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Online advertising has been with us for over 10 years. During that time two different paradigms have characterized the way the effectiveness of online advertising has been assessed: brand building or direct response. In general the direct response paradigm has become the yardstick of online advertising success due to the universal measurement of click-through. This article proposes that the two paradigms are not contradictory but are in fact complementary and that the applicability of either model depends on the mindset of the audience as much as the intent of the advertisement. The article outlines a conceptual framework that integrates an established brand equity model with different stages of the purchase process and then uses existing learning, new research data, and case studies to illustrate the various ways in which online advertising can help build brands and increase the probability of purchase. The article concludes that click-through is primarily a consequence of the brand building effect combined with a willingness to learn more about the specific brand as a result of an immediate need for a product or service of that type.
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