Whilst attending the IPA’s ‘Effweek’ marketing effectiveness conference recently, we heard leading practitioners speak about the topics reshaping the digital landscape – from talks on ‘Brand owners perspective on digital media’ to how ‘Man and Machine’ are working closer than ever in marketing and advertising activations.
It is a turbulent time for the industry. There is an acute decline in trust between brands and digital media precipitated by inaccurate metrics and claims (i.e. by companies like Facebook on video watching times, and the efficacy of some digital media). At the start of 2017, P&G announced a reduction in their digital marketing spend by over $100million, claiming that their digital advertising was ineffective and led to little impact on business. This somewhat short-termist and inaccurate thinking misses the point, in that it assumes customer decisions are immediate, and that digital has no role in building brand equity. Just because a decision isn’t made immediately doesn’t mean it won’t be made later. It is also very siloed thinking about their communications, failing to consider the digital spend as part of the marketing whole.
The content of digital advertising is only one part of the issue though – it is also about ‘where’ the ads are being placed. A number of brands like Mercedes-Benz, Waitrose and Marie Curie came under fire as their programmatic ads appeared on extremist websites. A study by the Association of National Advertisers in the US estimated that brands could waste almost $6bn in 2017 on ads that nobody will ever see. Using automation to place a campaign instead of a well conceived strategy is unfortunately becoming much more common. Rather than creating clever content that captures a moment, and which works hard to engage with people organically, marketers have turned to algorithms that are racking up fake views with next to no ROI. The world of programmatic digital advertising is a virtual dark art. As P&Gs Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard has previously said “the media supply chain is murky at best and fraudulent at worst.” But it is cleaning up its act it seems.
But the biggest thing we took away from EffWeek was how the more successful brands are the ones that focus on the long-term picture rather than short-term output. It is the role of external creative agencies to bring this long-term value and insight to their clients – as they have daily exposure to a multitude of brands and industries, discovering those new trends, inspiring campaigns and innovative technologies that empowers fresh thinking. As an agency, the digital world is embedded into the We Launch way of working – with the aim of improving our clients’ processes, best practices, and understandings of how those new technologies can help them engage with their audiences. We believe that it’s our job to help our clients be more informed and therefore make better decisions. Our approach reflects the words of TSB Chief Marketing Officer Nigel Gilbert when he called for agencies to be completely transparent with how they’re dealing, managing and producing digital media. But to go further – marketers and brand owners must take their own share of responsibility by working with their creative teams to forego the lazy, annoying ads and make the whole experience better for the consumers.
We believe that people must be considered before platforms. It’s those brands that are thinking of the bigger picture, connecting people’s passions through the creation of great (and relevant) content and supported by paid advertising, who will get a much higher response rates from their channels. On the flip side, the brands that underinvest in long-term brand building will suffer from a lack of general awareness of who they are and what they do. In turn, this results in more time and money spent, and likely wasted, on tactical marketing further down the line.
With a clear strategy and understanding of it, all tactical communications can be informed from the same place – creating a clarity of message. Without this there is simply confusion, weak brand awareness and lack of understanding. Brands should work closely with their agencies to earn their audiences – rather than trying to frivolously buy them with no thought as to the long-term impact.
Thanks to all at IPA for hosting such a fantastically thought-provoking few days – there was a huge amount to be inspired by, and learn from.