Tag Archive: new normal

  1. Podcast advertising: not just a phase

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    There was a sharp increase in the number of people listening to podcasts during lockdowns. This opened the door to a lucrative podcast advertising sector, with brands eager to reach highly engaged listeners. Many speculated, however, that listener numbers would decrease as the world opened back up – but that hasn’t happened.

    Aren’t podcasts a thing of the past?

    During the pandemic, there was a sharp increase in the number of people listening to podcasts, with lockdowns highlighting the human need for 1-1 connections something a lot of listeners feel with their chosen podcast hosts. This increase was not expected to continue, with some even suggesting that, as life began returning to normal, podcasts would see a decline in their number of listeners. However, the opposite has happened. According to the latest Statistica statistics, global listener figures in 2020 were over 330 million, and are likely to rise to 500 million by 2024, with some podcasts reaching the same listener numbers as radio shows. These encouraging numbers are leading to approximately a 40% increase in podcast advertising spend in the UK, as shown in the IAB 2020 Digital Adspend report 

    Podcasts are a prime place to advertise

    Listeners’ relationships with podcasts are what makes them such an integral part of a digital advertising portfolio. With a defined listening pattern that compliments their daily routine, context is more important than ever. Due to the immersive nature of podcasts, the choice of podcast is likely linked to the listener’s mood. 45% of listeners say they’re more likely to buy a product if the audio connects with them in the right way. This means that brands need to pay close attention to all contextual factors.

    By taking advantage of the listener’s emotional connection with audio content, brands can make themselves heard very effectively. Listening to music releases dopamine and so creates a relaxed mental state. By contrast, podcasts require a reasonable level of concentration. Listeners have an active interest in the podcast they’re listening to, meaning the mind is most receptive to advertising information. 76% of UK listeners have taken action after listening to a podcast, whether that’s making a purchase or visiting a site. 

    As a result of increasing privacy and tracking restrictions, there are challenges around increased personalization. This is an important aspect of digital audio ads. Some listeners say that they would be happy to receive personalized ads – so this must become a priority. With people now listening to digital audio on connected devices, advertisers are able to obtain greater access to first-party data. This first-party data gives brands more control over who hears their ad and when, thereby enhancing targeting precision. 

    Dynamic or host-read podcast advertising?

    Although dynamically inserted ads are on the rise in podcasts, some agencies and brands are wary of this. There is concern that more dynamic ads could give podcasts a radio feel, diminishing the value of podcast ads. Dynamic ads do however make the process quicker and easier due by avoiding a long approval process. This method is the cheaper option and ads can also be trafficked in a more targeted way than host-read. 

    As previously mentioned, listeners feel they have a close relationship with the host of their chosen podcast. For this reason, host-read ads are likely to see the best performance. Not only do they promote authenticity, but they also avoid the abrupt change in voice of dynamic formats. This change indicates the start of the ad and therefore reduces the listener’s attention. There are drawbacks, however. These include the long lead times for approval, as well as the inability to trial an ad within the podcast. Host-read ads are more expensive as the host is paid to endorse the product, but they often see greater returns. A Nielsen study from 2020 found that host-read ads had a recall of 71%, compared to 62% for non-host-read. The best format, though, depends on both the type of product and the target audience. 

    Is podcast advertising an efficient way to reach consumers?

    The pricing structure of digital audio advertisements is usually calculated using the cost-per-mile (CPM) model. This means that there is a fixed rate for every 1,000 listeners. Of course, there are numerous factors which will affect this rate. Some variables include the size of the podcast audience, which section of the podcast the ad will appear in and, of course, the length of the ad. AdvertiseCast released average rates based on nearly 3,000 podcasts; the CPM for a 30-second ad is $18 and for a 60-second ad it is $25. As previously mentioned, this does of course vary from podcast to podcast, with some instances even employing different pricing structures such as flat rate and CPA (cost per acquisition), but CPM is the most common.

