Beyond Reach And Frequency: Targeting Moods, Modes, Screens And Situation

Targeting campaigns to user profiles, segments, location and behaviors is so…so…2014.

I know, I know. Leveraging the technologies we have had for years, even to the degree we target now, has been a long, slow slog. But in some ways it is starting to feel as if it's 2005 all over again. The technological abilities to target are well ahead of the budgets, the analytics and certainly the creative.

Interestingly enough, it was at the first day of our OMMA Chicago Art & Science show that I heard an inordinate amount of discussion from creative about both data and advanced targeting. This first day was supposed to be mainly about the “art” of advertising in an age of science. But one of the salient themes today was the radical fragmentation of big ideas into much more segmented and targeted smaller executions that require creative elements appropriate to each channel.

Two sessions in particular drove this notion home. During a research presentation from Millward Brown’s Hannah Pavalow and Ronit Wilkof, they argued that marketers have to ask themselves more aggressively what emotional impact they are after in a campaign -- and then where it is being seen. Both considerations are critical to making sure videos have the right effect on the viewer.

Pavalow cited research showing that in-stream video (aka pre-roll) outperforms in-banner video. Why? Streamed video viewers have already tacitly agreed to be in a video-viewing mode, even if they haven’t elected to see an ad per se. Someone encountering a video in a banner on a text page came there to read and is in a decidedly lean-in reading mode. Video in this context and against this mode of use doesn’t persuade or impress so much as it makes us scramble for the mute or pause button. “Our first instinct is to turn it off,” Pavalow said -- quite rightly.

But the physical and platform context of reception is also becoming an important variable in anticipating the impact of the video story. TV buyers in search of extending their reach online too often spray their 15s and 30s in every channel imaginable, which is daft. An autoplaying, audio-off video on Facebook may play until the end for a consumer, but without the audio track it may be less effective that a skippable audio-enabled video ad on YouTube. Meanwhile, a video ad with a lot of headline overlays will communicate more effectively on an Instagram feed the user has muted.

Length, too, determines the range of possible or likely emotional impact, Millward Brown finds. The emerging six-second format on Vine is good for clips that are organic to the situation and that have loop dynamics. This is a setting where a brand can be likeable but shouldn’t expect to provide any depth of message or to tell a story. This may seem commonplace, but take a look at some branded video on Vine. A lot of companies think it's cute to stuff calls-to-action, offers, or mini-stories into the format. In most cases, the result is more befuddling than motivating.

The most common format -- 15s -- are good reinforcement for TV campaigns, which act as a signal for some larger story that usually needs to be told in longer form elsewhere. It is only at 30 seconds that you really have the breathing room for a story that makes an emotional impact. This is where marketers can position product launches and offers. And then it is at 60 seconds and above where you really have the opportunity to engage the user. This is where the creative can inspire sharing or turn viewers into loyalist and ambassadors.

Pavalow and Wilkof’s ideas were extended beyond variable video length in the follow-up panel that we called “Painting on an Elastic Canvas: Creating for the Omni-Screen Era.” These panelists were especially intrigued by the challenges and possibilities in wearable screens and highly personal interfaces.

“Make your content glance-able,” recommended Greg Getner, planning director at Y&R Chicago. That may be all the chance you get to communicate on many of these emerging devices. But more to the point, how will these intimate media help us understand what mood the user is in and how receptive they will be to different messaging? “How can marketing shift if we know they are happy, sad or excited?” he asked.

Ansible Mobile’s Maile Krauss is looking forward to Apple Watch replacing the box load of gadgets she owns but doesn’t necessarily use. Haptics in particular open up a new way of creating relationships with the user. The point of interaction and the very nature of the interaction will change.

And it is the engagement piece that is the ultimate measure of success in targeting these moods, modes of use and screens.

"The real problem with so-called omnichannel marketing is marketers’ attempts to overcome information overload and consumer saturation,” said Kat Dudkiewicz, senior art director, Frequency540. “The biggest mistake for me is the tendency to shout as loud and in as many screens as we can. The challenge is finding that engaging conversation with the consumer. Once they have a conversation, they are feeling empowered and that is when they can become an advocate for the brand.”

Amen to that. If there is one thing that came through loud and clear today at OMMA Chicago, it's that some agencies and brands are getting a sense of the real implications of fragmentation, personalization and even saturation. Reach and frequency will not be the name of the game; depth, longevity and meaningfulness of engagement will be instead. But in most cases, these kinds of exchanges will require much smaller, more granular efforts that are less about campaigns than opportunities.

Videos of all the sessions for OMMA Chicago Day 1 are already posted on the agenda.


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