B&T went one-on-one with Tony Marlow, chief marketing officer at Integral Ad Science, to get his thoughts on what brands should be focusing on this Christmas shopping season, and what marketers should be wary of…
The start of the holiday shopping season is coinciding with the end of lockdown. Do you expect to see that impact on customer behaviour in terms of in-person versus online shopping?
One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic has been the seismic shift to a digital-first lifestyle, even when it comes to holiday celebrations, shopping, and gifting. As the giving season becomes increasingly digitised, advertisers have embraced the opportunity to reach consumers where it counts and influence shopping behaviour. According to the Australian Retailers Association, Aussies are set to spend over $11 billion on Christmas presents this year, and half of that will be online.
This behaviour follows global trends. In fact, IAS recently surveyed US consumers about their shopping preferences and perception of digital ads during the holiday season. Seventy-nine of Americans will do most or all of their shopping online, and 76 per cent will maintain or increase their shopping budgets this year. A massive 88 per cent of consumers find online ads helpful in finding products and promotions. Importantly, consumers also prefer digital ads on reputable sites and alongside contextually relevant content.
Shoppers are focused on convenience and most will conduct online research before committing to a purchase. That means marketers need to connect with digital audiences this holiday season where they spend their time and money.
Are there any other unique challenges to holiday shopping this year that marketers should be wary of?
Online shopping is the new normal, and that’s expected to continue this holiday season. In particular, the growth of mobile shopping is a trend to watch. Recent reports estimate that 91 per cent of Aussies used their mobile phones to shop last year – a steady uptick compared to 87 per cent in 2019. Mobile shopping provides a convenient, on-the-go experience. For marketers, this means that optimising mobile campaigns to break through the noise and appear in fraud-free, brand-safe environments is essential in 2021.
With the rise of streaming habits, brands are also opting for video campaigns to engage customers. According to an IAB Australia report, video grew 73 per cent in Q2 2021 compared to the same quarter last year, and now dominates with a 55 per cent market share. Our latest H1 2021 Media Quality Report found that Australian advertisers benefited from increased video consumption and ad impression volumes as a result of stay-at-home behaviours. However, we also saw higher brand risk and ad fraud rates across video ads.
Programmatic video is proving to be the safer option, as buyers take advantage of increased controls. For desktop video, publisher direct inventory saw significantly higher brand risk levels (5.3 per cent) compared to programmatic inventory (1.7 per cent). The same trend held true for mobile web video.
Additionally, ad fraud rates for desktop video more than tripled from 0.7 per cent in H1 2020 to 2.4 per cent in H1 2021. This increase was driven by a spike in fraud activity targeting publisher direct video inventory that pushed ad fraud rates to 4.4 per cent, up from 0.7 per cent a year earlier (the worldwide average was one per cent). Comparatively, programmatic drove greater efficiency, generating a fraud rate of 1.6 per cent.
How can brands use events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to not just drive sales but also acquire new returning customers?
Sales events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday present a huge potential for savvy marketers to stand out and target Australian consumers. To do so, advertisers should optimise towards quality impressions, making sure that their campaign will have an opportunity to be seen and positively influence consumers.
Contextual ads, which are targeted to match the content of a webpage, are one effective way to drive brand memorability. In fact, contextual advertising not only works, but can be even more effective than audience targeting that’s fuelled by data from third-party cookies. Digital marketers can achieve higher brand memorability during these sales days and elicit positive emotional responses from consumers by activating contextual strategies.
With video viewability increasing in Australia, video inventory will be in high demand during these sales days as well. We recently found that connected TV (CTV) ranked as the most viewable ad format overall in Australia, reaching 93.2 per cent in H1 2021, while desktop video registered a 79.1 per cent viewability rate, the second-highest globally. Mobile web video recorded a viewability rate of 74.1 per cent in Australia, while the worldwide average stood at 79 per cent.
If your brand wants to heavy-up on video, it’s about the quality of inventory, rather than the quantity, especially around key sales days. Work with trusted marketplaces and partners to ensure that your video investments garner the maximum return.
Contextual advertising has obviously received a lot of attention in recent times. How can marketers best take advantage of this technology?
The holiday season is a critical time for many retailers and brands. Right now, consumers are leaning heavily into online shopping, which makes digital advertising even more important.
For advertisers who are planning their holiday campaigns, the key to connecting with audiences is to control their contextual adjacencies in ways that maximise outcomes. Not all contexts are created equal when it comes to driving marketing success. Brands can harness the dual power of contextual targeting and high-quality placements to drive greater brand engagement.
It’s also vital to acknowledge that placing ads beside low-quality content can have significant consequences, including a high risk of damaging brand reputation. To ensure online ads drive the right attention and outcome, aligning with suitable contexts must be a top priority.
How else can marketers reach customers in a privacy-compliant way this festive season?
As our industry prepares for a cookieless future and increasingly moves away from audience targeting, advertisers have a significant opportunity to be intentional with contextual tools. Rather than focusing on data management and privacy regulations that go along with collecting audience data, many marketers will switch to advertising in environments that are contextually relevant and use that as a proxy.
Ultimately, a shift to contextual advertising is also good news for the industry, because it aligns with the preferences of privacy-conscious consumers while achieving the brand’s goals for engagement.
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