“There’s been an enormous amount of change in the way we reach our customers because there’s been an enormous amount of change in the way customers spend their time,” said Alex Amado, vice president of experience marketing at Adobe, citing the fragmentation of TV viewership and the decline of newspaper and magazine readership, for a start. “Advertising is ultimately about being where your customer’s attention is.”
That means brands must not only seek out customer eyeballs in various digital channels, social media outlets, and increasingly those rare out-of-home (OOH) locations in which they’re less likely to be glued to a small screen, but also get more targeted in their advertising efforts. CMO by Adobe talked to industry players about five of the most relevant advertising trends right now.
Programmatic Gets Pragmatic
Programmatic is hardly new, having its roots in the first real-time bidding (RTB) platforms that emerged more than a decade ago. But it has come a long way since those early days, expanding from desktop to mobile and beyond, and from an avenue for selling remnants to a premium brand-building option. This year, advertisers will spend $84 billion programmatically—65% of their digital media spend, according to Zenith’s Programmatic Marketing Forecast.
“It’s a broadly used technique that makes media much more targeted and effective,” said Amado, who ran a 100% programmatic awareness campaign last year that included desktop, mobile, TV, and OOH. It delivered a 5% lift in awareness and 6% lift in key perception metrics over four months—twice as efficient on a CPM basis compared to site-direct media, and driving a significantly better cost per visit to Adobe.com.
However, advertisers are beginning to want more from their programmatic partners. The buzzwords today are data privacy (for consumers) and transparency (for advertisers).
Marketers are increasingly concerned about regulations like GDPR and CCPA and their rules for consumer consent for data regulation. Meanwhile, websites are cracking down on third-party cookies, creating new barriers to consumer targeting. As a result, advertisers are likely to seek out more first-party data or even so-called zero-party data—data proactively and willingly shared by an individual—for use in their programmatic investments.
At the heart of the matter is a more fundamental question for marketers, said Scott Tieman, managing director of programmatic services for Accenture Interactive: What is the role of data in advertising?
“Since consumers are always attached to their wearables and mobile devices, it has opened endless opportunities to collect data about consumers, like where they are and what they buy, making it easier to track both online and offline,” Tieman told CMO by Adobe. “For advertisers to be successful in this new world, they need to adapt to this change. They need to begin rethinking their user experiences and considering the positive implications of data ownership. They need to re-evaluate their technology stack and drive toward a unified advertising and marketing architecture to empower their marketing initiatives.”
Billboards Bounce Back
Once simply an untargeted and decidedly low-rent advertising option, billboards are finding their way back to relevance, thanks, in part, to the digital technology that at one time threatened their existence. OOH advertising overall (of which billboards are a part) experienced 35 consecutive quarters of growth by the end of 2018, according to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA), with spending expected to reach $33 billion by 2021.
For its part, Netflix made a splash with three dozen billboards on LA’s Sunset Strip last summer, and a quarter of the biggest OOH buyers were technology companies including big spenders such as Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. It makes sense.
“We’re competing for users’ eyeballs, which are glued to the screen all the time … except when they’re driving,” Amado told CMO by Adobe. “Billboards adjacent to major commute routes are very valuable for reaching certain customers.”
Doug Ryan, president of marketing solutions at multichannel marketing and business communications solutions company RRD, said he sees billboards as a reasonable response to audience fragmentation.
“Industries with large general audiences need to deliver a high number of impressions across a broad target with maximum efficiency. That’s become harder to do as audiences shrink for traditional broadcast channels,” he said. “The broad reach of billboards becomes more attractive as marketers look to replace that lost reach. Billboards have helped themselves by starting to take on some digital characteristics.”
But these are not all your grandfather’s billboards. For example, Ford invited Mustang lovers to use a tool called the “Pony Personalizer” to create their own versions of the Mustang logo and shared the best on huge digital billboards in eight U.S cities. McDonald’s launched an interactive digital billboard campaign in Stockholm, Sweden, that enticed potential customers to play a game of ping pong for food prizes.
“The billboard of 2019 is connected,” says Tomas Gonsorcik, head of experience strategy at WPP-owned VMLY&R New York. “It connects an increasingly digital-first experience of many brands with the real world, making a tangible presence in people’s lives.”
VMLY&R worked with New Balance on its Exception Spotting smart billboard, featured during New York Fashion Week. It leveraged computer vision to identify people who were dressed more distinctively than others in the crowd ahead of a new product launch from the footwear brand and featured them on the big screen in real time.
Smaller OOH screens can also be attractive. Digital out-of-home (DOOH), OOH networks, and digital signage, in general, are growing at rapid speeds, said Michael Weinstein, president of digital ad agency Bluewater Media.
“Such an option not only allows for billboard advertising targeted by location, but also allows for advertisers to be disruptive while testing multiple ads, targeting by time of day, weather, and other real-time factors beyond simply location,” he told CMO by Adobe.
Adobe’s Amado, who has used digital screens in elevator banks to serve ads to large target accounts, calls them a powerful addition to the marketing toolkit—“It’s a modern way to target key accounts as part of an ABM strategy,” he said.
Account-Based Advertising Sharpens Focus
Speaking of accounts, thanks to an abundance of data and advanced analytics, brands are increasingly opting for account-based advertising, a more targeted approach over traditional lead generation.
“Advertisers are taking advantage of new data-rich technologies by crafting campaigns aimed at very precise demographics,” said Nikki Mendonça, president of Accenture Interactive Operations. “For example, traditional tools like LinkedIn can allow brands to target and boost engagement with specific types of decision-makers or accounts.”
According to research from Altera Group, 97% of B2B marketers said account-based activities had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing initiatives. And while account-based advertising works best in B2B, it does come with some challenges.
“It’s not an individual but a group that you’re marketing to,” Adobe’s Amado said. “The account based approach enables you to surround the business when it’s most relevant and talk to them in a coordinated way. In a perfect world, you would know precisely who’s being reached and where, and create different messages for each individual in a buying group. But it’s still an incredibly powerful technique that helps you focus who your advertising is reaching.”
The benefits, however, greatly outweigh the challenges. Effective ABM drives clear ROI, reduces resource waste, and is one of the most efficient ways to align sales and marketing teams. And since 75% of customers say they prefer personalized offers, according to Aberdeen Research, targeted, account-based advertising and offers ensure that B2B buyers engage with content that is geared specifically to them, and is relevant to their business and stage in the buyer journey.
New Immersive Advertising Emerges
Like every other sector, advertising is being inundated with potential new technology capabilities, which may offer some value in the future, but as of yet only a handful are making traction.
Mixed or extended reality—virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology—is enabling some brands to create richer physical or virtual experiences. For example, the National Theatre created an Immersive Storytelling Studio that enables its artists to work with AR/VR to develop new immersive dramatic works and experiences. And, L’Oreal offers WeChat, Amazon, and Facebook users the ability to try on its products using AR.