Consumers today are smarter and savvier than ever before. They can spot native advertising and distinguish sponsored content. Simply put, most people know when they’re looking at an ad.
This doesn’t mean that today’s consumer inherently hates advertising. In fact, if done properly, it’s just the opposite. When ads are relevant, creative and well-delivered, consumers enthusiastically embrace them. They even share those they relate to on social networks just as they share content, giving quality ads new relevance and a social/viral effect that’s unprecedented in our industry.
The lines between ads and content are increasingly blurring, and they are likely to vanish completely.
Content is king, and traditional advertising in its death throes, which has paved the way for a new era of mobile/social advertising where relevant content will prove to be the most engaging and impactful for brands. Therein lies tremendous opportunity for clever brand advertisers.
So what exactly should brand advertisers do in the post advertising era? How do you engage today’s consumer with the right message on the right platform at the right time? And how does mobile/social factor into the mix?
First, advertising should be designed to achieve the same results for consumers as great content, but in the context of your brand. Think about why users engage with content. They want to be informed, entertained or inspired. The best ads will accomplish those same goals.
Then consider the particular consumer and their circumstances (channel, location, weather, etc.) when determining which ad to show. Brands should tailor ads to a specific consumer based not only on preferences, but on geographic location and immediate circumstances, which is likely to resonate more effectively than ever before.
For example, individuals visiting news sites are likely looking to be informed. Therefore, informative ads blend best with other (unpaid) content. Those on social platforms are more inclined to engage with entertaining or inspiring content (although this can obviously vary based on the platform and context).
What I just described is not an effective media process, nor a data or creative one. Effective advertising and customer engagement requires successfully marrying all three into a holistic, strategic advertising program. Data is key to personalizing your content and ensuring that it is relevant. An effective media strategy is critical to reaching your target audience across the many channels they are present on. Most advertisers have made great strides in recent years in these areas.
Yet creative is ultimately what conveys your message—where the rubber meets the road when it comes to engaging your target audience. The creative content is usually what determines the success of an ad in social forums, and also dictates how brands are remembered.
At many brands, creative has struggled to keep pace with innovations in data and media automation. Addressing this challenge is not simply a matter of building better ads or enabling dynamic content. Success requires brands to enable creative as a scalable layer that integrates with their full advertising process.
Some key requirements for an effective digital advertising process:
- Scale production of high-quality creative in formats that fit consumer expectations (increasingly video, and specifically interactive and 360) with the right technology.
- Marry that creative with data by enabling truly dynamic content and automated data feeds. An effective, scalable process will require you to only automate data feeds once across campaigns and creatives.
- Enable creative across channels. Consumers continue to spend more time on social media, so ensure that your creative can feed to the key social media channels, as well as the web. Even mobile-first millennials spend time on their tablets and laptops, so ensure that creative is built to automatically and optimally adjust for each device.
In this new advertising economy, it will be critical that brands consider new ways to align content with the channel while leveraging data to tailor their message for the individual.
Advertisers must be sure their campaigns track consumers effectively and deliver an engaging message across channels. The real trick is how.
Consumer expectations and habits continue to evolve. Digital advertising as we know it is slowly dying, merging with content. While this will cause upheaval, leading advertisers are already realizing that social media presents a tremendous opportunity to more effectively engage consumers and tell their stories. But that is only possible by combining data, media and creative as part of a holistic strategy.
Alex Saric is chief marketing officer at digital advertising creative management platform Celtra.
Image courtesy of DragonImages/iStock.