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6 New Year’s Resolutions For Advertisers In 2020

As we lookahead to the New Year, several big trends will continue shaping how advertisers engage and influence people. 

Among them, the explosion of data and advances in digital technology, which will continue to evolve and transform nearly every business on the planet. More personalized communications and brand activations will also rule as companies continue to prioritize experiences. And along with physical stores, there is no end in sight of consumers patronizing the explosion of digital channels, where they expect brands to meet them at nearly every stop on their online customer journey.

These trends, undoubtedly, will affect how brands advertise their wares. But, where should advertisers be the most focused in 2020? Here are six resolutions they might want to whisper to themselves as they put away the party favors and get back to work.

Resolve To … Double Down On First-Party Data

Traditionally, collecting, integrating, and analyzing actionable customer information has been a monumental undertaking, with companies relying on people to accurately enter information into databases. Ensuring this was done properly to avoid the “garbage-in, garbage out” phenomenon often took so much time that the resulting data would be outdated by the time it was “cleansed.” As a result, many organizations turned away from first-party data and started using customer information provided by other parties.

Two things came along to change that, experts say.

First, tools emerged to simplify how brands collect and manage first-party data, noted Keith Eadie, vice president and general manager for Adobe Advertising Cloud. Some are now capable of revealing audience behaviors, traits, preferences, and interests by tapping into existing digital properties, including customer data platforms (CDPs), point-of-sale (POS) devices, social channels, and mobile platforms.

Second, as eMarketer analyst Nicole Perrin recently told CMO by Adobe, the regulatory environment around privacy has changed dramatically, beginning with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and extending to the United States through the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Among other things, these regulations cracked down on the use of tracking cookies for collecting consumer information and sending targeted ads their way.

These two trends are undoubtedly why 82% of marketers said they plan to increase their use of first-party data. Still, according to a MightyHive survey of 200 senior brand marketers, less than one in 20 said they believe they are tapping into more than 80% of their potential first-party data. But 67% think they’ll get there by the end of next year–most likely because they will resolve to do so.

And once they do, working with all of this “accurate, reliable first-party data should help genuinely improve experiences for consumers,” according to Perrin.

Resolve To … Expand Advertising Across Video Channels

Anyone who has binged a Netflix series or sat for hours in front of a YouTube channel knows the days of exclusively watching network TV are long gone. Those broadcast stations are still relevant, of course, but many more options exist for marketers with advertising budgets.

In fact, connected TV programming, which includes pretty much anything served to television sets via the Internet, is expected to swell to 195.1 million viewers before the end of the year, according to eMarketer. Apple, AT&T, Disney, NBCUniversal, and Quibi have all announced plans for streaming services.  

With all that movement, one might expect advertisers to have already invested heavily across major video segments. Yet the video market has become so fragmented, often creating more questions than answers: Which are the best channels to pursue? What’s the right mix of traditional versus digital? Are consumers willing to accept ads on streamed media when they have become so accustomed to not seeing commercials on these channels?  

“Marketers today are faced with the tough task of overcoming media fragmentation and changing consumer behaviors,” said Eric Schmitt, senior director at Gartner, in a statement. “At the same time, they are trying to work around the fact that consumers are more often [bypassing] ads, by subscribing to services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. Then layer in more competition for attention, higher media prices and often more clutter. Marketers are playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with their target audiences, and they are often coming up short.”

According to eMarketer, one way savvy marketers are navigating the complex video landscape is through programmatic digital display ad spending, which automates and simplifies the process based on predetermined requirements. The analyst firm said U.S. marketers will spend nearly half of their programmatic spend on video this year, and they expect that trend to hold steady for a while. 

“The near 50-50 split of spending is an indicator of how eager buyers and sellers have become to capitalize on video advertising in any and all forms,” said eMarketer principal analyst Lauren Fisher in a statement. "And it also speaks to how quickly both sides have embraced programmatic as the primary method for buying and selling these ads."

Resolve To … Take Podcasts Seriously

Don’t look now, but audio content, especially podcasts, is making a comeback, presenting new ad opportunities.

According to a recent study by Adobe, podcast mobile app usage has increased 60% since January 2018, with a quarter of current podcast listeners plugging in for the first time in the past six months. This growth trend is expected to continue, as 45% of listeners said they plan to listen to more podcasts in the future.

Not surprisingly, all of this action on the podcast front has helped spur a spike in advertising spend in the past few years. Indeed, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC predict advertising spending on podcasts will jump from $479 million in 2018 to more than $1 billion by 2021.  

“Podcasts have finally hit the mainstream,” Adobe’s Eadie told CMO by Adobe. This means the ease of access for advertisers to place their messaging into those types of audio inventory sources has never been greater.”

