Gone are the days of running advertising on one or two channels. The number of channels and formats to run ads keeps on growing every day. To adapt to this everchanging advertising environment, it is important for marketers to think smarter, not harder. Joe Cola, Art Director at thunder::tech, feels that
The evolution of advertising types and formats allows him to be more innovative with his clients. New and improved ad types and formats allow us to easily adapt to client’s needs by quickly swapping messaging and creative.
It is important to understand what options are right for your business by looking at all options holistically and choosing the channels that work best for you. Agencies are prepared for the evolution of advertising. Are you?
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the number of digital advertising options out there today? We get it. There are more channels, formats, and technologies out there than ever before, all vying for your ad dollars, all promising to deliver the golden goose of product-hungry audiences.
But it's not just the number of options available; it's also the complexity of those options that are challenging.
“The velocity of change and continuous disruption in the digital marketing industry is incredible, with no signs of slowing down,” said Shawn Riegsecker, CEO and Founder of Centro. “In the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of time spent (and media spending) on social platforms as well as the introduction of RTB and programmatic media buying. Today there are more devices, screens, targeting options, creative options, pricing options and ways to use data (first-party and third-party) than ever before.”
Now's the time for marketers to get smarter and more focused on digital ad strategies to maximize their budget. That starts with knowing who, exactly, you want to talk to and where they are. From there, it's all about getting their attention.
“It’s finding the right message to break through that noise,” said Dan Lyons, Digital Marketing Team Lead at thunder::tech. “Utilizing different platforms, whether it’s Amazon, programmatic media buying, paid search, or YouTube ads, that’s where it’s really coming down to developing a strategy that uses the right channel to reach the right audience at the right time with the most compelling message.”
Things are evolving in a much more advanced way, with companies trying to better understand a user's search intent and where they are in the buyer's journey. With all the available options (and complexity that comes with them), how do you cut through the noise and deliver relevant messages to the right audiences?
Sorry, no one actually has the exact right answer. But here are five things to brush up on that are making it a whole lot easier to navigate the perpetually changing digital advertising world.
Get With the Program
Audience segmentation is getting sliced a whole lot thinner these days. Because of the vast amount of data that is collected through social media channels, online purchases, searches, etc., you can identify an incredibly specific collection of target audiences and deliver relevant ads to them.
“The promise, and future, of programmatic advertising is relatively infinite at this point in time,” Riegsecker said. “As consumers transition from receiving content via analog media (print, cable, terrestrial radio, etc.) to digital platforms, there is no limit to the impact programmatic technologies and buying methods will have on omnichannel marketing.”
Programmatic advertising is starting to use more artificial intelligence and automated optimization to reduce the amount of time it takes to identify target audiences. Brands that choose to use programmatic advertising can take the advancements in the industry and use them to their advantage.
“They’re beta-testing things, using those specific tools to attempt to reach your audience in a new way or add a new layer of targeting on your current campaigns. Using methods like that with programmatic will just allow you to reach a better audience and get a better return on investment, whether that’s using a new prospect targeting tool inside of a programmatic platform or adding on additional behavioral or contextual targeting,” Lyons said.
Video is still huge. It's not going anywhere, and in fact, it's becoming a more attractive media type for Generation Z—members of which on average, watch 68 videos per day. But video advertising is changing in two significant ways: in content and delivery.
"In many ways, marketers are still stuck in the paradigm of the past utilizing 15, 30 and 60 second spots to reach audiences," Riegsecker said. "I feel there is a significant opportunity to rethink the concept of a ‘commercial' as technology advancements open up new ways to test new ideas. With programmatic buying and the ability to reduce audience waste and find niche targets, I see video going in the opposite direction – longer and more episodic commercials that engage and delight audiences emotionally and psychologically. The ability to target niche audiences with longer form video content will have deeper impact, generate better performance and will create an experience consumers look forward to versus finding annoying."
There are still plenty of appropriate places for those short video ads in a more traditional sense. Social media videos on platforms like Instagram and Facebook tend to do better if they tell a good story quickly. But as companies branch out, they have more flexibility to play with the timing.
YouTube still reigns supreme when it comes to video advertising, with programmatic opportunities that target pre-roll ads to specific audiences based on their digital behavior. And it continues to evolve its offerings.
“You can also run ads on YouTube itself and then also in YouTube search results,” Lyons said. “That’s a huge channel with quite a bit of variety in targeting options. It’s become one of our favorite tools to really use from an advertising standpoint, especially for brand awareness and reach-based campaigns because it’s very cost-efficient and very effective.”
Connected TV is the new(er) kid on the block. It’s a form of programmatic buying where you can deliver ads into somebody’s smart TV or within a video-watching app. So someone watching a TV show on Hulu will be subject to several advertisements within the show that are not skippable.
