“As one channel giveth, the other taketh away” — Marketing proverb, anon.
Apart from potentially gaining an audible eye-roll from your non-marketing team, ‘fractionalised’ marketing may have some substance worth discussing.
As the proliferation of channels available to marketeers continues, so must the flexibility to be prepared to review and reflect on what delivers the outcomes, not just the outputs, of a great marketing campaign.
So, since social platforms figured out how to make money, agencies were quick to report on ‘eyeballs, clicks and likes’ and these phenomenal stats, often with some greater depth and insight than traditional channels could offer, lured money away from the tried and tested. But as digital dollars gained pace, so too has the murkier side of the digital black market.
Putting an ever-growing fraction of your marketing budget on digital comes with its own health warning. An eMarketer survey of advertisers’ top concerns in 2016 showed that click fraud was top of the list for agencies and marketers alike.
Trump may be banging the fake news drum for some time yet, but fake advertising in the digital world is just as complex and concerning. Google appears to be delivering on its promise to better police the ads being distributed across YouTube, following a number of adverts being associated with inappropriate content. Maybe that’s a long time coming or cynically the higher profile this has become the more they’ve wanted to voice what they can do.
But the rise in bots and their increasing intelligence is also challenging the efficacy of digital spend as advertisers and brands alike seek to get real views, clicks and engagement.
Just take the case of the bots at war over a period of years over whether Aston Villa FC were officially called Aston Villa or Aston Villa Football Club. As a Villa fan myself I too would often argue the toss as to whether football can be included in the title. But this example, highlighted by BBC Newsnight this week, is perhaps a slightly worrying example of how a computer finds it hard to say no or to reach the human ‘agree to disagree’ compromise. If bots are part of the mix, such as automating customer engagement, targeting or correcting content, they could become an increasingly important touch point to address.
The refreshing honesty from Coca-Cola’s global chief marketing officer, Marcos de Quinto, a few months ago criticised the companies’ digital spend arguing that their TV advertising has been best for the brand. Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard echoed that he was tired of waiting for digital platforms to “get their measurement act together”.
However, it’s undeniable that digital can lead customers through to purchase far more readily than traditional channels. For those brands who don’t offer an online purchase, or who require a broader brand profile (such as Coca-Cola), you could question what fraction they spend on digital versus a more mainstream campaign. Digital can prove tougher for bigger brands who need a bigger mass appeal to succeed.
But there are big brands that do digital really well (take a bow the likes of Oreo). Digital spend is expected to surpass TV for the first time ever in 2017, despite brands sharing their concerns over it, according to Zenith Media’s new Advertising Expenditure.
The rise in bots, questionable websites using mainstream ads and even political campaigns being (allegedly) influenced through targeted social campaigns, digital must be seen as a fraction of your campaign, albeit most likely a main one.
In reality, we’re just catching up with ourselves over a relatively new channel that’s seemingly disrupted the status quo. As measurement, regulation and process catch up, whatever fraction your spending on digital the common denominator will always be whether it’s engaged your audience and created a change in outcome. Advertising has always been challenging to measure so we’d better brush up on our fractions as channels will only continue to develop, something I hope we can agree to disagree and then agree on.
Rebecca Roberts, Founder of Thread & Fable