A brand new world: Navigating a changing media landscape

The marketing landscape is on the precipice of change as technology and the way audiences consume media evolves at an astounding rate. Ayla Miller looks to what the future holds, and how the industry can prepare.

As the media landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, marketers face an array of new challenges to overcome.

These challenges range from global events impacting macro-economics, to rising costs of living, shorter attention spans due to social media exposure, and many others.

Not to mention the rapid evolution of technology and the demise of the cookie further shaking things up.

Now more than ever chief marketing officers need all the support they can get to ensure they have the right media and channel insights necessary to navigate the road ahead.

Despite people spending more time on devices and with multiple channels, the media habits of different demographics are vastly different.

And as if trying to understand humans wasn’t already complicated enough, these technological advances mean more opportunity to collect data, which then requires having the skills to interpret it in a meaningful way.

“That has meant some quite tangible shifts in our role as a media agency,” says Bridget Bucknell-Whalley, Head of Strategy at media, data and tech agency Together.

“Especially because the impact of advertising is diluted so we need more channels to get through the noise and clutter which means more lines on the media plan, more jobs for a marketing team to do and overall more complexity.”

This means simply the “volume of newness” in the marketing space is a challenge on its own.

“The question of where to start, what to test and what to try with finite budgets, I think that’s a really big tension.”

And all this change means agencies and marketing teams need a different type of talent, Bridget says.

“The adoption of these new platforms is changing the kind of person agencies now need to look for. Finding people who are really comfortable at integrating and interrogating data but also doing it with creativity is really important.

“Even in my own experience being a strategist, the nature of strategy is changing along with it. I think we will see a shift overall in the talent space. I think we will see more data scientists, more analysts and I think that’s really exciting.”

Bridget Bucknell-Whalley.

Lee-Ann Morris, CEO of MBM, one of New Zealand’s largest media agencies, expects the economic state of the nation to heavily impact how marketers choose to move forward with regards to their paid media plans over the next couple of years.

“Each week sees more brands struggling to get stock onto shelves and launch new products – against a backdrop where consumer confidence is waning as New Zealand consumers battle a relentlessly rising cost of living. The macro-economic forces such as inflation, petrol, food and the housing market, and challenges to supply chains in China and Ukraine, are beyond the direct influence of our industry, but that only serves to amplify the importance of media support in the coming months.”

Clear strategies are needed to navigate a cooling economy Lee-Ann adds, as CMOs need support to build a case to continue to spend through challenging times such as these.

“High on our agenda is working with clients to prepare for and mitigate the effects of this uncertainty, and all the proven strategies will apply. We need to support CMOs with the right media and channel insights to frame-up the requisite
marketing spend to navigate this downturn. With a persistent rise in the price of goods anticipated for some time, we need to avoid a ‘race to the bottom’ mindset from dominating media. This is where strong media agencies work closely with brands to build strategies that communicate value beyond ‘lowest price’.”

The best adapted brands will come out on top she says by demonstrating a return and “leveraging every weapon in their arsenal – including astute media/channel selection”.

“I would argue the current market challenges meet a media industry that has significantly matured since the GFC. This mastery of media is more readily available to brands than in previous market crunches, and is something well represented clients can feel optimistic about.”  

Now is the time for clients to “leverage the depth of all their communication partnerships such as brand, creative, media and analytics” and plan for the next couple of years while “establishing a working cadence fit to support brands through the coming months,” says Lee-Ann. “We need to start these conversations now.”

So what are some of the biggest challenges facing paid media over the next 24 months? Our experts unpack three areas of machine learning, attention metrics, and new metrics that will both challenge marketers and provide the opportunity for making the most of their media mix in the coming months and years.

Machine learning

Based on current trends Bridget suspects machine learning will continue to play an important role how media is used in marketing comms, as the need for data analyses increases.

“Machine learning is one area where we think there will be growth. Apart from the obvious shifts in media platforms or media channels, what is most interesting to marketers is the adoption of marketing 
tech platforms like Google or Salesforce.

“They are made up of different products within that wider eco-system, but growth is definitely coming from the cloud-based  services and the use of smart APIs, which are the connecters.”

Bridget says the opportunity within these platforms to unlock marketing values is huge.

“Building to open standards in these cloud systems means we can integrate data technology capabilities like never before.”

These platforms will take everything that was already happening in traditional marketing to the next level.

“The beauty of really strong infrastructure is that marketers can prove real value in the room to people who hold the purse strings, for example CFOs.”

She says one of the challenges marketers have always faced is proving the real value and worth of marketing.

“Now we have an infrastructure that, if we can use it right, we can make marketing more accountable, and tailor solutions like never before.

“For me it’s less about channels on their own and more about putting infrastructure in place like Google Cloud.”

And as budgets get tighter over the next few years this will prove incredibly valuable, she says.  

“The fact that we can build within these Google services mean we need technical people who are also very creative to bring this to life, but the opportunities are really exciting.”

The deadline is also looming for the demise of the cookie and the industry is almost fixated on the ever-increasing importance of first-person data. 

Simon Bird, Group Strategy Director at PHD Media says all the attention and conversation about the demise of third-party cookies is overall a positive change for the industry as it increases the focus on data accuracy.

Simon Bird.

“One of the issues is poor measurement systems and poor understanding of effectiveness in marketing over what time frame.

“I’d argue there are a lot of not very good ads in the digital arena because they are built on assumptions about the audience that either don’t exist or aren’t consistent and not very much understanding about how brand advertising works.

“There are some wonderful executions of building brands in digital environments, but if you’re designing work that has to work in the next hour or the next week it’s usually going to be price promotional advertising and I think there’s too much of that which leads to ad blockers because the cheaper you make something the less care goes into it.

