My first year at the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) has been a year of ever-accelerating change in the advertising industry — and, therefore, also for the ARF.
It was a year in which more than one broadcast network has declared its future is OTT. A year in which some key digital players have said: if there is regulation. it needs to be federal. A year in which more than one CMO has said at our conferences: Brand loyalty is dead.
In 2018, the ARF discovered that six-second ads can be successful, depending on the creative and how much position advantage those ads have. Our research also identified that there may be better ways to improve the quality of third-party data. We found out that only 30% of consumers know what a third party is, when it appears in a privacy statement. We learned that viewability is not the same as brand cognition.
Moving forward into 2019, our research will focus on five key challenges facing our members — and the industry overall:
Reimagining the value of brands
Are DTC brands really killing retail-focused brands? Are CMOs really becoming CDOs? Truth is, there’s as much coverage in the trade press and at conferences that suggests, while things are changing, a strong brand voice is more important than ever. Think Kaepernick. This coming year we will be researching how brands should speak.
Are we targeting too much?
Some data providers, and even some advertisers, say that only outcomes matter. Others say that approach is short-sighted, and brands will suffer in the long run.
But do we really know how much we are targeting? How many potential buyers are outside the core target and should be evaluated — and targeted — as a valuable secondary audience? This year, we will continue our research to empirically support methods that increase the understanding of the value of off-target audiences, aiming to improve digital targets.
The changing face of retail
Brands are being squeezed from the store perimeter, replaced by fast food, beer gardens and coffee shops. They are also being squeezed from the center aisle in both food and non-food environments. What’s driving these trends? While it may be DTC in part, higher-margin store assortments play a significant role. Some retailers have gotten it right, but click-to-collect, alone, doesn’t make you an online retailer. In 2019, we will document the habits of successful retailers online and off.
Modeling and attribution
Many companies are now modeling machine-level data for currency and attribution, using a variety of models: fusion, agent-based, viewer assignment and deep learning. Advertisers are asking: What is behind the models, and is there a good way to validate them? Along with CIMM (Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement), now part of the ARF, we are collaborating to provide comparative analyses of these models. Related ARF Council events, such as hackathon modeling competitions, will encourage progress in tackling these key issues.
Cross-platform measurement standards
The industry is trying to address the lack of consistency in cross-platform measurement approaches. For example, the 3MS initiative seeks to recommend a simple unit for cross-platform measurement, with the emphasis on simplicity, and the MRC is collecting responses to proposed cross-platform standards. The ARF will be developing empirical research to inform and support these proposals.
Is it a great time to be in research, data science, insights — or is it called predictive analytics? I think so, though what we call our departments is another topic in transition. To help our members, we will be conducting benchmark surveys this year focused on department names, structures and talent.