Tag Archive: CMO

  1. TikTok: would a US ban spell the end for the video-sharing platform?

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    You’d think that an app best known for dance crazes and lip-sync comedy would be about as apolitical as they come – but you’d be wrong.

    TikTok caught up in US-China tensions

    TikTok, the short-form video sharing social network, has been caught up in the increasingly tense relationship between the US and China, with President Trump considering a nationwide ban of the app. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese organisation which is thought to be the most valuable private company in the world. Many lawmakers across the world are concerned about the security of user data and risks around potential foreign interference. India banned TikTok (and 58 other Chinese apps) at the beginning of this month, saying they posed a ‘threat to sovereignty and integrity’, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that his government is ‘having a good look’ at the platform. It should be noted that all three countries with ongoing concerns about TikTok have difficult relationships with China.

    TikTok is hugely popular with the critical younger audience

    TikTok was formed in late 2018 as a result of a merger between two other big Chinese apps – Musical.ly, an app for lip-sync music videos, and Douyin, a short-form video platform. It has since grown enormously, reaching the 2 billion download milestone in April this year, making it the most downloaded non-gaming app ever – surpassing even Facebook and WhatsApp. It was downloaded 315 million times in the quarter that ended on March 31st, the highest number of downloads for any app in a quarter. This is a reflection of its huge popularity as the world went into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, and consumers sought light-hearted entertainment and engagement. TikTok’s userbase skews very young: 65.3% of its users in the US are under 29, and 31% of 13-18-year-olds in the UK used the app during lockdown. This youthful, highly engaged audience is a huge lure for advertisers: TikTok is on track to earn $500m in ad revenue in the US alone this year.

    Security concerns

    However, it’s not all been smooth sailing for the social platform. The current and threatened bans aren’t the first problems it has encountered. TikTok was fined $5.7m in 2019 by the US Federal Trade Commission for illegally collecting personal information from children under the age of 13; as part of the agreement it was also required to delete all videos and data relating to under-13s, something which it is now alleged it failed to do. Just last month, TikTok was one of 53 apps that Apple security researchers flagged were regularly seeking access to a handset’s clipboard. These security breaches have made many uneasy: some government entities in the US have banned staff from using the TikTok app on government-issued phones, while Amazon told employees to delete the app – although it rescinded the instruction later that day.

    TikTok will remain popular with advertisers

    Some advertising industry figures are wondering aloud whether the threat of a ban will affect advertisers’ attitudes towards the platform, ultimately making that $500m ad revenue target harder to achieve. The general consensus seems to be that it will not. TikTok’s core appeal is its huge, youthful audience: the ability to reach them on a meaningful level is critical for many advertisers. What’s more, it may well benefit from the Facebook boycott. Many brands who normally spend most of their social dollars on Facebook and have chosen to pause their spend with the tech giant in the support of the #StopHateForProfit campaign will be looking to spend their social budgets elsewhere. TikTok’s young audience and recent launches – its self-serve ad platform and TikTok for Business – will make it an attractive alternative. The self-serve ad platform, which allows advertisers to buy and manage ad campaigns directly and access creative tools, flexible budgets and performance targeting could lure small and medium businesses in particular – Facebook’s core revenue driver. TikTok has also pledged $100m in ad credits for small businesses suffering as a result of lockdown.

    There will always be an appetite for platforms with a youthful audience

    The future is uncertain for TikTok, and its success undoubtedly hinges on the US government’s decision. However, no matter which way the decision goes, TikTok’s very existence and its enormous success show that there is a huge appetite for platforms that appeal to a young audience. If they fall, then the space that they leave will no doubt be filled rapidly.

    Image: Marmolejos / Shutterstock

  2. Why now is the right time for an intensive marketing campaign

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    The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on economies across the world, forcing consumers inside and closing down huge swathes of society and business, including retail, hospitality and travel. The advertising industry has been hit hard, with many brands having to pull or adapt their marketing campaigns and slash their budgets. However, many countries are starting to show signs of recovery, while media prices are still down. Could this be the perfect time for advertisers to reassert themselves?

    Media pricing is low

    As we reported in the special coronavirus update to our inflation report, the forced changes in consumer behaviour during the lockdown led to significant changes in media pricing. OOH, Print and Radio were more obvious victims, suffering significant deflation globally; however, TV also became deflationary thanks to increased eyeballs teamed with many brands pausing their activity. Even Digital inflation was lower than forecast at the beginning of the year: high demand led to overall inflation, but several major markets saw deflation in digital channels due to huge inventory increases combined with decreased demand. The result? Huge savings to be made for advertisers who continue their marketing campaigns.

