"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Jane Ostler, global head of media, insights division, at Kantar Millward Brown.
We live in a world that increasingly lacks nuance: Everything’s now an either/or. Politics has polarized, and so has marketing.
There’s an endless swirl of arguments about digital vs. traditional, AI or human, attitudinal or behavioral, brand-building or sales, targeting vs creativity. Proponents at either end of the spectrum portray one as good, the other as bad, veritable “mine is bigger than yours” contests, designed to grab headlines.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you could, in fact, have the best of both worlds, and look at the awkward, adolescent relationship between targeting and creativity.
Targeted communications can often be highly appropriate. For shifting inventory like hotel rooms or airline seats, targeting can be an efficient approach, but this needs to be balanced with finding genuinely new customers for whom you could meet a need, perhaps in segments you’re not yet familiar with. Each category will have its own balance. The key thing is to have a strategy and understand the impact of what you’re doing. And does the targeted communication resonate or relate to the rest of the campaign?
Let’s take the technique of retargeting, perhaps the most defining expression of data over emotion in digital marketing. Many consumers find retargeting irritating, especially when they are seeing ads for something that they’ve already purchased. We don’t want slippers to be our friend, or follow us around. In fact, retargeting can be used intelligently to tell a sequence of stories, and that can help to build brand cache, but it rarely happens.
Deep down, marketers know that emotional response plays an important role in consumer decision-making, but many still push explicit messages at the expense of emotional relevance and creative engagement.
Unfortunately, many digital ads are produced at the end of the advertising food chain, churned out at the last minute in multiple versions designed to suit the targeting criteria, re-versioned – but not necessarily reimagined – at scale based on untested assumptions. Or worse, not even customized at all.
And in-market, optimization happens on clicks, not whether the ad elicits any other kind of response. Many online ads and branded content have poor branding and usually render too small to see on a mobile phone. If you don’t even know who the ad is from in the first place, attribution will be flawed. It’s not really that complicated, it just requires thought and attention to detail.
There is hope. Various forms of social media are scoring well in key brand metrics. There is a swing back toward buying media by context, rather than just chasing the audience. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seems to have slightly slowed down the march of programmatic, and this may mean a renewed focus on the message over the target.
New AI developments should enable more intelligent targeting and predict the right balance of targeting and broad reach for each campaign. Most importantly, clients are beginning to ask interesting questions to understand the relationship between media and creative, brand building and sales.
Brands that build the desired emotional response along with product demand on a sustainable basis will prolong and protect their value. Efficiency and emotion? We must find the best of both worlds.