read the news daily, and I see the forecasts signaling impending recessions, but none of it really adds up for me. The underlying foundation of the economy appears strong. Advertising forecasts are being revised down, but they are still showing a growth trajectory of between 5%-9%, depending on the channel and whom you decide to quote.
Growth would seem to be counterintuitive if the economy is indeed headed towards a recession. How can we have such growth in a multibillion-dollar industry when the macroeconomic climate is portrayed as troubled? How can the foundation of that economy not signal the same storyline as what is being reported?
If anything is true, it’s that the current economic situation is anything but logical. Consumer confidence is good, no matter how bad the supply chain is or how high gas prices rise. We continue to create more jobs, even though the media focuses story after story around the fact that tech companies are cutting jobs daily in droves. Advertisers are pulling back from Twitter and Facebook, but their dollars are still going to online and connected TV. Digital media is still growing.
Logic is thrown out the window because the entire world suffered a massive disruption for two-and-a-half years, and the path after that disruption is unknown. Ask an economist from the era of the Spanish flu what was going to happen, and they would have had no idea.
How are advertisers truly responding? Advertisers are likely shifting from pure brand campaigns and back into brand response. Brand response refers to the kinds of campaigns where engagement metrics and performance is managed aggressively, but the development of a brand is still addressed by driving engagement rather than simply building frequency of exposure.
Think of taking a Super Bowl ad and adding a QR code to the screen. That is indicative of brand response.
I probably coined the term in 1998 when I first started writing for MediaPost. I never truly felt marketers needed to spend money on “branding.” If you identify the right audience and deliver a relevant message that is intended to drive engagement, you are also building frequency of exposure and associating yourself with an idea. That creates brand. You can spend on big, flashy media placements, but in the end you look at traffic and engagement and eventually you examine growth metrics such as sales, revenue and more. Every dollar you spend is intended to drive direct or indirect growth, and marketing works together with sales to drive that measurable growth.
Search, native, video, content syndication -- these are the cornerstones for digital in 2023 and they are recession-proof. Search always grows. Native and content syndication are less intrusive and more easily tolerated, plus they integrate everywhere. Online, digital and connected video are here to stay, and they are finding new ways to offer measurable engagement as the audience leaves traditional TVs and heads to connected devices.
All these channels are key components of brand response because you can target an audience, deliver a message, break through the clutter and measure engagement. They are scalable too, with almost infinite inventory at the customer’s fingertips. These are resilient in the face of a recession, unlike banner ads and display. They command higher prices, and premium inventory will always be in demand.
Brand response is the name of the game in 2023 and into 2024 because the industry relies on these channels in the face of economic uncertainty. Of course I may only be right 50% of the time, but if that’s the case I hope you forgive me, too.