    As countries emerge from lockdown, signs of economic recovery are encouraging

    Over the last few weeks, countries around the world have started to emerge from lockdown, with the retail, hospitality and travel sectors being opened up, albeit with restrictions in place. Governments are providing stimuli to kick-start spending, and there are indications that these measures are working. Italy saw a 24% surge in retail sales after lockdown lifted, while retail sales in both Germany and the Netherlands in May rose above pre-pandemic levels.

    Promising signs from China

    There are also promising signs from markets who are further along the coronavirus ‘curve’, particularly China. The Chinese economy continues to recover after the government lifted strict lockdown measures and ramped up investment. Four data points in particular show encouraging signs that this key market is recovering: the services PMI jumped to 58.4 in June, from 55.0 in May, which points towards rapid month-on-month recovery; nonmanufacturing activity jumped to a seven-month high in June; the official manufacturing PMI reached a three-month high, and manufacturing activity reached a six-month high. These indicators have raised hopes that China will make a full recovery later this year. Of course, the ramifications are felt across the world: Wall Street stocks rose sharply on 6th July as positive sentiment from China allowed investors to hope that the Chinese recovery would drive demand for foreign goods.

    Hope for a single-hit scenario

    The OECD has made predictions for global economic recovery based on two scenarios. The first is a double-hit scenario which would see a second wave of infections before the end of the year. The second would see the second wave of infections avoided. Given economic and industrial indicators, and with continued controls in place, we should be cautiously hopeful that the latter scenario will be the case.

    The time to restart your advertising is now

    Brands should take hope from the Chinese recovery. In markets where the pandemic has been largely well managed, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Although the pandemic has caused huge suffering both personally and economically, many people who have not lost their jobs have saved a significant amount of money as they have not been able to travel, eat out or go shopping. Furthermore, it’s likely that many of them will be eager to spend the money they’ve saved following months of boredom at home. Teamed with the fact that media pricing is so low, now is a great time for advertisers to invest in an intensive marketing campaign so that their brands are top of mind as consumers start spending again. There will undoubtedly be a first-mover advantage for brands seeking to increase their share of voice, and to obtain the best value media pricing.

    Look out for ECI Media Management’s upcoming whitepaper on how to harness reduced media pricing and ensure that you capitalize on the deals to be had. At ECI Media Management, we can help you to navigate the rapidly changing media landscape so you can drive higher media value. Contact us to discover how:

    Image: Olivier Le Moal / Shutterstock

  3. Coronavirus has a dramatic effect on media inflation

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    In just a few short weeks the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the human way of life right across the globe. We have been forced to stay at home and, crucially for the advertising industry, our consumption habits have been transformed quite literally overnight. Many brands have been impacted by reduced spending, forcing them in turn to reduce their own advertising budgets; almost all advertisers have revised their 2020 marketing activity in some way.

    This disruption to global media markets has caused a sharp drop in demand and, as a result, a decrease in pricing for most media types, according to ECI Media Management’s special report on the impact of coronavirus on media inflation, produced by our experts. At a global level, all traditional media types will suffer from deflation of varying severity, while Digital Display and Digital Video – which were looking very robust in our original report released at the beginning of the year – are forecast to be only minimally inflationary in 2020. The story is more varied at a regional level: in North America and EMEA, all media including Digital are deflationary, while in APAC and LATAM some media types are showing more resilience. It seems likely that the fact that these regions are at different stages of the pandemic – APAC is seemingly through the worst, while LATAM looks to be at the start of the curve – is affecting inflation.

    Digital: inflationary overall, but deflationary in key markets

    With advertisers shifting spend out of OOH, demand is high for digital, leading to overall inflation for Digital Video and Digital Display, particularly in APAC which is driving global Digital inflation. However, several major markets such as the US, the UK and France are experiencing deflation in digital channels due to the huge inventory increases combined with decreased demand. The use of programmatic blacklists to block terms associated with coronavirus is reducing the price drop for digital channels, although the trend is causing digital publishers to struggle – the IAB is trying to combat this practice.

    The video streaming platforms should be one of the few sectors to benefit from the coronavirus pandemic, with subscriber and viewing figures up significantly. Those platforms with a revenue model based on advertising should see increased demand from advertisers seeking to benefit from that increased viewership, especially in the US.

    TV: consistently deflationary, except in APAC

    TV viewership has perhaps never been higher, with people turning in their droves to TV as a source of information and entertainment. The increased viewership has led to increased supply, particularly as some advertisers have had to pull their spend – and that has led to an overall deflationary trend. This means that there is huge value for those brands who are still active in TV, with much more reach at no extra cost.

