The five questions agencies and clients should be asking about digital (but probably aren’t)

Venessa Hunt
By Venessa Hunt | 31 August 2021
Venessa Hunt

The latest research highlights the gap between premium and other digital media environments but plenty of people continue to invest disproportionately in the latter. Venessa Hunt, general manager of ThinkPremiumDigital, asks why.

From my experience, most clients want two things: their ad dollars to work as hard as possible and for consumers to like, and therefore want to buy, their products.

This year, for the first time, independent research has proven investing ad dollars in quality Australian digital environments is better for achieving these goals. Yet, there is still resistance to rebalance investment.

So, what’s holding the industry back? And what questions should agencies and clients be asking right now to address this challenge?

1. Are we too focused on cost of impression versus quality of impression?
As digital has grown exponentially and become more complicated, as an industry, we needed a simple way to compare and analyse our media investment choices. This led us to the humble “cost-per-impression”.

But this simple metric ignores the fact that not all impressions are equal.

For example, recent research conducted by MediaScience shows video advertising in editorial environments (short-form video) with Australian premium publishers delivers 120 per cent better awareness than Facebook video ads. So are both impressions of the same value?

There are multiple factors impacting the effectiveness of an impression including overload of ads, quality of surrounding content, difference in attention of consumers and their mindset.

Bearing this in mind, focusing on cost in isolation may increase your number of impressions served, but not your business outcomes. Some inventory is cheap for a reason.

2. Do we have the balance between brand and performance in digital correct?
There’s still a perception that off-line media builds brands and digital’s only role is performance. While it is true that off-line media builds brands, the belief that digital can’t is a fallacy.

For many Australians, digital media may be their primary touchpoint with a brand. So asking for action (performance) before introducing yourself (brand) can be a little rude.

But as with thinking that every impression is the same, so is assuming that every digital touchpoint should be on the plan for the same reason. It’s about sorting the wheat from the chaff.

To this end, recent research shows advertising in premium video environments has superior effect on memory retention over user-generated and social video environments.

Tapping into mental availability is essential to brand building. Having awareness is an important first step, but to build a stable brand, people must first know the brand well enough to remember it.

And some digital investments are better remembered than others. For example, BVOD (Broadcaster Video on Demand) delivers 49 per cent higher recall than YouTube, and 4.7 times unprompted recall of Facebook video ads.

Bucketing all digital platforms into performance is an error. Some can, and do, build brands. It’s about getting the balance right.

3. What role does the publisher’s brand and content playing in the effectiveness of advertising?
It has long been established that the content an add sits bedside can have a positive halo effect in just about any channel. Whether that’s a tentpole TV program, an OOH billboard on the high street, or before the newest action flick at the cinema – these environments lift a brand’s perception.

Yet, in digital, we ignore that completely and consider only the possibility of negative brand impact: the familiar brand safety story of being around illegal or immoral content.

But good players in the digital ecosystem provide advertising with a positive halo, just like other channels.

The reason for this is that when brands work together, they lend and borrow each other’s core attributes. Known as “brand transfer” it is the “borrowing” of another organisation's brand to better convey – or amplify – your own brand. And this is just as strong in digital, provided you invest in places that have a good brand to “borrow” from.

At the heart of this brand transfer in premium environments is the trust broadcasters and publishers have earned and maintained over decades.

And research shows this in action with Benchmark finding the same ad seen on BVOD versus YouTube has a 15 per cent increase in brand likeability. That’s the exact same ad, just liked better in a broadcaster’s environment.

The publication or broadcaster’s brand, and the quality of its content, makes a massive difference to the impact of your advertising so keep it in mind when choosing where to allocate spend.

4. How valuable is Australian content?
Aussies love Aussie content, and the Benchmark research uncovered a surprising insight that shows what impact this has on advertising.

Benchmark found that when ads sit beside Australian content, the brand uplift and memorability is far greater. So much so, when the study was replicated in the US with Australian content, US research participants didn’t respond as positively as us Aussies.

There’s power in home grown content and the ads that sit beside it borrow this power.

5. Are investment patterns congruent with the brand’s values?
Today, everybody wants to feel as if they are part of something bigger. Whether it’s supporting local, looking at zero waste packaging or doing your bit for the climate crisis.

While marketing efforts impact your customers, they also define your business.

So do your digital investment patterns echo who your brand and what it stands for?

While not all digital is bad, there are corners of the online world causing serious harm.

According to the Australian eSafety commissioner, in the first four months of 2021, reports of harmful content and online behaviour were up 53 per cent compared to the same time last year.

Investing in pockets of the internet where this content and behaviour live is likely to be at odds with your brand values but even worse, your investment could be supporting genuine harm.

There’s a lot here for marketers and their agency partners to unpack but if these five questions are honestly answered, then two goals will be addressed: media dollars will work harder, and your brand will be liked better. As the saying goes, pay peanuts get monkeys. The opposite is also true: invest in better digital, get better results. Don’t believe me? Believe the research.

ThinkPremiumDigital has partnered with AdNews for a webinar which will dive into the research’s findings. Register for the webinar here.

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