In Advertising, Stick To The Tried And True

If you look at the industry headlines these days, the majority of the stories are still focused on social and mobile – particularly for luxury brands. Experts agree that marketers should be banking on these new channels, which open up a world of opportunity with respect to data, targeting and round-the-clock access. I recommend an investment here, but I also recommend not putting all your eggs into the social/mobile basket just yet. While both are promising and will increasingly demand more budget, targeted display is still your “tried and true” and should still take the lion’s share of your advertising dollars for the time being:  Here’s why:

Targeting keeps getting better:  With so much data readily available today we can hit the mark with incredible accuracy. Between improvements in contextual and behavioral targeting, and the introduction of data science to marketing, display has become a truly amazing medium for reaching customers.  These days, a media buyer can zoom in on a particular audience – say, business travelers who frequently fly between JFK and LAX, book deluxe queen hotel rooms, have a HHI of $125K or more, and have a post-graduate degree – and be fairly confident that they’ll reach that crowd.  

What’s more, with display, you can really target passions. If your audience loves travel, running a beautifully designed ad for your high-end waterproof watch on the “island getaways” section of an exclusive travel site is an experience that cannot yet be matched on in social.  Targeting on social sites is also incredibly powerful, but you don’t have the same opportunity to present gorgeous, interactive ads against high-quality editorial content.

Economy and Scale: There are a handful of social networks, and while they certainly reach a tremendous audience, they can’t reach everyone all the time. Consumers still consume content on news sites, niche sites and other destinations outside the soc nets. Display is infinitely scalable and reaches a broad range of demographics. And because display on more traditional publisher sites is generally represented by IAB standard units, unlike the native ads on many social sites, it can easily be purchased through programmatic buys and measured via standard analytics. That means a single ad buy can reach your target audience, at scale, across an entire network of relevant sites. What’s more, these ads are typically purchased by CPM or PPC, which makes budgeting easier, as well.  Ads in Facebook’s new exchange (FBX) can be purchased programmatically, but to date, it’s the only social network offering this convenience. Twitter, LinkedIn and others require separate I/Os.  

Measurability:  The greatest advantage display has over the newer channels is measurement. Whether the goal is to drive users to our site or into our store, we can track and measure that, and we can map it back to our actual business goals. A direct response ad results in a conversion, whether that’s a lead or a sale.  A branding campaign will have clear KPIs that correspond to analytics and a clear place within the conversion funnel. 

With social, things tend to be a little more nebulous. What does a “like” or a “follow” mean to our bottom line?  If someone shares our Instagram on their Facebook page, how will that impact sales? We can infer things, but unless we’re running display alone on social sites, we can’t deliver the hard metrics we get measuring search and display, so it’s challenging to determine ROI or ROAS. 

At the end of the day, we’re still working out what works in social and mobile. My advice is to keep the lion’s share of your marketing investment in the tried and true, including display, search, email, etc – and allocate a percentage of your budget for new channels. That percentage may exceed display’s share over time, but not before we hash out the best practices in these nascent channels. 

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