    Coronavirus will have a lasting impact

    Coronavirus and the havoc it is wreaking on our economies and our way of life will have a profound and enduring effect on the entire advertising industry. It seems inevitable that, when we do emerge from this crisis, the landscape will have dramatically transformed. Economic uncertainty and a lack of growth will likely see brands continue to exercise caution over their marketing spend: ad spend is likely to decrease, and media inflation will inevitably respond. At ECI Media Management, we will continue to provide forensic analysis and actionable insights so that advertisers are able to successfully navigate this new terrain. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss your media activity in a post-coronavirus world.

    Read and download the report here.

    Discover our top 10 recommendations for advertisers during the coronavirus pandemic here.

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  4. TV in the time of coronavirus

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    Around a third of the world’s population has had their freedom of movement limited to a lesser or greater extent – these restrictions include recommended or mandatory social distancing, school closures and orders to work from home if at all possible. For the billions of people now spending the vast majority of their time at home, TV has become the primary source of entertainment and connection with the outside world. It is a trusted source of information and distraction, and even acts a social glue: it’s one of few things that we still have in common that isn’t the battle against the covid-19.

    TV is an industry that has seen huge change over the last few years: the pandemic will accelerate that change and, in some cases, even reshape it.

    People are watching more TV than ever

    It’s no surprise that TV viewing figures across the world have increased dramatically over the last few months. In the two-week period to March 29th, overall usage of TV among viewers aged 18-49 in the US increased by 25% year on year, compared to the same period in 2019. Streaming video on demand (SVOD) services have enjoyed similar gains: Netflix subscriptions are reportedly up 27%, Hulu’s are up 16% and Amazon’s 21% (according to NBC). In the UK, TV viewing grew by 17% year on year in the week commencing March 16th – and that was a week before lockdown restrictions were implemented. Meanwhile, Statista found that 43% of US adults are now more likely to watch movies from a streaming service, while 40% of adults are more likely to watch TV online.

    Primetime has shifted earlier as viewers turn to TV to alleviate boredom throughout the day. According to Conviva, daytime viewing jumped by nearly 40% in the week of 17th-23rd March, versus the week of 3rd to 9th March.

    A profound effect on advertisers

    Of course, the impact of coronavirus on brands has been profound: many are seeing decreased sales with customers unable to leave the house, and with financial concerns of their own affecting purchasing decisions. With decreased revenue, many advertisers have pulled back some of their advertising spend – American travel advertisers, for example, cut their spend by 50% in the first two weeks of March: that cut is likely to have increased significantly as more travel restrictions have been implemented in late March and in April.

    Advertisers are redirecting linear TV spend

    Sport is an incredibly important advertising opportunity for many brands, reaching as it does many hard-to-reach consumers, including young men. The fact that pretty much all live sports events have been cancelled or postponed for the next few months has left gaping holes in media plans and TV network revenues and has made premium audiences harder to reach. Advertisers are redirecting linear investment, particularly investment which had been targeted at sort, to other inventory controlled by the TV networks including digital inventory, as the latter attempt to make up for lost reach and hang on to ad revenue. However, brands are also increasingly redirecting linear TV spend to the streaming platforms, accelerating a trend that was already worrying the linear TV networks. It’s interesting to note that the streaming networks are unlikely to enjoy the same level of spend by advertiser as the linear TV networks do: ads on streaming platforms can be targeted to specific audience segments, allowing the advertisers to spend less money.

    With increased pressure on their bottom lines, particularly in light of an imminent recession, some brands may be tempted to remove their spend from TV and streaming altogether in favour of Google or Amazon, which are more likely to lead directly to product sales.

    Coronavirus will impact on all players in the TV industry

    The entire TV and streaming industry will be affected, but it’s likely that TV networks will suffer more than the streaming platforms, thanks in part to their reliance on live sport. Although TV viewing figures are up dramatically, this increased supply is being met with lower demand from advertisers, which is causing prices to decrease. Interestingly, when US network NBCUniversal announced that its viewing figures had increased sharply, it also shared that it would be cutting back on some of its advertising inventory in order to improve viewer experience. This is a laudable effort to stop prices plummeting, and is a trend we expect to see across the TV industry as a whole over the next months and years.

    A triple whammy of factors leading to a loss in ad revenue

    The loss of ad revenue will be a key implication of the coronavirus pandemic for the TV industry. The triple whammy of advertisers looking to make savings in their marketing budgets, a lack of live sports and the pause in production of new content leading to holes in programming, the outlook is fairly bleak, particularly for the traditional TV networks. The streaming services may fare better at least in the short term as advertisers shift their budgets to them from the traditional networks, but they will be equally affected by a lack of content down the line.