When done right with a combination of programmatic, video is higher in CPM but has stronger engagements so that you may pay more. Still, you'll likely generate more clicks and can retarget off of full video completions. This strong engagement with long-term value is what most brands are searching for.
The Amazon Factor
Amazon has been a continuous disruptor, adapting at a breakneck speed that has many marketers' heads spinning. There is plenty of opportunity for companies who are selling on their platform. What they offer depends on the type of account you have: Vendor Central (access to everything) or Seller Central (access only to sponsored products and sponsored brands).
Sponsored products are individual product advertisements. They generally fall within the search results on Amazon. Sponsored brands are a collection of products that usually link back to your Amazon store or individual product page. Those sponsored products and brands are going to do the best job elevating your product to the top of the search results page—it's essentially Amazon's version of paid search.
There's also a programmatic buying option within Amazon. They offer this because their entire website is walled off from advertising, so outside programmatic ads can't get in there. Utilizing their ads depends on where the customer is in their journey, what seller account you have and understanding the general awareness of your product.
For example, thunder::tech is working with a partner on an Amazon advertising campaign that takes several layers into account. They are doing well with organic traffic and reviews, but boost traffic with a paid strategy.
“We’re utilizing sponsored ads to push clients as often as we can to the top of the search results page or as close to the top as we can get,” Lyons said. “When we drive more traffic to the product detail pages, it improves conversions and ultimately assists the back-end algorithm of Amazon itself.”
Once there are more products on the platform, companies can incorporate sponsored brands and get a bit more creative with how they’re presenting the ads.
“As the product starts to perform well, we can then venture into the programmatic buying side and also on the display side inside of Amazon, where we’re placing ads strategically on competitors’ product detail pages'' Lyons said.
The pay-to-play on search results pages is here to stay. But it's getting more sophisticated than in previous years. It's still an essential way to get to the top the quickest, but now there's this position zero effect. That means there's that quick answer to a search query that Google pulls and it's shown toward the top of a search results page, effectively taking up prime real estate.
“It’s still under your ads, but it’s pushing organic rankings down even further,” Lyons said. “So to get to the top of that search results page, you really need to invest more in paid advertising, specifically paid search, and aligning your messaging with your landing page, and with your ad copy is all crucial to having success.”
Position zero has the potential to reduce a website's organic traffic, especially for a lot of high-level keywords that marketers tend to focus on. So to counteract that reduction in click-throughs, it's even more important to start to pursue new paid search opportunities and try to push yourself higher in the rankings. Combining a digital strategy that focuses on more longtail keywords will help as well because a lot of those ubiquitous short keywords are populating the quick results where position zero is always there.
“Focusing on less competitive keywords and more longtail keywords is going to be better from an organic side,” Lyons said. “From a paid side, if you want to target those short keywords, it’s almost critical to pursue paid search just because there are a lot of things happening in search results nowadays.”
Does the weather impact your company's business? Say you offer snow removal services (or rent jet skis, or own a ski resort, or a swimming pool, etc.). Any given day, the weather can make or break a business, and it can change quickly.
Here’s one of the coolest things about the way technology can help make your advertising more effective: You can change your message with the weather — Literally.
Some tech-savvy marketers are starting to reach into the back-ends and APIs that are producing large amounts of data. Weather.com is an excellent example of one that you could potentially leverage. Connect to their API and pull the weather data happening in real-time and develop your ads around that set of information.
Coupling the weather-based messaging with programmatic advertising can take it a step further. Now, you can target people who have exhibited online behavior that shows interest in your company's product or service and combine it with weather-based ads, giving a completely personalized and relevant message at the right time. This type of strategic marketing can significantly optimize your ad spends.
“We are using weather platforms that connected to Google Ads and by doing that, we’re able to increase or decrease bids based on the weather to get better utilization of our budget overall,” Lyons said. “For example, we can move bidding down when It’s snowing, and then bid up higher when it’s sunny and dry.”
What’s to Come
As for the seemingly endless amount of options and places to spend, we’ve reached the breaking point of being able to manage this fragmentation and complexity via people alone, Riegsecker said.
“Comprehensive media automation platforms, powered by data science decisioning and machine learning algorithms, is the only path forward for our industry. Marketers need to be diligent in choosing forward-leaning partners who are using best-in-breed automation platforms and intelligent decision-making technologies to drive results. Attempting to manage and scale digital marketing budgets without automation software will lead to sub-optimal performance.”
Above all else, it’s important to address strategy at the forefront before you jump into tactics. Taking the time to sit down and map out the goals, objectives, audience, messaging and developing a strategy will not only result in a better ROI, but it will also give the campaign something to hold it to.
Need help with developing your digital advertising strategy to keep up with the trends? Contact thunder::tech today to see how we can help boost your advertising strategy.