In the quest to be disruptive, indies are the missing link

Megan Hourston
By Megan Hourston | 23 June 2022
Megan Hourston

Our industry is defined by the great disruptive products of the past, but it might be time to let go of them. Outbrain’s Megan Hourston explains.

Disruption. It’s what turns no-name startups into global powerhouses and births entirely new industries. It’s a chase to find better, more creative ways to do things, and much of what we enjoy these days is rooted in our desire for transformation. We just need to look at companies like Uber and AirBnB to understand what true, successful disruption can look like.

Of course, one of the biggest disruptions to the marketing and advertising industry was the advent of digital advertising. But we’ve been riding that wave for more than two decades now, so it’s time to stop thinking about it as new or complex. It’s the bedrock of a modern marketing plan.

But it’s also time to reassess the role independent media agencies can play in shaping the future.

One key example of disruption that needs to evolve are banner and display ads. Created nearly 30 years ago, they’ve gone from being the shiny new thing people just had to click on to being something many users actively avoid and even block.

Rather than write them out of campaigns entirely, we should better understand how we can use the principles of disruption to make them additive to our online experience. Trying to grab attention with a massive banner or blinking display ad as consumers scroll isn’t ideal.

With the precious seconds of attention brands can attract we need to make sure we’re maximising the impact for our brands. Closing this loop is essential to ensuring marketers are getting bang for their buck, and is where a pull strategy can be more useful than a push.

Instead of grabbing someone’s eyes by detailing your brand’s products, another approach is to address their actual needs and help to solve their challenges. Invite them in to learn more, and build your campaigns with relevant creative and engaging headlines.

Pull rather than push is a shift in mindset, but it’s necessary to reach today's ad-weary audience. Disruption used to be a case of ‘force over finesse’, but it’s the latter that’s needed now in order to generate true engagement.

This is exactly where independent media agencies, or indies, can step in. It seems like every week there’s a new trend or technology that marketers need to deal with, and it’s precisely this relentless change that makes indies best equipped to face it. It’s clearer than ever that we're not a one-size-fits-all industry.

While there’s a role for agencies of all sizes to play, I believe it’s the indies who will lead the change for the simple reason that they are generally closer to the decision makers at their clients and have the agility to move fast when opportunity arises.

Take Kaimera, which adopted an opt-in approach and used Outbrain’s native technology to run campaigns for Sky News Australia over the past six months. The agency utilised a piece of technology that allows them to dynamically pull headlines from their RSS feed, which regularly uploads new ads and headlines straight from the website in real time. This means it doesn’t have to manually amend creative across campaigns.

By changing their approach to this pull marketing strategy, Kaimera has seen cost-per-click fall as low as $0.09, with click-through-rates averaging 0.50%.

As competition intensifies in so many digital channels it’s the agencies and marketers who are prepared to be inventive and creative who will find the nascent opportunities and find the most efficient new ways to speak to new customers.

The need to deliver bang for your buck is not going away.

A true marriage of creativity between a client and agency also helps alleviate the pressure of buying efficiencies. There are so many ways of buying media, and each medium and vendor specialises in its own offering, and more importantly, with its own measurement criteria.

Centralising processes and cutting out as many steps as possible will ensure you’re squeezing the most out of your campaigns and achieving the lowest cost-per-click. Giving consumers the ability to opt-in rather than opt-out is essential for achieving this true efficiency and shaving down campaign costs.

I also believe the Independent Media Agencies of Australia (IMAA) has a huge role in helping indies take this next step. Bringing together disparate agencies into a collective voice and creating greater efficiencies and a bigger seat at the table has not gone unnoticed across the industry.

When it comes to the relentless pace of progress, we’ll be sure to discover many new ways of finding audiences. But when it comes to being ahead of the curve, let’s use the indie agencies that are best equipped to handle disruption and turn it into something productive for good.


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