Targeting Versus Impact – Which One Wins?

Targeting Versus Impact – Which One Wins?
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In his latest post for B&T, industry troublemaker Robert Strohfeldt argues that an impactful ad or campaign is far better than a targeted one…

I think of the “digital era” beginning in the year 2000 – very much it its infancy (relative to 2020) with porn still being a major driver of traffic. Websites were “popping up”, the world was recovering from the tech wreck and as good a reason as any, it is a nice round number.

The first “recognisable” social media, Six Degrees, started in 1997, followed by Google in 1998 and blogging sites started becoming popular in 1999. Facebook was not even a “gleam in the eye” of Mark Zuckerberg back then.  LinkedIn didn’t start until 2002, whilst Instagram (2010), WhatsApp (2009) and YouTube (2005) had not yet been created.  And there was My Space, which kicked off in 2006 and peaked in 2007 with 75.9 monthly users. It still has around 50 million monthly users, but I cannot recall seeing it recommended on any schedule or businesses setting up sites.

Laptops were a prestige symbol in 2000. Go through an airport scanner and only the successful entrepreneurs and senior managers (oops, C Suite) had laptops. Every other poor bugger was stuck with an unportable desktop computer. (Some irony in the fact that mobile now dominates and it is arguably the single most important reason for the lack of impact of online advertising i.e. screen size, which is rarely if ever mentioned by the digerati.)

A bit of history never hurts when considering the present. One of the most used and abused terms is digital – originally coined to differentiate between computing. (analogue and digital). Digital computers came into being in 1973, so they are hardly a new phenomenon.

We enter 2020 and people still sprout “I am a digital marketer”. I don’t know any media of significance that is not digital. (TV began broadcasting a digital signal from January 1st, January 2001).

The recent Superbowl was a great reminder of the power of TV screen advertising. Be it free-to-air, subscription or OTT – 2020 has frequently been referred to as the year the “streaming wars” will start in earnest. (Foxtel has clearly demonstrated subscription revenue is not sufficient to cover the cost of offering quality programming).

Whether streaming services will have to take advertising is a moot point. The latest P: E of Netflix is 99:1 (Try and find a:” traditional” company with anything like that P: E and is still trading.) My bet is that streaming services will either have a 2 tired pricing – one with no ads and a high subscription cost, or advertising with a lower subscription cost. Or maybe they will end up like Foxtel. The result will be many more advertising platforms to analyse.

Back to the Superbowl. The appeal of the advertising is nearly as great as the game. (One commentator estimated that a five-hour game only has the ball in play for 10 minutes.).

The Super Bowl ads generate huge coverage, not just within the marketing and advertising industries, but the audience in general. Where TV ad breaks were a time for a bathroom stop, grab a drink, snack or wide variety of other reasons, during Super Bowl the audience is more engaged with the ads than large swaths of the game. (Time outs, swapping offensive with defensive teams. To a former League player, the stoppages take a lot of getting used to.)

And what an audience they generate – in 2019, 102 million viewers across Fox and all its platforms and just under 100 million on Fox alone. Large TV sets have become the norm, so if we talk in terms of impact, it was huge.

But it not just the numbers alone. If your product advertises in Super Bowl, at a cost of around $US5.5 million a 30 second spot , it says you are a brand/company of substance.  No “fly by nighter” is going to be running advertising in the Super Bowl live broadcast.

And not just TV ads in the Super Bowl broadcast. How can you tell when a purely online business is doing well? They advertise on TV.

Run the same ads on a mobile phone and the reaction/impact would be “bugger all”. Engagement is the term often used, but impact is more apt when it comes to advertising – rather than one to one messages, advertorials, webpages etc. (Engagement is the final step before marriage. Your last chance to “run away”. An old friend did it three times. Cost him three engagement rings, but his rationale was it was cheaper than three houses.)

I looked at past articles – “Lies, Dam Lies & Social Media”, “Why Brands Waste So Much on Social Media”, “Why is Social Media so Over- Rated” and related articles such as “Content. So Much Garbage” & “What the Hell is Content”. (Bloody hell. My dear late mum often said: “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, say nothing”. That would eliminate around 60 per cent of my articles. Sorry mum.)

A quick flick through these and other articles, many three-plus years old and bugger all has changed, such as:

  • Around 38 per cent  of online “traffic” is not human, rather Bots.
  • Partial viewing (three -five seconds will suffice) is counted as “seeing the ad”.
  • Often the ads are appearing way below where most people look, particularly on mobile.
  • No sound is not a consideration. (To be fair, a percentage of TV viewers mute sound when ads come on, but not anywhere near the percent of those online)
  • The huge shift to mobile has been a far greater kick to the groin of online ads than has ever been admitted to. How many had a Super Bowl party, complete with snacks and lunch (vegan?) and a heap of booze, then put their phone up on the wall as the visual and sound device for the game?

No sane person would argue “digital” has not had such a massive impact on society. Social media, which is still relatively in its infancy, has had a radical impact that few could honestly have predicted when it started.

Trump, though not the ideal example, will not be the last US President (or any other politician) to conduct Foreign Policy through social media.  Policy by social media was unheard of and initially scorned as one of the many criticisms of Trump. It is now becoming more frequent.  Anyone who has had experience in being interviewed, knows what is broadcast or published can be edited in a manner that significantly changes what you meant.

