Marketers need to get wise to digital | M&M Global

Marketers need to get wise to digital

Marketers are wasting billions on poor quality digital campaigns. Jane Ostler, managing director, media and digital, at Kantar Millward Brown, explains how to make digital better.


Before digital was big, brand communications were driven by a command and control approach: you developed a strategy, then fired out similar messages across all media channels, using the same brand assets and identity guidelines, to maximise consumer recognition and action.

This exercise was, typically, driven by a pyramid-shaped marketing team, which cascaded the strategy and objectives for a campaign to a handful of agencies. Afterwards, some kind of measurement occurred to prove that the agencies were doing a good job.

It’s not that simple any more. With digital accounting for half of ad spend in many markets, marketers have to be experts in everything – polymaths with unquenchable curiosity; experienced in traditional and digital media, channel strategy, advertising development, content marketing, programmatic media, social platforms, viewability, brand-safety, media contracts, multi-layered customer journeys, ownership and usage of data… the list is endless. All the while making sure that their brand remains recognisably coherent.

Our Cross Media norms data shows that TV is still the best medium for driving awareness and perception, primarily because of its reach, but that all media play an important role in growing brands. In essence, each channel needs an objective: you can’t simply bung your TV ad online and expect miracles to occur if the plan doesn’t add to reach.

“You can’t simply bung your TV ad online and expect miracles to occur if the plan doesn’t add to reach”

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that most marketers understand this new environment.

Kantar Millward Brown’s Brand Lift Insights norms show that the top 20% of digital campaigns have a positive impact on key brand metrics (+9.6% on average), and that the bottom 20% of digital campaigns actually have a negative impact (-4.75% on average). This suggests that globally up to $40bn was wasted last year on digital advertising – maybe it’s a good thing that some ads are unviewable.

Marketers really need to get wise to digital. They should have a point of view, clear policies, and be involved in the debate around industry standards. Underpinning everything will be a more mature approach to measurement, so that effectiveness can be accurately assessed and lessons learned.

Here are my tips for a smarter, more effective approach.

Build your brand

If you want to grow, you need to reach new audiences, so you need to know what they think of your brand, and how they feel about it. You’ll want to understand the impact of your activity on long-term and short-term measures, so you can compare. Clicks aren’t enough.

Be clear about roles and responsibilities

Marketing and insight teams need to co-operate as never before with other departments, breaking down the silos between customer service and retail, for example. Agencies often suffer from mission creep and unclear client briefs. The proliferation of specialist digital agencies makes it essential to you brief them clearly on what brand coherence means for different platforms and audiences.

Don’t forget the format

Kantar Millward Brown’s 2017 AdReaction: Gen X, Y and Z study shows that Generation Z is less receptive to advertising that uses formats they find unacceptable (for example unskippable and auto-play). It’s not enough to develop good creative and a robust media plan, you also need to have a point of view about which online and mobile formats to use, and how to optimise these for your audience.

Innovate with intent

You need to be where the audience is. If you’re spending your money on innovative and experimental digital marketing activities, it’s a good idea to measure and learn, and see how they fit into the bigger picture. Some technologies should potentially influence your organisational structure; for example, chatbots may have a role that spans sales, marketing and customer service expertise, so it’s important that you consider who’s going to be in charge of them.

Use data with care

Programmatic media is targeted by its very nature, but it’s only meaningful if you understand longer-term attitudinal measures as well as short-term business gain. Clients and publishers need to use data strategically and creatively.

Measure meaningful impact

Clicks rates and engagement rates are not leading indicators, but they are still surprisingly prevalent, without any validation or normative data. I’d advocate measuring solid, future-proof metrics: impact on awareness, understanding, preference, and attribution to sales and action by device if you can, via as many channels as possible. Don’t forget to listen to your current and future audience, whether passively via social media, or via qualitative or quantitative research, to understand their current and future needs.

It’s a relief that marketers are starting to take back control by hiring in-house experts, particularly in media and data. It’s time to own the risks, ask the right questions and to understand the real impact of marketing activity.

Does digital need a new breed of marketer, or do marketers just need to get wise? Whatever the answer, right now too much digital investment is being wasted, and marketers need to choose an approach that puts them back in control.

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