The Evolution of Digital Media Mix

HaarlowWhat the media planner/buyer thinks

Then: Display was the winner … of the leftovers

When I started in this industry seven years ago, display ads and relevant content went together like pb&j. Car advertisers ran standard Flash banners on auto sites, cpg advertisers ran standard Flash banners on recipe sites and so on. Networks were accustomed to adding significant amounts of impressions to a campaign at efficient rates. Behavioral targeting was the “hot topic,” allowing advertisers to get in front of an audience based on their Web-surfing behavior. Click-through rate was primarily used to measure success with a few advertisers dipping their toes into more robust engagement metrics such as view-through data. Digital was the medium that got whatever dollars were left over once tv and print were planned. Display impressions were still being given as added value to print buys. Digital was a hard sell for most clients and was typically looked at as a test.

Now: Social, video, mobile and more

Fast-forward seven years and digital has a media mix of its own — with display as one (smaller) portion. And tv and print? They’ve gone digital. Entire agencies exist on digital media buying and planning alone. Advertisers have to consider so much more than running Flash versus static display creative. The conversation focuses on what type of digital media should advertisers use and how much of each? Social, video, mobile and local join display in the overall digital media mix. Reaching people through multiple digital touch points and engaging them through meaningful experiences is what moves brands forward in today’s environment.

Not only has the digital media mix changed, but the way inventory is purchased in the digital space has also changed. We’ve shifted from buying against content or even vast demographics toward creating experiences that match up with real human desires. Targeting has become much more advanced, allowing advertisers to place their message in front of the right person at the right time regardless of which screen they’re using. Data providers are now invited to the table to discuss media buys and build custom targets. This allows advertisers to use reliable and actionable data rather than assumptions based on Web surfing activity to target their advertising. When targets are built with a data provider, they are media-agnostic and can be applied across entire campaigns. This allows social, video, mobile, local and display to work harder for advertisers by eliminating wasted impressions. We’re interested in what inspires people, plain and simple.

Social: Leave the robot speak at the door

Social media platforms are the perfect example of a true human experience today. They are about interaction and engagement between people. They supply a stage for people to share their thoughts with everyone on every topic, interesting or not. People want to celebrate themselves and their friends through photos, videos and status updates. Successful brands are the ones that speak like real people and not-so-successful brands will stick out (for all the wrong reasons). If a brand wants to have a conversation with people, they need to have a true voice and avoid sounding like a robot. People want to feel special and that they are valued. They follow brands that add something to their social experience.

Southwest Airlines does a great job relating to fans on Facebook while also standing up for what it believes. Its social approach is to be on the customer’s side and its social voice comes across as friendly and relatable. The vibe — when you fly with us, you are one of us — is one that has gained great respect in the industry. It doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable topics. I’ve always been a Southwest fan, but my respect for the company grew even more when it used Facebook to keep everyone up to date on their inspections after a hole was found in one of their planes. Every day it would mention how many flights would be canceled, how many were being added back into service and when it expected all inspections to be completed. It was honest. It was real. And the fan base grew during a bad time.
Mobile: You hungry? There’s an ad for that.

Mobile connects brands with people on the go and provides a great platform for customized local messaging. With the smartphone population growing each day, advertisers have access to a vast amount of location-based data. What I love about mobile is the ability it provides advertisers to place the right message in front of the right person at the right time to drive their business objectives. Dairy Queen recently promoted its lunch menu by serving ads to people who were posting messages on their mobile devices about being hungry during lunch hours. It also responded in real time to people who checked in to a dq or mentioned going to a dq in their status updates by providing unique offers. It made perfect sense and was a great example of how advertisers can make an instant connection with people. You mention being hungry and dq reminds you of their lunch menu items — it seems so simple, yet wasn’t possible until recently. Advertising is getting personal.

What the consumer (aka a person not in advertising) thinks

Then: Curiosity (sometimes) got the click

People were still getting comfortable with digital advertising. There was a level of curiosity which helped drive clicks to brand Web sites, and advertisers took advantage of this by tailoring their creative messaging to a specific offer, thus starting what we in the biz call “offer wars.” People knew what to expect — car ads on car sites, finance ads on finance sites, no biggie.  

Now: But how does the digital media mix make you feel?

People are always in front of some sort of screen for 24/7 access to content. There’s always a version of “Call Me Maybe” or a Puppy Cam to watch, so the expectations of advertisers are higher than ever before. The days of blasting ads are over. Advertisers know they must create meaningful experiences for people if they want any sort of brand engagement in the digital space. It’s all about value exchange and the relationship between brands and the people who purchase their product/service. A coupon may help entice a one-time action with a brand; however, it’s all about the vibe, the feeling — the experience that keeps people engaged with the brand long-term. So now I’m going to say something that probably won’t shock you: Content is key. Display alone does not a digital mix make. We’ve seen average ctrs drop over the years because it’s not a natural behavior for people to click on a display ad and leave their current digital environment. When you create experiences for people to engage with, you capture their attention and spark the relationship. It’s then up to the brand to continue the conversation with those they engage.

A client’s perspective of the space

Then: Click, click, clickity, click, click … click.

Clients used display advertising to drive as many people to their site as possible. The thought was if someone visited the Web site, then they must be interested in the brand. Success was measured on clicks and Web site visitation. Campaigns were optimized to drive traffic to brand sites as efficiently as possible. Digital was viewed as a “nice to have” in overall media mix rather than a “need to have,” especially for branding advertisers. Direct-response advertisers far outweighed brand advertisers in the digital space.  

Now: Is it measureable?

As digital media has evolved, so has its measurement. The vast amount of data available on a digital campaign allows clients to see exactly what the media is doing for them and how kpi goals are met. With multiple digital touch points at play, it is crucial we show the value of each. It’s not about Web site visits; it’s about brand engagement that drives real business results. While being in the social space is “cool” and having a mobile presence is “forward thinking,” clients want to know exactly what it means for their business. We can now put measurement in place to show clients the value of a fan, a post, a share. We can link store sales in a specific region to a mobile campaign. We know how many unique users started watching a video, completed a video, replayed a video, and then we can show if they visited the brand’s site at a later date. An impression has value and with the tools available today, we can show that to clients. Was it actually viewed by someone? In what type of content? And what demographic did it reach?  Measurement is one of digital’s defining characteristics, and it will no doubt continue to evolve so clients get exactly what they need.

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