Commentary

Farewell, Fraudulent Inventory, Dangerous Audiences: 2019's Clean Slate

For most marketers, the waning months of the year aren’t about holiday shopping or Thanksgiving meal prep, they’re about 2019 planning and all the highs and lows that come with it.

As we try to wring some lessons out of the year that was and apply them to the year to come there is, I find, a natural tendency toward optimism, and rightly so. We should keep one eye on new opportunities and initiatives that could help us to reach more consumers and drive more impact.

However, I’ve also noticed that this optimism can be distracting, and our focus on opportunity can blind us to potential gains found in cutting away what didn’t work in the prior year.

Platforms that don’t perform

It seems like each new year brings with it a new social platform for marketers to master. First it was essential to have a strategy to drive results on Facebook, then Twitter, then LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, or even Vine (R.I.P.).

The dirty secret is that most digital marketers love the challenges inherent in cracking the code of a new platform. However, as the years wear on and we pile up more data, we’re sometimes slow to pull back on platforms that aren’t working. As the social revolution reaches maturity, it’s become clear that not every brand needs a YouTube channel or a Pinterest page; some are better served by a pithy Twitter account or a robust LinkedIn presence.

Consider taking stock of your total cross-platform investment and prioritizing what really works. If LinkedIn campaigns are converting for you at twice the rate of your efforts on Pinterest, then it may be worthwhile to pull back on Pins and dial up your LinkedIn native publishing.

We’re rapidly moving away from the era of exploration in social media. Most of the unknown corners of the platform world have been thoroughly mapped. The challenge now is to find the most fertile ground available and start cultivating bigger results.

Targeting quality inventory

The last two years have seen a rapidly widening conversation about media quality and transparency. While many think the tipping point came when P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard directly called on the digital advertising industry to clean up its act, it’s been clear for some time that the digital supply chain had become too opaque and convoluted, choked with fraudulent inventory and ad placements that couldn’t possibly be viewed.

Pritchard’s wake-up call may have been rhetorical, but he backed it up with results. By trimming the CPG giant’s ad spend by over $200 million and focusing on highly viewable inventory in fraud-free environments, Pritchard’s team was able to increase overall reach for its roster of brands by 10% year over year.

As marketers move away from an impression-driven, scale-centric model toward a more quality-driven approach to digital, it may be time to pull away from inventory that provides the appearance of reach without value.

Impressions only count if they’re served to real human eyes in a viewable context. Prioritizing quality over pure impression scale could allow us to make a much bigger impact with audiences that matter if we can only take our eyes off the big impression volumes.

Dangerous audiences

One of the major themes that emerged over the last year has been an evolving concern about brand safety. It’s understandable, given that we’re sitting in the middle of one of the most volatile news cycles in modern history.

Consumers are highly engaged in conversations about contentious politics and controversial language -- and if you’re not careful, your brand could become collateral damage in the crush of the culture wars.

This is another chance for marketers to reconsider the scale for scale’s sake model. Programmatic buying has opened the door to a nearly infinite audience on an ever-expanding universe of sites.

But pulling back the lens a bit, that vast access to an audience can come at the price of accidentally endorsing content that could trigger significant media and consumer blowback. Consider whether it’s really worth targeting these audiences in 2019, or if a plan that focuses on high-performing placements on safe inventory might be a better bet for your brand.

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