This is another area where programmatic tools have been beneficial.

“In the early days of podcasts, ad inventory wasn’t available via programmatic advertising software,” Eadie said. “Now it’s seamless. You’re able to remove friction. Ad agencies no longer have to call up 500 different podcasts and decide which ones are best for their commercials. … This could be quite useful for advertisers looking to snap into the resurgence of podcasts, and you’ll probably see more of them resolving to do just that in 2020.”

Their spend will be well-placed. According to the Adobe study, podcasts are an effective platform for advertising: The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults found 60% of consumers said they’ve looked up a product or service after hearing an ad, and 25% of them have purchased a product they discovered through a podcast ad. 

Podcast Advertising Divide

Resolve To … Bridge Customer Experience Gaps

Marketers talk a lot about omnichannel communications. But for many, the concept remains more aspirational than something they’re currently doing.

Part of the problem is the way organizations are structured. Too often, the teams responsible for understanding what customers want, to engage them and deliver outstanding experiences, exist in separate organizational fiefdoms. They might communicate and collaborate, but they don’t always have the technological means for doing so in real time. As a result, when customers patronize one physical or digital channel, such as a social media site, their experience might be completely different than what they find on a digital storefront or in a physical outlet.

Today, more than 85% of global consumers surveyed by the Chief Marketing Officer Council and Pitney Bowes said they want a blend of both digital and physical channel experiences. But only 13% believe brands are living up to this expectation.

Brands: now is the time to overcome this hurdle. Cloud-based tools are rapidly evolving to help bridge gaps between marketing, analytics, advertising, and commerce functions in order to deliver real-time, personalized, omnichannel experiences to customers.

“These systems are going to be about knowing and understanding customer behavior, what they’re doing at different touch points, and integrating relevant pieces of information to determine what the next-best ad for a specific consumer should be,” Adobe's Eadie said. “As soon as next year, I think you’ll see more advertising execs resolving to deploy systems enabling more intelligent omnichannel communication.”

Resolve To … Crank Up The Creativity

It goes without saying that to reach, engage, and influence today’s consumers, brands must go above and beyond simply advertising, and make customers feel understood, appreciated, and–dare we say it–pampered. But if every brand is going out of its way to do this with relative digital “sameness,” the effectiveness of such programs may stall or stagnate.

This is why marketers should resolve to crank up campaign creativity and design thinking in 2020.

Investing in creativity can help firms achieve higher returns over a six-year period, according to a report by Forrester, which says brands that move portions of their marketing budgets out of commoditized areas of technology and into creative resources stand a better chance of differentiating themselves.

“The job of the marketer is to steer brands away from the sea of sameness by connecting the brand to customers’ needs and stirring an emotional response,” said Jay Pattisall, principal analyst at Forrester. “Creativity delivers this emotional connection and differentiates brands from commodified technology and digital sameness.”

Resolve To … Live Up To Your Brand’s Purpose

While customers continue to care about the experiences brands provide them, they aren’t entirely self-serving. Many—especially young people—also want companies to serve a higher purpose.

Numerous studies during the past few years attest to this reality. A global Accenture survey, for example, found 62% of the 30,000 consumers they asked want companies to take a stand on current and broadly relevant issues, including sustainability, transparency, and fair employment practices. Similarly, an Edelman study reported two-thirds of consumers worldwide now buy on beliefs. And a Deloitte Insights survey revealed more than 80% of consumers would pay more for products if a brand was more environmentally or socially responsible.

Major brands have certainly taken notice. Companies such as Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Coca-Cola, Gillette, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Microsoft, Nike, and Patagonia, among others, now articulate what they aspire to be, and then build authentic, purpose-driven advertising campaigns around those identities.

For example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, whose eldest son is disabled, has a personal connection to delivering technology that helps with accessibility. It’s evident that the company genuinely cares about such causes. It has spent considerable time and money highlighting its work in this area, such as its highly regarded “We All Win” Super Bowl ad, which struck an emotional chord with audiences by showing how the software giant’s adaptive gaming controllers enrich the lives of disabled kids. 

In 2020, more brands will need to hardwire purpose-driven campaigns into their overall marketing mix. But they’ll also have to ensure such efforts feel human and genuine, and that they do not veer off-brand.

“Brand purpose can generate tremendous value and loyalty,” according to Monotype CMO Brett Zucker, “but if there’s a poor fit with the company’s real-world actions or the target customer’s values–in other words, if brand purpose is perceived as phony or tone-deaf—the resulting backlash can be seismic and potentially terminal.”

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