    Although it is the most comparable advertising type, radio advertising is open to more price variation than podcasts, making it difficult to compare pricing. The disparity in radio advert costs is due to the extreme number of differing options available, with region, time of day and the number of times per week having the greatest impact on price. So whilst it is difficult to make a price comparison between radio and podcasts, it is generally accepted that podcast ads are more effective than those on the radio: if they come at a premium, this may be worth it for the greater returns. 

    How can advertisers improve their podcast advertising experience?

    For brands to ensure their podcast advertising is successful, they need to widen their audience by reaching hitherto untapped audiences. To do this, brands should look for more niche podcast genres and smaller shows. The top-rated podcasts currently have the majority of advertising. By targeting independent creators and micro-influencers, brands will be able to reach more diverse target groups.  

    Context is crucial when it comes to podcast ads. The nature of digital audio requires seamless positioning, so advertisers should ensure that the podcast’s content and host’s personality compliments their brand. With so many exciting creative opportunities in digital audio, there are endless avenues to explore to benefit from the exponential growth of podcasting. 

    Image: Alex From the Rock on Shutterstock

  2. CES 2022: The future of technology and the future of events

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    The new normal for major events

    No one expected this year’s CES to feel the same as the ones that have gone before it. After all, in the weeks leading up to the CES 2022, many key tech companies announced that they would not be attending in person, including Google, Microsoft, LG, Meta and Panasonic. Delegates from countries across the world wondered if they should fly to Las Vegas or attend virtually. Many chose the latter: while in 2020, when reports of a new virus were only just emerging from China, 170,000 people attended, this year there were only around 45,000. There were far fewer speaker and panel sessions this year, with some being cancelled last minute (Paris Hilton was a no-show for her talk on NTs), and the exhibition halls had empty spaces.

    However, the lower attendance figures and lighter content agenda didn’t mean that this year’s show was a damp squib. There was certainly a feeling of muted excitement over the three days of CES. People were excited to be away, excited to be amongst other people, excited to feel human connection and get back to something resembling normal. The event felt like an experiment in the future of events: all delegates were fully masked at all times and had to show proof of vaccination to pick up their passes, while this year’s must-have swag was the humble rapid antigen test. Most speaker sessions were hybrid, with in-person as well as at-home audiences, while a number of panel sessions were also entirely virtual, with panellists dialling in from their home offices. It’s difficult to see events losing that hybrid element in the ‘new normal’.

    The key themes from CES 2022

    While CES covers a huge range of technology-related themes, there were a few that stood out this year – including one by its relative absence.

    The metaverse… or not

    This delegate went into CES expecting to have a plethora of sessions about the metaverse to choose from. Strangely, however, there were only a few, including an excellent one on the role of voice tech in the metaverse. We expect that this will be different at the 2023 event; who knows, we might even be able to attend CES in the metaverse soon!

    AI is increasingly pervasive

    Artificial Intelligence was, of course, everywhere – from a panel about AI policy to Samsung’s home assistant, AI has become the norm, with everyone from marketers to engineers incorporating it into their everyday work and indeed their everyday lives.

    The proliferation of technology

    The phrase ‘the acceleration of the technology curve’ was on everyone’s lips at CES 2022, as they reflected on how the pandemic has driven a proliferation of technology in our daily lives. Back in the pre-Covid days, work mostly took place at the office, shopping was normally done in the supermarket, at the mall or on the high street, and subscribing to streaming services was something that was more common amongst young people. Now, just two years later, a much greater percentage of our lives takes place online, including for those who were previously ‘tech-phobes’. This has led to greater opportunities for brands to interact and engage more meaningfully with their consumers, as highlighted in a session on how technology has flipped the consumer experience – more on that later.

    Cars cars cars

    Many attendees and commentators remarked wryly that the Consumer Electronics Show has become the world’s biggest car show, and with good reason. The whole of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall was dedicated to cars, with a focus on electric vehicles and autonomy. GM, for example, talked enthusiastically about its collaboration with Cruise to create an autonomous ride-hailing service, while the talk of the town and the exhibit that caught the attention of the international press, was BMW’s colour-changing car.