    The surge in subscriptions may be temporary

    While it seems so far that the lockdown has led to a surge in subscriptions, particularly for the streaming networks as mentioned above, the upward trend isn’t reliable. The coronavirus pandemic has caused huge increases in unemployment across the world: twinned with worries about a global recession, consumers may well be looking for ways to tighten their belts, and they might be willing to forego their streaming subscriptions, particularly when the lockdown is over and financial concerns kick in.

    Sports fans will resubscribe – but to which service?

    Whether or not they are concerned about money, sports fans in the US may also consider cancelling their pay-TV subscriptions while there is no live sport. They are likely to re-subscribe when sport returns, but could be tempted by the flexibility and lower prices of services such as YouTube and Hulu: this will be a true test of the theory that it is live sport that keeps people tethered to traditional TV.

    A lasting impact on traditional TV and the streaming platforms

    The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated and reshaped a transformation that was already happening to the TV and streaming industries. Some of the effects of the virus will undoubtedly be temporary – sport will return and advertisers will pay to reach the people that watch them – other effects, such as the shift towards the streaming platforms, will be more permanent.

    Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

  5. How will the coronavirus pandemic affect the advertising industry?

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    The alarming spread of coronavirus across the world has transformed society, business, politics and life itself beyond recognition in just a few short weeks. In an attempt to stem the spread of the virus or at least ‘flatten the curve’, governments have implemented measures never seen before. At least a quarter of the world’s population is living in lock down, with severely limited freedom of movement. Consumer behaviour has been forced to change: no longer able to partake in previously quotidian activities such as going to the cinema and out to restaurants, people are turning to media platforms to keep them entertained and informed. This is having an immediate, direct impact on advertisers and indeed the advertising industry as a whole.

    Media consumption has transformed

    With so many people forced to stay at home, the media they consume and how they consume it has undergone a huge transformation The reach of cinema and OOH has declined dramatically; while some thought that radio might follow suit with fewer people driving to work, it has in fact enjoyed a boost. However, podcast downloads have suffered. Of course, TV, digital and social reach has skyrocketed, with their ability to offer entertainment, information and comfort at home.

    The SVOD platforms will be one of the few sectors to benefit

    The video streaming platforms will be one of the very few sectors that will benefit from the coronavirus. Data analysts have predicted that Netflix’s year-on-year subscription growth in the US and Canada will reach more than double previous estimates, rising by 3.8% compared to original estimates of 1.6%. Of course, Netflix now has competition. AppleTV+ launched in November and Disney+, having launched in the US and Canada at the end of 2019, expanded into the UK and Ireland last week, and will roll out in other key European markets in this month. NBC Universal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max will roll out in the next few months. It seems likely that they will all benefit from the world spending the spring, and possibly beyond, on their sofas. This will be exacerbated by the cancellation of sporting events, with advertisers likely to redirect sponsorship dollars away from traditional TV and into the streaming platforms (where advertising is available) to make up for lost reach.

    Conversely, it seems that the timing is not so good for Quibi, the new streaming platform which focuses on short-form video content for consumers on the go. After all, very few people are on the go at the moment, and people at home for weeks on end are more likely to want something longer and more engrossing.

    Reduced consumer activity will hit most sectors hard

    Unfortunately, most organisations are likely to feel a negative impact. Reduced consumer activity and possibly worries about money in the medium term will impact on sectors as diverse as travel, technology and entertainment. Already many major advertisers have reduced or even halted activity altogether, including Airbnb and Coca-Cola, as well as a slew of travel and tourism brands. Those who haven’t cancelled their advertising spend have moved quickly to change their messaging and their creative and geographical strategies. Many brands have chosen to change their messaging to show support for health services and frontline workers, while imagery of human interaction has declined by 27.4% in social ads. We will see more changes as advertisers seek to adapt to the ‘new normal’, and general anxiety and nervousness around advertising in general.

    With people cooking the majority of their own meals at home, one sector that isn’t suffering is food retail. Supermarkets should take advantage of lower costs to ramp up their advertising in a carefully considered and effective manner. Interestingly, however, is the increased tendency to use local retailers, with people doing what they can to shop as close to home as possible. It will be fascinating to observe whether these behaviours last when life returns to ‘normal’.

    The tech giants and media agencies will feel the strain

    It seems counter-intuitive in a time when consumers will spend much more time online, particularly on social media, but tech giants Google and Facebook are also unlikely to be left unscathed by coronavirus. Analysts predict that Google will see a 15% drop in travel ad revenue in Q1 of 2020, and a 20% drop in Q2. Meanwhile, 30-45% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from the travel, retail, CPG and entertainment industries, all of which are likely to spend less on advertising in the coming months. It’s not all bad though: it seems likely that many advertisers will seek to move much of their offline spend – particularly from OOH and cinema – into digital.

