If This Is True, Brands Need To Rethink Everything

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What can’t a brand measure in this day and age?

Well, they can measure everything. With beacons and in-store technology they can – literally – know how many people are in a store, how they move through it, how many buy, and they can splice that data up into time of day and down to products. Online is similar. How long was someone on a website? What content did they engage with? When (and where) did they leave? Did the brand do anything to capture some form of a transaction (an email address, an online order, a purchase)? Have consumers engaged with our mobile application? What are they saying about us in social media? When they speak to us – directly – online, how often can we satisfy their needs? The list goes on and on.

It’s an impressive list.

It’s impressive what a brand can say, how they interact with customers, and what they do based on this feedback. Analytics, data and turning that information into something actionable is nothing new. Advertising is so highly measurable. Put aside the current (and very real) issues that our industry faces around deliverability and ad-blocking, and it’s still an incredibly powerful place to see if a message works. From performance-based opportunities (like search engine marketing and email marketing) to affiliate marketing and, yes, even native advertising. For the most part, we’re able to understand how a message performs in the marketplace like never before.

There is one exception.

Television. It’s contentious, but it’s true. Out of all of the traditional media channels, television is still the biggest in terms of advertising dollars spent. With that, you would be hard-pressed to find a senior marketing professional who believes that they understand the nuances of what works with television ads, their ability to measure the impact of TV against their economic outcomes, segmenting audiences, and more. All of this ads up into one major truth: Measuring return on investment for TV advertising is still a huge struggle. Reaching a specific geographic audience is tough. Being able to connect the message to a consumer’s action is also difficult (unless the ad is a direct response creative).

So, guess where the brand’s lion share of advertising goes in 2015… as we head into 2016? Yes, it’s television.

How does this work? Brands are demanding – more than ever – efficacy, results, analytics and to pay less for their media – while getting it to perform better. Don’t believe me, dig beneath the surface of what has happened this past year, with all of the media reviews (close to $20 billion are in play). So, the net result of this desire is to spend most of it on TV? Today, MediaPost published the article, TV Still Gets Lion’s Share of Ad Budget. From the article…

“…brands still recognize that television remains a dependable means of delivering brand messaging; TV still gets the lion’s share of the ad budget. However, says the report, in this era of digital advertising and big data, in which consumers often have a choice about whether or not to view ads, advertisers are more pressed than ever to demonstrate both value and a true return on investment for their ad spending… While brands value TV, digital is making inroads as an advertising vehicle, says the report. In the past three to five years digital has affected how companies allocate their limited budget dollars. Budgets for digital have increased at a much higher rate than for television… TV remains a challenging medium for advertisers in terms of connecting with the audience. While most advertisers are confident that they know the best networks to get their brand message to their target audiences, when companies struggle to understand which networks or channels work best, it is mostly due to an inability to measure a return on investment for TV advertising.”

My stomach is turning.

I like TV. I watch TV. I pay a lot of money to have TV in my household. As do you. As do most. With that, this article – and the report that it is based on – clearly demonstrate something very frightening about the state of brands today: Most advertisers really don’t know how to define return on investment for these spends, but they’re still spending most of their dollars there. If you dig into this news item, you will see that nearly one third of the advertisers that responded to this study say that CPM was a key measurement factor. To translate that: if you paid less for a placement, it is considered a successful campaign. What does the price of an ad have to do with how well it performed, unless you’re actually measuring sales? A cheaper CPM does not equal campaign success. Also, we do know that audiences for TV shows have dwindled when compared to the past, they are fragmented (many more networks and shows), they skip ads (or block them completely), and are less attentive/focused on TV because other screens and devices are abound. This translates as: you are paying more for less, which runs counter-intuitive to what every single Chief Marketing Officer has said in market.

Big data will save brands. 

Brands must optimize their spend by focusing on real ROI. They need to shift their attention away from a mass advertising mindset (hoping to find an audience, while exposing their messaging to everyone), to understanding how to become better marketers. This happens through data capture, lead generation-based initiatives and marketing opportunities that are not just advertising based. What grounds for complaint can brands have in a world where they’re spending these ad budgets, primarily, in places that they can’t measure, and build a relationship on top of. Bid data is not going to save them, because they’re not even listening to the current smaller data sets that are screaming at them.

Advertising used to be the best strategy to build a brand. Advertising isn’t the only strategy anymore… and it hasn’t been for quite some time.