    ECI’s highlights from CES 2022

    While the content agenda was undoubtedly more sparsely populated than in 2020, and the exhibition hall had some rather large gaps, there was still a lifetime’s worth of knowledge to be learned at CES in 2022. Here are just some of our highlights from this year’s show.

    Samsung is always one of the big players at CES, and this year was no exception. Vice-Chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics, Jong-Hee (JH) Han took to the stage the night before the start of CES to talk about his company’s vision for the future. The ‘Together for Tomorrow’ platform empowers everyone to create positive change and is the driving force behind collaborations that address some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. This includes sustainability – the key topic of Han’s talk – and inclusivity. Han claimed that Samsung has looked at every step of a product’s journey, from manufacture to disposal, and is innovating at each stage to make the company more environmentally friendly and fit for the future.

    One of the keynotes to take place during CES 2022 was on the tech trends that are required knowledge for business in the new normal. Qualcomm’s CMO Don McGuire pointed out that connectivity is now as pervasive as water and electricity, and that 5G is a unifying connectivity fabric which allows for scalability and impact far beyond download speeds. It will drive change in industries, communities and societies, driving the metaverse and the flexibility, openness and collaboration that comes with it. McGuire also talked about the acceleration of the technology curve (there’s that phrase again) and how brands need to harness advanced technology to engage more deeply, more naturally and yet not invasively with consumers.

    The ‘Content to Commerce: How tech has flipped the consumer experience’ session was an example of how virtual speakers can speak successfully to an in-person audience. Marketing and digital leaders from McDonald’s, GM, Target, Instacart and Salesforce explained how that accelerated technology curve has driven real change in their relationships with their consumers. Target CMO Cara Sylvester said that the most exciting development driven by the increased uptake in tech was the deepening of relationships with their consumers through omnichannel retail experiences; offers are personalized and connection is based on an always-on approach, rather than an episodic one. GM’s Chief Digital Officer, Edward Kummer, explained that the tech had driven – and empowered – the company to serve customers how they want to be served, whether that’s solely in person, solely online, or a hybrid, omnichannel approach. All the panellists agreed that the pandemic had taught them that success lies in the ability to ‘perform while you transform’ – to continue to deliver top-quality products and services whilst simultaneously adapting to a rapidly changing landscape.

    Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most powerful sessions for this writer was on the role of voice in the future of technology, specifically the metaverse. Abraham Gomez of Wild and West NFT and Matthew Barnett, Founder and President of the Dream Center in Los Angeles talked about the potential of the metaverse to help people in need. In the metaverse, barriers such as race, gender, wealth and class are dismantled, leaving only voice. By ‘hiding behind’ an avatar, people who struggle in the ‘real world’ with social and mental health problems might be more willing to talk about how they feel and what they need in order to live better lives – and the Dream Center, which has been given territory in the metaverse by the Sandbox, will be able to listen and provide that help. Considering that Gomez believes that we will spend the majority of our time in the metaverse (just think about how much time we spend on our phones right now), it’s encouraging to learn of its altruistic opportunities.

    CES was a version of what it always has been – an exciting, heady mixture of tech, innovation, marketing and networking. That all those elements were slightly muted this year did not take away from the event’s importance: indeed, many – including organisers of other events such as SXSW – have seen this year’s CES as an important pioneer in the future of large events. While many of those who attended perhaps wondered briefly if they should be there, I’m sure that they all left feeling invigorated and inspired. I know I did.

    Header image: Alex Matthews

  3. Will the coronavirus pandemic drive seismic changes to the Upfront market?

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    Coronavirus is a catalyst for changes that have been years in the making. Nowhere is that truer than the advertising industry, which has seen the adoption of new habits which might previously have taken years happen in a matter of weeks.  