    Media agencies are likely feeling the strain and this will only become more apparent, not only because of reduced ad spend, but because it’s likely that brands will start to bring services and capabilities in-house as part of their cost-saving efforts.

    What does all this mean for the cost of advertising?

    Back in what feels like another era – the beginning of February – we at ECI Media Management released our annual Inflation Report, providing our forecasts for media inflation in 2020. We noted that coronavirus could affect global travel and local consumption, but no one could have anticipated the epoch-defining effect the virus would have on our modern way of life. And that means, of course, that media pricing will change dramatically in 2020.

    We expect to see hugely increased screen time – likely a double-digit increase, and even higher for news, health and learning websites. As the amount of inventory expands and advertisers limit their spending thanks to pressures on their business, we should expect prices to drop significantly: publishers are already feeling the strain, particularly as brands blacklist many of the terms associated with coronavirus.

    An opportunity for contextual marketing

    With prices dropping and a huge increase in digital reach, there is an opportunity to create highly cost-efficient brand building campaigns. Many brands and third-party ad tech firms have blacklisted keywords relating to coronavirus and covid-19 in order to maintain brand safety; budget previously earmarked for this activity could be pivoted to contextual marketing, which we believe will become a powerful tool in the marketer’s toolbox with the death of the cookie.

    Agility is the key to navigating this crisis

    2020 has swiftly and unexpectedly turned into a year of dramatic change for absolutely everyone, from individual people to entire industries and economies. As we all attempt to navigate these changes from our home offices, one thing is clear: we must remain informed and ready to respond to rapidly changing circumstances. Agility, as is so often the case, will be crucial.

    ECI Media Management has produced a list of ten steps that advertisers can take to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on their media performance – you can find it here. Please don’t hesitate to contact us on if there is anything you would like to discuss concerning your media activity.

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  6. Modern media auditing: from assessing value to optimizing buying

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    By Victoria Potter, US Business Director at ECI Media Management

    The current media landscape is complex and ever-changing, thanks to constant technological advances and a dynamic economic context. It’s an exciting yet challenging time to be a marketer: with so much consumer data to leverage and so many channels to choose from, how do you ensure that your advertising investment is working hard to build your brand and drive sales?

    To learn from your advertising campaigns, a media audit is crucial

    Working with creative, media, tech and data specialists is of course a given: from concept to execution, working alongside experts will help you to ensure that your strategy has the best chance of reaching the right audiences, and resonating with them. But to learn from your campaigns, you need to conduct a media audit.

    Go beyond the pool for an approach that optimizes against your objectives

    The traditional method of media audit is to use the pool to benchmark the advertiser’s spend to understand whether their media buy has delivered good value. However, pool benchmarking only scratches the surface of how data can help advertisers understand the efficiency of their advertising investment. Our forensic approach to auditing goes beyond the pool approach: it is more strategic and focuses on achieving the client’s goals, not just whether good value was achieved. As media fragmentation becomes more prevalent, KPIs such as targeting and coverage are key drivers of greater efficiency and value. This allows us to understand the sweet spot of hitting the audience from the targeting, reach and cost perspectives, and to provide actionable insights into how they could buy better for their next campaign.

    A bespoke KPI framework

    As modern auditing needs to incorporate quality KPIs and spend effectiveness in order to deliver value to the advertiser, we establish a bespoke KPI framework that optimizes the client’s ROI. We’re agile, digital-native and independent: ever since our formation we have championed a modern approach to media auditing so that we can help our clients to not just navigate the increasingly complex media landscape, but to benefit from that complexity.

    There’s nothing more expensive than buying the wrong strategy

    Never has it been so important to optimise media buying and reach the right audiences in the most efficient way. The TV landscape is undergoing momentous change: audiences are fragmenting as the number of streaming platforms multiplies, many of them ad-free. Ratings on linear and OTT TV are deteriorating but, but the cost of advertising is still inflating (see our latest inflation report for more insight and context). This means that being present on the wrong programming carries higher stakes than in the past: there is nothing more expensive than buying the wrong strategy.

    Change is the only constant

    In the complex modern media landscape, change is the only constant, and keeping abreast of that change is the only way to win. Advertisers must understand how to make their ad dollars work as hard as possible in order to maximize effectiveness – and a modern auditor can help that to happen.

    At ECI Media Management, our approach guarantees higher media value than the pool approach, as it is specific and tailored to our clients’ needs.

     

    If you’d like to discover how a modern media audit could benefit your media performance, contact 

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  7. How can vehicles like YouTube be made safe?

