It’s time to re-think the digital planning process

By ThinkPremiumDigital general manager Venessa Hunt | Sponsored
Venessa Hunt

In the past 10 years, our relationship with digital has changed dramatically – as consumers and as media buyers. Yet the way digital media is planned hasn’t fully caught up. Venessa Hunt outlines the shift required.

In recent months, the industry has been preoccupied with the phasing out of cookies, changes in privacy and the rise of alternate identifiers. No doubt we will continue to hear about these topics as digital marketers adapt to the change that is coming and coming fast.

However, there’s a conversation that should have been had well before all this change started to come down the pipe: we need to talk about over-investment in low-attention media and the absence of basic logic in the digital planning process.

We’ve been so focused on the targeting implications of losing cookie-based attribution and real-time optimisation, we’re no longer seeing the wood for the trees. Through over-measurement and over-reporting, we’ve lost the ability to rationalise.

When planning across any other media channel, we know not all impressions are equal.

There’s a difference, for example, between the midday movie and a tent-pole show; an OOH placement on the high street or the back alley; a cover wrap on a major metropolitan newspaper or a classified ad in a community paper.

And yet, in digital, we’re so focused on who our ad is being served to, we don’t stop to think about where it actually is.

This leaves potential value on the table for clients and ignores fundamental learnings that apply to every other channel.

Back in the days when digital was bought purely as a performance tool, when brands were built off-line and consumers were moved online to complete an action, you could get away with this approach. But those days are long gone. The main – and sometimes only – touchpoints of your brand could be in the digital world, and so brands must be built there.

In the past decade, the role of digital in the lives of Australians has changed dramatically. So too have our advertising investment patterns but the inputs used for digital planning have not. And they desperately need to.

So what should the modern digital planning process look like?

We must look at, and aim for, more than the lowest CPM across a total digital buy.

We must reconsider the overused KPI of ‘in-target reach’ and start to assess the impact of the content ads sit beside.

We must be more critical of platforms with self-reporting systems that claim ads are working even though we know the low viewability rates means this is impossible.

We must run dual streams of digital investment for both brand and performance objectives.

We must accept that not all impressions are equal and plan accordingly.

We must question the KPIs set for digital media buys beyond cheap reach. How we can make more meaningful marketing KPIs that reflect what clients' businesses genuinely need?

We need to accept it does matter where our digital ads run.

We need to arm ourselves with the facts and we can no longer ignore legitimate research.

The key is to balance the risk before spending a dollar. One way to do this is by looking at attention metrics.

Attention is far from new, but it is currently emerging as a strong alternative to cookies. And little wonder given it can provide direction to deliver more efficient outcomes throughout the marketing funnel.

Five years ago, the industry conversation centred on viewability. With advances in technology, we can now look at more variables that indicate attentiveness and engagement and lead to conversion. These include ad exposure, time in-view, environmental clutter, format, ad placement and, of course, attention.

By focusing on the quality of the impression, not just the quantity of impressions, marketers and agencies can implement broader strategies that push the limits of measuring, optimising and delivering high-quality campaigns with better outcomes and impact.

If we continue to only look at antiquated raw media metrics rather than using logic to understand the value of an impression, we will continue to buy credit card ads for kids watching Dora the Explorer on YouTube or spend on advertising in social media feeds that people scroll past so fast they don’t even see the ad.

The conversation must change.

Make no mistake, the cost of inaction is the growth of your business and that of your clients.

Venessa Hunt is the General Manager of ThinkPremiumDigital.

To find out more about how attention metrics can help you choose the right media to invest in, check out the latest instalment of The Benchmark Series research here.

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