    When and how will the Upfronts occur this year?

    One key area of change for the US market is the TV Upfront ecosystem. With production grinding to a halt and much of the country still in lockdown when Upfronts were meant to kick off, the question is, when and how will the Upfronts occur this year? Many key industry players have long pushed for the Upfronts to switch to a calendar year model, rather than the broadcast year of October to September. At the end of May, the ANA Media Advisory Board recommended a sweeping transformation of the system, causing a huge shake up in the media world. But how will it all pan out? 

    TV has transformed dramatically

    Few would argue that TV’s OctobertoSeptember timeframe is outdated. It harks back to a time when TV was mainly appointment viewing, with a set year-round schedule of shows having first runs from October to May, with reruns over the summer. This in turn is rooted in historic business movements: car companies used to unveil new vehicle models in the fall, so TV launched its new season to tie in with thatBut the TV sector has transformed dramatically in recent years: the proliferation of channels and programming means new content is available throughout the year. What’s more, appointment viewing has dissolved with the growth of time-shifted viewing, on-demand, OTT and CTV platforms; Nielsen found that the streaming share of TV is now at 23%, up from 14% compared to the same period a year before, and is expected to continue its growth trajectory. 

    Allowing for a better understanding of budgets

    The suggested shift to a calendar-year model would allow advertisers until Q4 to get a good understanding of their budgets for the following year – especially important this year when all industries have experienced so much disruption. However, many of the large, traditional advertisers are set on signing upfront deals under the traditional broadcast-year model; even if the networks do choose to shift to the calendar year model, it would be easy to put aside the inventory that the big players normally go for, leaving newer advertisers with the ‘leftovers’ in the calendar-year marketplace or the more expensive scatter market. 

    The absence of live sports

    Another compelling reason to push back the Upfronts is the current absence of live sports, and how the ‘withdrawal’ that many viewers and advertisers have felt will affect viewership when they are finally allowed to play again. The fact that games will be played ‘behind closed doors’ means that TV audiences are likely to be through the roof; it will be very difficult to estimate prices for ad spots until networks have a better idea of what those audiences will look like. In that light, shifting the Upfronts to Q4 seems like the right thing to do.  

    A chance to align the Upfronts and Newfronts

    Shifting the Upfronts would present an opportunity to align them with the increasingly important Newfronts – a desirable outcome for both advertisers and media buyers. 72% of media buyers say that Newfronts are more important than ever, and nearly half want the Newfront presentations to merge with the Upfronts. A key factor in this is that 39% favor merging the two to help buyers better understand measurement and research across screens – which could in turn improve performance. There is a finite amount of reach available through linear TV and, in order to expand coverage or just reach the same number of consumers as before, advertisers need to diversify their media mix. 50% of marketers will increase their spend in CTV, OTT and Digital Video, while linear TV is likely to see a decrease. Advertisers will be looking to buy audiences agnostically across a network’s linear and digital assets: a compelling argument for merged Upfronts and Newfronts. 

    The time is now

    All in all, it seems that transforming the Upfronts timeframe to a calendar model makes a lot of sense. It will be uncomfortable for a while, but doing it in a year when the status quo has been disrupted so fundamentally and the landscape has transformed so dramatically anyway seems a good time to do it. Time will inevitably tell. 

    Advertisers should re-evaluate their media mix and KPIs

    Regardless of whether the Upfronts shift to a calendar-year format, or whether they merge with the Newfronts, this is a good time for advertisers to re-evaluate their media mix and KPIs, and to negotiate better deals with vendors.  

