- Problems with media today, viewability, attribution and how investments are done today
An average American sees between 4,000-10,000 ads every day.Consider another figure: the benchmark for display ad engagement in the US is hovering between 0.1%-0.3% – i.e. for an ad exposed to 1,000 people (for which full CPM4 money is paid), only 1 to 3 people engage with the ad.
Viewability is another story. The IAB viewability standard is ‘fulfilled’ if 50% of the ad is visible for 1 sec. There is no easy way of measuring the ‘noticeability’ which gives a better indication of if the ad registered or had any impact. At the same
time, the rise of ad-blockers has meant that the potential reach of display ads is also decreasing. So here is the crux: with the increasing ad pollution, people block out ads (either using ad blockers or their subconscious brain) – thus the cost per %attention of potential consumers has skyrocketed in the last few years (alas, there is no easy
way to measure this).
This leads to an obvious question: if the media landscape is so bad, why aren’t brand managers panicking? Why are they still paying high CPMs? A possible answer lies in the fundamental power of brands and the still existing influence of big brand-big retailer partnership in ensuring people stick to their habits and easily buy their existing brands. The lack of an easy way of figuring out the number of new people entering into the brand franchise, directly attributable to the media spend, has made a measurement of media effectiveness difficult. To top it all, the existing opaque agency commision
models do not help the matters either. Ultimately, this has led to a situation where the objective of media spending is aimed at optimizing easy to measure and
deliver metrics: reach, frequency with annual planning and quarterly reviews. In most cases when one attempts to measure sales impact of such spends, the direct attributed online sales are very low, and the offline sales impact is veiled under the cloud of obscure MMX studies done years ago.
- What can we learn from Incumbents, smaller brands
Are there companies that have anticipated and solved this problem? Yes, and no. As one would expect, the people to most vehemently question media effectiveness in the FANG age (and realize the impossibility of using paid media alone to build businesses) were the ones who did not enjoy the luxury of existing consumer bases and good distribution: start-ups.
However, these companies have one thing working for them: they launch product in niches where there is an organic need for the product. As a result, they are able to capture some consumers without much media spend and can then go about
growing their businesses with a carefully managed combination of paid and organic traffic with clear objectives for various media spend activities. Furthermore, there is an inherent bias towards capturing consumers with stated intent – most often found in consumers who are searching for the product or category.
- The new Omni channel age
The media landscape is further complicated by the rise of Omni Channel age.
For good or bad, the days of limited, planned shelves are gone/going-fast. Now each consumer has his/her own digital shelf. And while the offline shelf still remains static, the planogram is being increasingly influenced by what sells well online.
The shopping shelves now extend from Google Search, Instagram shoppable ads, Amazon Search – each defined by a search, browse behavior that a consumer exhibits – an infinite combination of infinite shelves.
Rise of ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline):
- Consumers are increasingly looking at product reviews online before making purchase decisions in- store. And while for CPG the percentage might be lower than the 45% average, this is very important for new product launches.
- Space on physical packaging is limited, however the product page on the retailer’s website can be much richer and informative. As a result, it needs to be thought of separately and not just be a copy of the packaging artwork.
- The strategy to implement
Defining the right objective function for optimization and optimize often:
- Reach is seldom the right objective function, quality Reach sometimes, and attributable sales impact almost always is a step in the right direction
- The category context is important, while mass categories might need high reach (and ‘noticeability’) by definition, niche categories (think baby formula) should focus on more surgical targeting and 1:1 consumer engagement – emphasizing the value of first-party data.
- Personalize and contextualize your ads to be more efficient – for example, for low distribution brands, a better strategy might be to set-up hyper-localized, zero-waste ads that deliver only in the vicinity of distributed stores.
Organic > Search Paid > Display Paid
- Focus on maximizing the organic traffic, followed by intent driven search traffic and then if you have money left, go on and do display advertising. Remember to define the right objective function.
- Develop media buying capability in-house: the agility required for implementing and winning in this new media environment is extremely difficult to achieve while working with external agencies. Train the front-line:
- Going forward, understanding and being equipped to navigate this media environment is essential for anyone operating on the commercial frontline (marketing & sales both)
- Refresh knowledge base for everyone, every 3 months with real data from actual campaigns. This would require that media/brand teams are not afraid to present failures as well.