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    YouTube is embroiled in yet another brand safety scandal

    YouTube was recently beleaguered by yet another scandal involving brand safety. A Wired investigation revealed that many major advertisers, including Alfa Romeo, Grammerly and L’Oreal were featuring alongside videos that had widespread activity by paedophiles in the comments section. In response, brands such as AT&T, Disney, Nestle and Epic Games pulled their YouTube spend. This isn’t the first time that they’ve had to do this following a brand safety scandal: in early 2017, UK newspaper the Times revealed that brands were unwittingly funding terrorism by appearing next to extremist videos. Indeed, AT&T had only recently resumed its spend before pulling it again after this latest issue.

    It appears that media vendors continue to sell very poor-quality content, and buyers continue to purchase it – will anything change? How?

    Why is this happening?

    With their ads appearing alongside some of the most unsavoury content imaginable, you’d be forgiven for assuming that brands would turn their backs on YouTube permanently, or at least until they could be assured that it wouldn’t happen again. You could also be forgiven for thinking that tackling this matter would be top of vendors’ list of priorities, given that their business model is so dependent on advertising. So what’s going on?

    It’s all about the money

    The answer is, as it so often is, money. For vendors, the temptation to sell huge bundles of automated or semi-automated impressions can be too strong to pass up, while the sheer reach of those impressions is hard for advertisers to resist. The issue here is a lack of motivation on both sides to police content: brands could be doing more to monitor their campaigns, while vendors certainly have work to do around the content that appears on their platforms, and what advertising appears next to that content. The algorithm always goes where eyeballs go, which can lead to errors: for example, children’s videos often have high viewing figures, and children don’t tend to skip ads. The algorithm thinks this is fertile ground for an advertiser and promptly serves… an alcohol ad. This is especially likely if the child is looking at mum’s iPad and the brand is using demographic targeting. To be fair, Google has gone to significant effort to build tech that can track consumers across all devices, but that hasn’t stopped its targeting capabilities falling short, as the example above illustrates.

    In short, these scandals are happening because of an industry that continues to reward quantity rather than quality.

    So what can be done to improve brand safety?

    This is a difficult battle but it’s certainly one worth fighting as digital advertising becomes ever more prevalent and important. Responsibility lies with the platforms, of course – they must try much harder to make their content safer (not just for advertisers), and to prevent ads being served alongside potentially damaging content. But brands have work to do as well.

    Advertisers must be more careful about where their ads are being served, and what bundles they buy. There will always be a conflict between reach and relevance: while vendors and tech firms sell a dream of the automated purchasing of millions of hyper relevant, this is completely unrealistic, particularly in the short and medium terms.

    Using premium marketplaces

    One avenue that some savvy brands are pursuing in order to mitigate the risk of ads being served alongside ‘unsafe’ content is premium marketplaces, such as Google’s Preferred programme, private marketplaces and programmatic direct deals. These platforms give brands access to – at a premium price – inventory that is higher quality, brand safe and more relevant, in theory at least. However, these platforms are becoming increasingly crowded by concerned advertisers, and the packages often leave out high quality content. Alarmingly, there have even been instances where the packages have included content that has caused the brand safety scandals that brands are desperately seeking to avoid.

    Other formats are an option

    Of course, there are other options to the ‘traditional’ video ad: native advertising is not only safer, but also easier to target at the right audiences, so you get relevance and reach.

    Vendors must act too

    Of course, it goes without saying that the platforms themselves must really focus on weeding out inappropriate content, and on being stricter about which content can be monetised through ads. This might be controversial amongst content producers who rely on ad dollars for their income, but it will be critical to the success of the video platforms and avoidance of the scandals that have beset them in recent years.

    There’s no easy answer

    This is a complex issue which will take a lot of work from both brands and vendors to overcome; there’s no silver bullet. Google’s EMEA president even admitted that the tech giant may well never be able to guarantee 100% safety for brands. Advertisers will need to accept that they can’t have both huge reach and hyper relevance: greater relevance will come at a cost through programmes such as Google Preferred or private programmatic exchanges. Meanwhile, vendors must of course invest in tools and technology to make their content safe – for advertisers and viewers.

    Image: Shutterstock

  8. The reincarnation of audio

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    The last decade has seen a huge focus on digital and visual innovation in the advertising industry; but marketers and practitioners have always known the value of non-intrusive, highly accessible and limit-free advertising, which is why we are seeing a recent re-incarnation of audio for this generation.

    Divergence and evolution

    The audio marketplace has seen a divergence and then evolution from the standard radio format towards the podcast and music platforms, although radio still remains crucial. The beauty of these mediums for the advertiser is the ad: no blocking and no ‘peak-time’ engagement driving up prices.