    • Buy flexibility: Flexibility has been an increasing priority for advertisers over the last few years, and the fact that so much new programming has been shelved as production is halted means that flexibility is more important than ever. Cognizant of the marketplace, vendors are likely to be more willing to provide more flexibility.  
    • Consider scatter opportunities: Marketplace uncertainty means that Upfront commitments are expected to be much lower than in previous years. This means that there will be more high-quality inventory left over for the scatter market – particularly as there is likely to be more certainty around programming and production as time progresses. 
    • Review your TV/digital mixWith 59% of media buyers expecting to increase their CTV/OTT budgets in the second half of 2020 compared to 2019, wise advertisers will consider where their audiences are, and the best touchpoints. 

    2020 has doubtless been a year of disruption and sleepless nights for advertisers and buyers in the US and worldwide, but with strategic thinking and agility, the transformation to the media landscape can be turned into an opportunity for the savvy advertiser. If you would like to discuss with one of our experts how you can identify and exploit the opportunities, please feel free to contact us on   

    Image: Vasyl Shulga / Shutterstock

  4. What will the ‘new normal’ be for the advertising industry?

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    It won’t be news to you that the coronavirus pandemic has changed how we do marketing in 2020. Consumer behaviour and confidence have been transformed by lockdown restrictions around the world, with digital and TV now the primary media consumed. Many media channels have seen significant changes to pricing inflation forecasts, with digital the only media forecast to see inflation consistently, if at reduced levels compared to forecasts earlier this year. Many other media, particularly the traditional ones, are expected to suffer severe deflation.

    The brands that emerge the most unscathed from this crisis will be the ones that have adapted to the rapidly transforming media landscape – not least because those changes will have lasting repercussions for the advertising industry and marketing as a discipline. Furthermore, many brands will have acquired or honed a new set of skills and mindsets which will help them to succeed in the ‘new normal’.

    More digital than ever

    The principle reason for the resilience of digital media over the last few months is the fundamental change in consumer behaviour. Bored at home and without the diversions of normal everyday life, people have turned to the internet for entertainment. Brands have followed them – but this move makes sense not just because of the increased eyeballs. Digital is also more agile than the traditional media, allowing for swift changes in direction: programmatic means that campaigns can follow impressions. The more traditional media are frequently less flexible, meaning that, at the start of the pandemic at least, many TV and OOH campaigns jarred with the new reality. Brands that previously relied on offline media have had their eyes opened to the opportunities that digital presents.

    Genuine purpose

    The idea of purpose being at the heart of a brand’s marketing strategy isn’t new, but the pandemic has seen a desire for more authentic behaviour from brands. In this time of great hardship for so many, it’s not enough to pretend: brands must be genuinely supportive, whether that’s by offering a service, helping a specific community or simply by providing high quality entertainment. What brands say is less important than how they behave, and they should focus on solutions rather than purely selling. 1 in 3 consumers have punished a brand that has not responded well to the pandemic by persuading others to stop using that brand.

    A new skillset

    The pandemic has forced advertisers and agencies to adapt to a new way of operating, with new skills and mindsets acquired or honed. These skills will serve the entire industry well as we all emerge slowly into a post-coronavirus world, and could be behind an exciting shift.

    The advertising industry hinges on innovation, and never has it been so necessary as now. The coronavirus pandemic has overturned normal ways of working and living, necessitating new ways of reaching and engaging with consumers. AI and chatbots, for example, have been harnessed by many brands who are having to rely on virtual services more than normal – and it appears that consumers are also becoming more comfortable with this way of communicating

    Of course, the ability to innovate and work with the latest technology is born of a willingness to be open to new ideas, and to collaborate closely, despite restrictions on physically working together. Sharp U-turns in strategy and messaging require trust in partners and decisive action. The result is an approach to marketing which centres on testing and learning, rather than caution, and that can only be a good thing in such a fast-changing industry.

    Let the consumer be your guide

    Ultimately, the key to successful marketing has not changed: it is the consumer that should be at the heart of a marketing strategy. Brands and their agencies need to focus on the consumer’s needs and desires as a guiding light, using data to understand exactly what those are. In that way, the post-coronavirus world won’t be very different – but reaching that end point might be.

    Image: Aon Khanisorn / Shutterstock

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