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A New Tool for Measuring Ad ROI: eBay

David Ogilvy’s old saw, “I know that half my advertising works, I just don’t know which half,” has become less of a joke these days, with CMOs desperate to show CEOs that their multimillion-dollar ad budgets actually produce results. That’s one reason ad money is migrating to the Web: those nice, quantifiable click-through numbers are a more concrete measure of an ad’s ability to drive action than the amorphous impressions from a 30-second spot (that may or may not have fallen victim to Tivo or a hasty beer run to the ‘fridge. )

But we recently turned up another, pretty clever, way to measure ad value. Call it the eBay Index. It works like this: Create an advertisement that features some otherwise worthless tchotchke that’s identified with your brand. Limit said trinket’s availability. Watch and see what kind of price the thing can ring up on eBay.

The results can be astonishing. Witness the price that the VW GTI’s goofy gremlin, The VW Fast, is currently commanding on eBay. The gadget, a demonic-looking plastic toy that’s a little bigger than Mr. Potato Head and has removable tails, but otherwise does nothing, is listed right now for $510. Given that this thing wouldn’t sell for more than, say, $10 at Toys ‘R’ Us, the remaining $500 is strictly a measure of the buzz — and desirability — generated by the product’s advertising created, in this case, by the hot Miami ad shop, Crispin Porter Bogusky.

Their campaign for the car, featuring the ‘Fast’ and a couple of wacky faux German researchers, has whipped GTI enthusiasts into a frenzy. No matter that the New York Times recently panned most of the company’s recent product line. In this case, advertising is trumping engineering in creating value.

Tell that to your skeptical CEO.

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