We love working with food brands and, with the unprecedented success of MasterChef, a number of our clients were looking at ways of getting involved.

Advertising/sponsorship of MasterChef‘ website was a popular choice, and for good reason. The website looks great, is packed with valuable content and is approaching ‘urban legend status’ when it comes to visitor numbers and time spent on site.

A couple of weeks ago the reports came back from Channel Ten and the media agencies, and as you’d expect, there was plenty of data to crunch. After spending some time (OK, a weekend) doing just that for each of our relevant clients, we’ve identified five key insights that any marketer looking at online display advertising should consider. It should be noted that these don’t apply specifically to MasterChef, and are just as relevant when looking to advertise on any popular online property.

Observation One: Visitors predominantly stay within the MasterChef website

This is a widely promoted statistic, a great result for MasterChef, and exactly what any media owner should be shooting for. If visitors stay on their website, they can clock up more page views, serve more ads and retain more advertisers. Media owners even structure packages for brands to encourage this behaviour, offering to develop mini sites and facilitate competitions on their behalf (all of which live within the media owner’s property).

If the aim of the campaign is just exposure then this is fine, and taking up such offers may even save marketers from having to invest additional funds to support the media spend. If, however, the objective is to bring new consumers across to the brand’s own websites, then messaging, offers and incentives should be developed and promoted accordingly.

In my humble opinion, brands advertising on mass media sites are like young guys in nightclubs. It’s a great place to meet and impress new people, but if you can’t get them back to your place then what’s the point, right?

Key out take one: Identify your goals. If it’s to drive traffic to your brands online properties then make sure everything you do works toward this goal.

Observation Two: Recipe content could rival free money in a popularity contest

What’s a recipe? A clear and concise solution to a problem. And not just any problem – a problem that turns up every single day.

People like having their problems solved. They love having them preempted.

If you can preempt a problem, solve it, and make your brand the hero, then it’s high fives all round. If the solution is valuable content that doesn’t cost you anything per download (like a recipe or PDF recipe book), it’s a home run.

Key out take two: If you’re investing in display media, ensure that you’re also investing in something valuable to give to the people that take notice.

Observation Three: Traffic to key content areas improved as the campaign progressed

The guys looking after content on the MasterChef site did an A-grade job of responding to trends and visitor data. Popular content was identified and promoted while unpopular content was reshuffled, remerchandised or replaced. Seasonality, real world events and the happenings on the show were also taken into account. All of this resulted in an improved experience for visitors, and better leveraged traffic for the media owner.

Key out take three: Tweaking how content on your site is displayed can make a huge difference to the website’s overall performance. Look at your visitor statistics, consider broader trends and seasonality, then make regular adjustments to your content and prioritise to suit.

Observation Four: Campaigns can get pricey so compare apples with apples

Media owners usually report back on how they delivered in terms of CPC (cost per click) and/or CPM (cost per thousand impressions) at the end of a campaign. This is some of the crucial information that marketers can use to determine whether or not a campaign was successful, and whether it should be ramped up, repeated or dropped next season (you guys are measuring this stuff right?).

Comparing online results to print or TV statistics alone won’t really paint an accurate picture, so key metrics should be weighed up against other online channels including SEM (search engine marketing e.g. paying for Google AdWords) and SEO (search engine optimisation).

If the objective is to bring new people to your site (see observation one) then you may be surprised by what you can achieve with Google AdWords. A little bit of effort in developing a tightly focused campaign can bring you a stack of highly qualified traffic (e.g. people in Melbourne looking to purchase an oven) for just a dollar or two per click. Compare this to CPC prices from most media property sites (anecdotally between $15 and $40 per click) and things start to get interesting.

Key out take four: Make sure your objectives, your spend and your media match. Measure and keep track as you go.

Observation Five: The ratio of videos watched to unique site visitors was more than 2:1 (i.e. the average site visitor watched at least two videos while they were there). Seriously.

We’ve seen interest steadily rise over the last five years, but online video has clearly ‘tipped’ and is now in massive demand. And why wouldn’t it be? Compared with traditional ‘word and picture’ content, it’s more useful, entertaining and enjoyable. You can also consume online video at your desk, leaning back with a sandwich in one hand, without having to worry about messing up your keyboard or mouse.

Online video is a great way for brands to demonstrate products, solve problems, answer questions and educate/entertain visitors. When producing video for web, it’s also about 80% cheaper than developing the same sort of content for TV.

Key out take five: People would rather watch than read. Be nice and give people what they want.

When you break it all down, brands have much to gain by taking advantage of popular websites like MasterChef, especially if exposure to new audiences is a priority. That said, the fundamentals of advertising remain the same; be clear about your objectives, work with people who genuinely understand the space, engage your audience and measure as you go.