    Demand for on-demand audio driven by commutes and smart speakers

    On-demand audio streams surpassed 400bn in 2017, compared to 252bn in 2016. Commuting times are rising as people seek more peaceful lives outside of cities, and rail commutes are on average 2 hours and 11 minutes: it’s no wonder that the demand for podcasts and other on-demand audio has risen so dramatically. Furthermore, smart speaker streaming helped to drive an 8% increase in the number of hours spent listening to digital broadcasts in 2018 versus 2017. The resurgence of audio should not go unnoticed.

    Is the marketplace ready for digital audio?

    Whilst the marketplace re-aligns with its audio roots, it is inevitable that there will be challenges for media planners, advertisers and auditors alike. The proliferation of streaming, smart devices and wifi has given consumers greater autonomy over their time and their method of consumption. Whilst this provides excellent opportunities for reach and brand awareness for advertisers, it begs the question: does the marketplace have the tools and devices ready to provide accountable and accurate tracking and analytics? Until these tools are standardised and harnessed across the market, it is likely the adoption of digital audio into media planning will remain consistent, but slow. Investment into this medium will be a lower priority until it can be demonstrated that digital audio outputs add strong, measurable value.

    Alongside this tracking and analytics issue, the industry will need to work out how to harness the increased quantity of data in order to drive further engagement with consumers. While digital audio attracts investment with an environment that is free of ad-blocking, it does create a transparency issue for the consumer-agency-platform owner relationship.

    An exciting future for audio

    The future of digital audio is an exciting one. The integration of programmatic audio is set to   propel audio back onto the main stage of advertising channels. Programmatic advances will increase campaign ROI, augment automation and decrease audio costs. The combination of these factors, alongside the accessibility and increase in the number of platforms will see marketers, advertisers and auditors being forced to become more innovative and dynamic in a format once seen to be traditional and static.

    All hail the return of audio: finally, our eyes will be given a rest from mobile screens!

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  9. AI will make personalisation even more powerful: advertisers must exercise restraint

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    In advertising, personalisation is king. As the mantra goes, right message, right time, right place – if you can tick all three of those boxes, your ad will be much more relevant to the consumer and therefore so much more powerful. In the rapidly approaching age of artificial intelligence, it will be easier than ever to personalise your advertising: when machine learning is applied to the vast quantities of data, advertisers can understand the motivations of almost every consumer on the planet. That promise holds a great deal of power and potential wealth, but as they say – with great power comes great responsibility, and advertisers must consider carefully how they will use and handle customer data.

    Personalisation will become ever easier with widespread uptake of AI

    Advertisers are understandably excited about the prospect of artificial intelligence; just twenty years ago, it was almost inconceivable that brands would be able to directly target individual consumers based on their unique behaviours and motivations, with messages that were relevant to them. To an extent it is possible now, but it will become increasingly easy as artificial intelligence becomes more widespread, particularly as it is harnessed by programmatic platforms for real-time optimisation, for example.

    But personalisation can annoy consumers

    Some research indicates that consumers actively want advertising that is relevant to them; indeed, they’re even willing to give away their personal data for more personalised advertising. But there’s a fine line between advertising which is more powerful because of its relevance, and advertising which is annoying or just plain creepy. That’s down to a number of factors: bad targeting, use of sensitive personal data, placement, frequency or a lack of relevancy. You can understand why. If, for example, a consumer has recently purchased a pair of blue shoes online and is stalked around the internet by ads for blue shoes, it’s annoying and the ad simply serves to remind him or her that their activity is being tracked – they no longer need blue shoes. Ads for a blue handbag, for example, or for nice socks, might be more relevant – but that is when the mighty GDPR starts making its presence felt. The EU data regulations, which any advertiser with a European target audience will be all too aware of, make the transfer of consumer data between one company and another very difficult.

    Of course, this example assumes that there are two companies involved, and that the brands themselves are doing the selling. The inability to share data will give more power to the platforms where consumers can buy from a large selection of brands: they will be able to harness their first-party data to build a more complete offering for their consumers, and more targeted marketing. The brands themselves could begin to lose the battle to understand and successfully reach audiences.

    Where is the line between persuasive marketing and behaviour control?

    Brands shouldn’t just be concerned about not annoying consumers. The amount of data at their disposal – and the tools available to process and understand it – means that they can have an astonishingly complete understanding of their consumer – and that means marketing which is too effective and too persuasive. The art of persuasive marketing could be elevated into the science of behaviour control. Layer that with the ability to exploit people’s inherent prejudices and insecurities and we’re into some seriously apocalyptic territory. Need we mention Cambridge Analytica?

