Digital Marketing Mantra for Advertisers

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StrategyDriven Online Marketing and Website Development Article, Digital Marketing Mantra for Advertisers

Digital marketing is slowly, but surely growing from a “nice to have” to a necessity. With so many audiences, especially the younger ones, moving away from linear television, barely touching newspapers or magazines and with their heads down into their phones even out on the streets, it seems that the only sensible place advertisers can find their audiences now is in the online space. This is driving advertisers to adapt and form digital media strategies, but media practices from the offline world don’t translate well to the online world.

Out with the Old

Where you used to define personas and find the right publication or TV programme that fit your audience, it seems that these rules don’t apply to the online world. Your audience is out there on multiple places, consuming different media, sometimes even at the same time, with each moment of interaction you have just a small window of opportunity, sometimes even barely a second. To be successful in advertising in the online marketing space, you will need to connect all the dots and deal with the complexity (and maybe even ambiguity) of the online marketing world. Moreover, that’s asking for quite a bit, which most likely can’t be found in one person or advertising agency.
No Buyers, Only Specialists Here

The problem is the balance between the complexity of online marketing disciplines and the way the market moves on. Where you used to be dealing with media buyers (people who would take care of booking media buys, placing the advert, handle the back and forth between the publisher and the creative agency), you now must deal with channel specialists. These people are professionals in their field but usually are not trained to guide a client through connecting all the dots. Even channels that seemingly should be close to each other are, under further inspection, fundamentally different. Advertisers who have been dealing with digital agencies will mostly agree not to expect agencies to be able to provide a consistent overall media view, as you would have had with offline media agencies. The most practical way as an advertiser to take care of your digital marketing mix is to take the reins themselves. That doesn’t mean to do it yourself (although in-housing seems to be a trend of late) but to start speaking the same language as the digital marketers.

Measure Everything

This also means understanding and challenged its most hailed aspects of digital marketing, which inadvertently is also its downfall, the ability to measure everything. Traditional media would have panel data to provide some insight into what the effect the media buy would have had (by proxy), online media comes with the promise to be able to measure everything. In digital speak, we call this tracking, which relies on “pixels being fired” and “cookies.” Essentially this means that advertisers (and publishers that help the advertisers) try to provide the most complete of the consumer based on data they might have volunteered and data that can be inferred. Pixels and cookies provide a bread crumb trail to piece this all together. Apart from the ethical and privacy issues at play here, this sounds to most advertisers as the holy grail, to be able to pay for only those audiences and people that fit your audience perfectly.


However, that attention to measuring everything can turn into an obsession. Take display and video ad formats, for example. On pretty much every publisher, these are ad formats that are offered up widely. Videos have taken a flight by being offered in-stream, which basically means its tacked in upfront or in the middle of a video that someone is trying to watch. You can have a skippable or un-skippable variant, and most publishers offer a cost-per-view model based on percentage or minimal seconds watched.

In most cases, the video is an unwanted interruption of someone’s flow, which in turn leads to very few people engaging with the advert and ending up on the advertiser’s website. Display ads have the same problem, although in a lesser extent (but just barely). The display banners show up as a distraction when someone is doing something else and might not be in the mindset to engage with an advertiser. Both video and display ads will usually have a lot of impressions (the advert was shown) but not many interactions. To still proof value, the industry has come up with a metric called view-through conversions. This essentially measures if a conversion has taken place after someone has viewed the ad, usually within a specific timeframe.

Last click wins

On the other side of display and video ads, you have many pay-per-click possibilities. One of the key ones here is paid search ads. It’s dominant in such a way that most people refer to paid search ads as PPC ads, although the concept of PPC refers to the method of publisher payment (for example display ads can be on a CPC model). This is, for most advertisers, the absolute darling of digital marketing. PPC in 99% of all cases all the way down in the marketing funnel, i.e., likely the last interaction before a consumer makes a purchase.

Even more so, those display and video adverts could very well have been earlier in the process and led to a PPC click. Paid search ads are usually measured on the last click wins method, which is standard across most advertisers. The last click wins will not add up with a post-view conversion, attributing all value to PPC and making a post-view conversion meaningless. Therefore, especially when marketing budgets are getting the squeeze, display, and video ads lose out.

The Mantra for Advertisers

The risk you run of this principle is that all the attention is going to PPC and none is given to display and video. In other words, all the attention goes to the bottom of the funnel and none to filling up the funnel. Advertisers who do this find themselves with diminishing returns over time and a drying up supply of new users to the website. The savvy advertiser understands the value of harvesting the low hanging fruit but always ensures that consumers keep coming through the funnel, by smartly filling it up from the top.

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