Social media cuts out the middleman, not just for politicians, but any “celebrity”, giving them far more control over their public image than when reliant upon traditional media. (If it bleeds, it leads, was the philosophy of “tabloid” media).

Michael Clarke (former Australian cricket captain) and his wife had agreed to divorce. Instagram was the chosen medium to manage the public perception of the divorce. They have total control over the message, rather than doing an interview and then hope it comes out as intended.

But advertising is vastly different to politics and celebrities in social media. Leaving aside, the happenings in celebrities’ lives, politics and products and services such as financial, insurance etc, where information is actively sort out, a rule of thumb I use for social media is:

  • If people do not “window shop” your product category, then social is a waste of time and money.

One big advantage so often put forward by the digiterati, in addition to the number of people online, is the ability to target – “can run multiple ads aimed at all of the different segments”. All the different segments? Yes, a mass market brand can carve up its audience into a multitude of “segments”. But are they really buying your product for a wide range of different reasons?

Alan Morris, one half of the great MoJo, was once asked, “Who is your target market for Tooheys?” (This was after one of the best beer campaigns ever in Australia – “How Do You Feel”). “Anyone over 18 with a mouth”, he replied.

There are never say, 10 distinctly different and equal reasons for buying a product. This is a great example of how data and media have taken over our industry at the expense of creative.

Realistically, there is usually around three major reasons (and that is pushing it), under an overall positioning umbrella, for purchase. And so we used to have 3 ads, all branded the same (distinctiveness), under an umbrella positioning and we had …….. A campaign!

If targeting to a myriad of different groups of people was the Holy Grail, then why has “Distinctiveness” (brand assets), been so prominent in modern marketing teaching? Though there is nothing new is this, only the terminology has changed. My first creative director, way back in 1983, would say – “Make sure you brand the shit out of it”.

The loss of creativity in a rising tide of fixation with AI is for another day. Compare the Super Bowl ads, or a well – crafted TV, radio or print ad to any online offering and it is little wonder that highly specific and relevant targeting is used for compensation. The rationale is creativity does not come into it – online allows for the right offer at the right time to the right person. (Yeah, right).

The use of Influencers has increased enormously over the past 10 years.  And any company, whose business is supplying influencers, will say their Influencers provide original and creative content.  If you want high level and original online creative, Influencers is “where it is at”. That the nearly all of these influencers have had no training in design and copy writing does not seem to be an impediment. (Some of the rubbish I have seen pumped out by Influencers, suggests they are closer to being illiterate, than creative oases).

Another slight problem – there seems to be almost as many “influencers” as there are consumers. I looked at one website and stopped counting at 120 Influencers they could offer. “Celebrity endorsers” long pre-dated influencers. (Even TV and radio). They could be successful sports people, explorers, musicians – the only criteria, to have excelled at something as opposed to say, a Reality TV Star.  Plus, there were 3 broadly accepted criteria in sponsorship of a person, or an event – relevance, relevance and relevance.

Facebook has over 1,500 Influencers in sport in Australia alone. Assume you are launching a new “sports drink”. Who do you choose? The number of followers and likes are fantasy figures.

And just how credible are they? Surely most (except those who sell Influencers) would know of the antic by Mark Ritson when he paid Influencers to show a great work of art – it was a digitised photo of his arse and around half of Influencers, many who have big name clients, fell for it and showed his arse. Hilarious, but it did highlight the level of fraud and lack of due diligence that occurs in the field of Influencers.

“A recent survey from Hypetap of 10,000 influencers identified 16 per cent of the total follower base to be fake. But that figure is almost certainly an underestimate. One study from Points North in 2017 concluded that big brands such as P&G’s Pampers (32 per cent), Unilever’s Magnum (20 per cent), L’Occitane (39 per cent) and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Group (78 per cent) were among the brands whose Instagram sponsored posts had the most fake followers.”

Scams and fraud have been synomous to the internet.  And this is not confined to the Nigerian fraudsters and identity theifs, it goes all the way up to Facebook and Google.

Yes, online advertising will allow you to target down to the individual, but here are four problems faced with this “granular” targeting:

  • People hate it. Unlike advertising on traditional mediums (which have their fair share of consumer detractors), an ad is not as intrusive and a “good one”, will be enjoyed. Yes, there are some shockers, think used car and late- night TV ads, even so they don’t interrupt you. A click through rate of around 0.35 per cent for display ads is less than the failure rate of contraception.
  • The number of the targeted people who see your ad is nowhere near the number claimed. Online ad fraud is a close second to the drug trade for organised crime income. Even conservative estimate projections, the total cost of fraud, if unchecked, could exceed $50 billion by 2025.
  • Screen size has a major influence on the impact of any video. (Including advertising). The predominance of smart phones has had a large negative impact on the effectiveness of online advertising, which is rarely, or ever acknowledged
  • This is still no accurate measure of how many of your precisely targeted people (leaving out Bots) see your ad. Traditional advertising measures have definite weaknesses, but in comparison to online measurement, they are minor.

Targeting versus impact? Take the impact.

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Robert Strohfeldt

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