

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.