“It’s expensive making nice marketing and nice comms and it often doesn’t work in the next hour but it does over time.”

Measuring attention

Lee-Ann also raises the subject of attention metrics which can be explained as one unified metric measuring the attention to message across media and creative.

“Attention metrics promise a step up from viewability and viewership and, in an ideal world, will evolve to allow brands to measure, optimise and pay for a customer’s attention. For any CMO in market, what’s not to like?”

Although still early days for these metrics, once organisations start trialling it is possible to address wider questions.

“How do you measure brand versus performance creative, impact by time-of-day, understanding what is the sweet-spot between screen space and screen time, ad quality versus ad length, and of course, how much are we prepared to pay for the viewers’ attention?”

Zane Furtado, General Manager Technology and Innovation at Acquire NZ, anticipates this to be the year of attention.

“For more than a decade, viewability has been the standard to measure the quality of impressions but there is consistent evidence that the focus should be on attention. Viewability only tells marketers that 50 percent of a brand’s ad has indeed made it into the device viewport for the requisite one continuous second. It doesn’t mean that an individual made eye contact with the ad.

“Banner blindness is an instance of selective attention and with the increasing ad clutter on page, brands need to either have an ad that is a rich media format or an ad that is not the standard practise to capture that users attention,” Zane says.

“Social Display ads are authentic recreations of social media posts configured to deliver in traditional banner placements.

“If you’re running a successful social media campaign, and your targeted audience is engaging with that content/imagery, then they are more likely to click on a similar looking social ads in a traditional display unit.”

The context and quality of the content on the article where the ad is placed also plays an important role in understanding the attention of the user. There are two kinds of attention based tracking currently available – eye tracking data using a panellist and pixel-based by wrapping the creative.

“They both have their pros and cons,” says Zane. “But brands can leverage these insights to get smarter with their targeting, publisher selection and ad placement to drive better attention.”

Social media will also continue to become an integral part of the media landscape, with new and growing channels providing more opportunity for reaching audiences.

“This last year was filled with twists and turns due to the controversies at Meta and the launch of the Metaverse, Elon Musk’s bitter-sweet romance with Twitter, the emergence of social commerce, major developments for creators’ monetisation and the arrival of TikTok to leading-platform status is particularly noteworthy here,” Lee-Ann says.

“TikTok, the world’s most visited platform in 2021, now commands greater attention per user than Facebook and Instagram combined. TikTok has 1.6 billion monthly active users – amassing more attention than Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn combined. 

“Indeed, live-streaming and other combinations of social entertainment and digital commerce are becoming more popular. We are watching this space with interest and working with brands to understand their role in this space and how this could support to address their business challenges and objectives.”

Zane Furtado.

New metrics

With a lot of talk about first-party data, contextual advertising and new ways of measuring such as attention metrics, Acquire and Oracle Advertising partnered to put a few of these into action with a customised campaign – the first of its kind in New  Zealand.

Working with a client, Acquire used a range of Oracle’s solutions alongside first-party data to create highly customised contextual audience segments, while proving that this customisation had a greater impact than off-the-shelf audience segments.

Acquire then used the feedback loop of data to be able to optimise and create a sustainable strategy for the long-term that did not rely on third-party cookies.

With the demise of the cookie, the industry hurrying to find solutions in a “data-deprecated” world to figure out how the people they are trying to reach really tick.

“Brands also tend to have a preconceived notion about who their audiences are and    what content will resonate with them. For example if a brand is promoting a cruise, they might only want to target users reading articles about travel. We at Acquire are trying to break that myth or at least A/B test audiences,” Zane explains.

“With log level sub-domain URL data from DSPs, brands can especially now understand what content their audiences are reading after they visit your website. We partnered with Oracle to developed a constant impression/click DSP URL log-level feedback loop, which meant that we were able to get relevant targetable contextual audience segments updated in real-time based off what content the advertiser’s audiences were consuming,” he adds.

Zane says this approach drove a better click-through-rate (CTR), a lower cost of acquisition and better on-site metrics.

“By using Oracle’s contextual intelligence engine, smarter use of the brands first-party data and using log-level referrer URLs, we were able to identify contextual categories other than travel that drove conversions and engagement.”

This strategy recognises customers as multi-faceted individuals rather than making assumptions that categorise the customers in ways that are not accurate.

For Acquire and Oracle, this test proved the efficiency of contextual targeting compared to off-the-shelf audience segments. It also identified a way to enrich contextual targeting with the use of first and second-party data to future proof targeting when cookies are no longer used. 

The test was also able to define a measurement framework that went beyond vanity metrics.

“I think it’s now time for brands to discard the sometimes overly simplistic preconceptions and misconceptions on their targetable audiences and let their first-party data and contextual intelligence vendor help them discover new audiences for them to reach,” says Zane.

Chris Schultz, CEO of Acquire NZ, expects new metrics and measuring will continue to grow.

Having benchmarks for hygiene/vanity metrics are important but they mean nothing if business KPIs are not being met he says.

“For example, having a lower CPC (cost-per-click) but a high bounce won’t drive conversions. At Acquire we rolled out ‘Q’ metrics to drive better results.

“qCPC is a metric where we report back based on what site is not only driving a lower CPC but a better time on site. A qCPM metric factors in attention and viewability amongst other signals.

“The demise of the cookie will also mean people will have to be more sophisticated in their approach to online advertising,” Schultz concludes.

“You’re going to have to have smarter use of data, smarter use of targeting and that results in smarter insights. The future is lots more data.”  

This article was first published in the 2022 June/July issue of NZ Marketing magazine.

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About Bernadette Basagre

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email [email protected].

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