    The golden rule: always remember the data belongs to the consumer

    In order to avoid annoying consumers and indeed to avoid straying into unethical territory, the answer is to always remember one golden rule: a consumer’s data belongs to that consumer, and must be handled with the care and respect that would be afforded to their other possessions. When collecting data, be transparent: explain how you will use it and ask for the consumer’s consent. Like any relationship, trust is critical and transparency is the way to earn that trust. Personalisation must be voluntary, overt and transparent.

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  10. Out of home: rising above the clutter

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    In a fully mobile world, where the average person spends hours a day on their smartphone and targeted ads are standard, out of home (OOH) can seem a little out of date. Don’t write it off yet though – it appears to be enjoying something of a resurgence. Many brands including, perhaps ironically, the big tech brands such are investing a huge amount in this medium; Apple, Netflix, Amazon and Google are four of the 10 largest spenders on billboards. The figures back this up: outdoor ads were the only ‘traditional’ media category to show growth in the US in 2018, with an estimated $33.5bn in revenue, with digital out of home (DOOH) being the main driver with growth of 16%.

    What’s behind the renaissance of outdoor advertising? There are three key drivers: it’s impactful, innovative and effective.

    Impact

    In a world of palm-sized screens, the sheer size of a billboard and its large, uncluttered layout give it impact that a mobile ad would find it very difficult to deliver. What’s more, while consumers can – and do – ad block on their mobiles and desktops, you can’t block real life. So it seems that the rise of OOH is partly a response to digital fatigue amongst consumers and the advertiser’s quest to reach them in a fresh way that will have the desired effect. However, the rise of this medium is also partly because of the overall shift to digital advertising: many OOH companies are harnessing the power of technology that are increasing impact and relevance.

    Innovation

    Over the last few years, OOH has had to become rapidly more tech savvy to stave off irrelevance. Innovations abound, largely to make the medium more responsive, interactive and, critically, targeted, so that it can compete with digital advertising in terms of relevance. Location and contextual data are crucial to the success of the OOH format as they can be used for increased targeting. Many companies working in this space are creating technological innovations that have brought OOH right into the 21st century. Clear Channel’s Radar programme uses global positioning data from mobile apps to understand who is passing by its signage, whilst startup AdQuick has developed a range of new targeting and measuring tools, including integrating digital voice assistants so passers-by can ask for more information – and therefore provide more data for advertisers to use. Google is, of course, putting its targeting and programmatic expertise to good use in the space, grabbing extensive demographic data from Android owners passing by, and even started to test its DoubleClick ad technology in London, allowing advertisers to purchase ad space on screens across the city programmatically. This opens up the opportunity to respond in real-time to events such as beer ads for the Friday commute home.

    Of course, geo-targeting is a key feature in today’s digital OOH. It allows fixed screens to surface information that people want or need in that place, at that time, therefore adding value to the consumer’s day, while OOH in situations like taxis can respond to changing points of interest as the vehicle passes. All this leads to dynamic, interesting and valuable content.

    Even more futuristically, artificial intelligence (AI) is helping marketers to personalise OOH content and make it more engaging. One such innovation is technology that detects the facial features and expressions of a passer-by and determine whether they are happy, surprised, sad or angry as well as their gender and approximate age, all with remarkable accuracy. This of course allows advertisers to deliver in real time the ad which will resonate best with the consumer.

    It used to be that OOH’s key purpose was to drive traffic to bricks-and-mortar shops, but with so much innovation going on in the space, the medium can now drive a specific action and interact in a personalised and targeted way – and that makes it so much more effective than it used to be.

    Effectiveness

    Technological advances and, conversely, digital fatigue amongst consumers has brought about a renaissance for OOH and have made it a highly effective medium. Being able to understand the geographic and demographic context of a billboard’s surroundings – and change content accordingly in real time make it a valuable weapon in the advertiser’s arsenal. Furthermore, rather than replacing other media, it works well in conjunction with other channels and can even amplify them. Mobile click-through rates increase 15% when supported by OOH ads, according to WARC, and 46% of US consumers have used a search engine after seeing an OOH ad. It even intersects with social media: research by Nielsen revealed that one in four American adults has posted a photo of an outdoor ad on Instagram – that’s much higher than TV, radio, print or digital banners. When Spotfiy turned a New York subway into an art installation, it reached 50 million people on social channels, with no paid amplification.

    All this means that the ROI for OOH in the US is remarkably high: each dollar spent on OOH advertising drives an average $5.97 in sales – that’s 40% higher than digital search.

    An innovative ‘push’ medium

    Gone are the days when a billboard was a passive brand-building format. It’s now a dynamic, innovative medium that has the ability to engage with, entertain and add value to consumers, pushing them towards a purchase in a way that can seem less intrusive than a mobile ad. In an age where consumers are being targeted by advertising from all angles, an effective, innovative and impactful out of home campaign might just be the way to rise above the clutter.

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