ExchangeWire – January 12, 2016
Truly successful ads combine high-quality creative with suitable placement in appropriate environments and effective targeting. But, while advertisers are distracted by tailoring their ads based on data, they are missing the bigger picture. Nick Welch, business development director UK, ADmantX (pictured below), in this piece calls for a re-focus on media content in order to engage and entertain potential customers.
Before multiple screens dominated advertising, context was everything. Media was a vehicle whereby agencies and advertisers would reach their ideal audience in an environment where consumer engagement was already high. The Mad Men of Madison Avenue led the way with strong messaging that reflected the content that ads were placed alongside, working in harmony with their surroundings to capture the imagination of consumers.
It was a universal truth that ads needed to speak to consumers in the same language as the chosen TV programme or written article if they were to elicit a positive response. But with the rise of digital and interactivity, the entire media landscape has changed.
Advertisers have become obsessed with last-click attribution and enhancing ad relevance with cookie-based, behavioural, and bought-in third-party data. In their eagerness to chase interactions, by tailoring ads for audience appeal, advertisers are overlooking the power of the media that put them in front of consumers in the first place.
Using bottom-of-the-funnel tactics for every digital campaign omits the importance of the relationship between users and media, often making them appear intrusive and clumsy. Advertisers pay media owners for access to their audience and should take care to understand the environment if they wish to maximise influence. It must not be forgotten that consumers are there for the content, and not the ads on the page.
By neglecting media — and its ability to engage the consumer — advertisers are missing the bigger picture and creating campaigns that bare little relevance to the environment consumers are interested in. It’s time to bring art back into digital advertising and combine it with modern science, targeting ads according to audience requirements and the context of their environment in equal measure as part of a unified media strategy.
But how can the techniques of advertising’s Mad Men be successfully integrated into today’s digital world?
Context can outweigh tracking accuracy
Ads trade on the popularity of content, which means that context is just as integral to campaign planning as matching ads with audience behaviour. Indeed, behavioural tracking is not always reliable; a recent survey found that 71% of B2B advertising data was incomplete or inaccurate and 84% of databases were barely functional. As multiscreen becomes standard, consumers are more difficult to follow across devices, especially via cookie-based methods that are ineffective on mobile — cookies reset each time a user closes their mobile web browser and cannot be shared between apps.
Even newer techniques, such as probabilistic and deterministic matching, have their flaws. Probabilistic data can only make an educated guess at likely user identity across devices, and deterministic data relies on consumers using the same log-in or email address on each device. While innovations in ad tech are working to improve the precision of activity tracking, media plans should not be based on behavioural data and audience buying alone — creativity in ad placement is also crucial to drive engagement.
Taking context lessons from media giants
Arguably, the goliath of the media world, TV, retains its power to entertain consumers and attract advertisers, with UK TV ad spend tipping £4bn in 2015. This is in no small part down to the contextual focus of TV ad targeting — ads are carefully matched to specific programmes, which fall into defined categories. This allows advertisers to choose the most appropriate programmes and tailor ad creative to blend with its context, increasing its relevance and appeal to the audience.
Although modern automation is poised to improve the efficiency and scale of this process, the fundamental principle of advertising according to context remains. The long-standing success of TV ads demonstrates that adapting ads to their environment is a crucial element of any campaign, including digital. After all, consumers remain the same, but the context of content changes as they move between different channels.
Consumers dictate the media that they deem appropriate to fulfil a particular need for information or entertainment. Ads that ‘play’, ‘adapt’, or ‘relate’ to the environments in which they are placed are less likely to be seen as intrusive or annoying, but as a welcome addition to the overall experience. Savvy marketers must recognise this and build ads that meet the same requirements, boosting ROI and brand recall.
Utilising tech that delves deeper into context
Decision time is short in the digital world and content is prolific, which means ads need to make an instant impact to ignite audience interest. So, how can advertisers apply the traditional contextual principles of Mad Men in a space that’s all about speed and scale? The answer lies in technology that allows advertisers to quickly and accurately gain a detailed understanding of the content on every page – advanced contextual targeting.
Unlike keyword matching — which can search for specific terms but not pick up subtle changes in context — advanced contextual targeting uses semantic technology and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to analyse content at page level. By doing so, it identifies the true meaning of the words used within content, as well as the sentiment they express.
This provides advertisers with an accurate understanding of context for every single placement. Using the information produced by analysis, advertisers can achieve the perfect balance of art and science — constructing media plans that deploy audience data to meet individual needs, and contextual insight to adapt ad creative to its context.
While advertising has come a long way since the days of Mad Men, some elements of their traditional thinking, and the art of media planning, are still relevant in the digital landscape. By understanding that context is the foundation of any effective campaign, advertisers can significantly enhance ad relevance, achieve greater results, and produce messages that leave the competition trailing behind in true Don Draper style.
Advertisers need to refocus on the context of media to generate campaigns that encompass the bigger picture. If the best of old and new advertising principles can be combined, something truly powerful will be created — contextually relevant and personalised digital ads.