Vivek Misra
Aug 13, 2018

How to un-break performance marketing

It is time we look for more effective ways to reach desired audiences, rather than the audience-centric buying taking place today.

Context is the key to open minds.
Context is the key to open minds.

The promise of performance marketing is broken.

In an ideal world (perhaps in China?), marketers have perfectly-symmetrical data, bringing the ability to map out customer relationships and understand the most effective triggers for a transaction.

In the real world however, we are more often than not targeted by ads for things that we had ‘window shopped’ but would never buy, or consistently shown ads for things we had already bought. Think about it: how many times have you been served ads for airline tickets and hotels after you’d returned from your trip?

Apart from Australia and New Zealand, APAC has never been a big adopter of data-driven media buying, except in pockets of some industries. At the same time, multinational companies have also implemented measures to comply with recent data-protection regulations, further weakening the premise of performance marketing.

It is time we look for more effective ways to reach desired audiences, rather than the audience-centric buying taking place today. With viewability and brand safety top-of-mind for marketers, along with the abundance of tools available, it is important to still remember that the key to brand storytelling is the context in which an advertisement is shown.

Finding the spot

As marketers, we always search for that ‘holy grail’—the opportunity to reach audiences at the right place and at the right moment. Targeting based on “in-the-moment” user mindsets versus audience segments go a long way towards reaching that promised land.

Take for example, showing an advertisement by a cosmetics brand to a user that is on a page discussing the latest red-carpet fashion trends. This targets the ‘fashionista’ state of mind at the right moment, as compared to a user that was on the page but moved on to browse gadgets. This brings advertisement relevance to page context, resulting in positive association, greater brand recall and engagement. Audience targeting does not consider the mindset of the user, and I liken it to more of a gamble when using audience-based buys to meet business outcomes.

Put simply: we’re more likely to be persuaded by information that fits with our mindset in a particular moment. In a study conducted by Nielsen, researchers found that automotive brands appearing on car sales websites improved brand metrics and a 50% increase in active recommendations, compared to non-contextually relevant sites.

Additionally, if designed well, a campaign that utilizes contextual-based targeting with good relevance, page performance and optimal ad density, actually outperforms a data-driven media buy.

This creates a win-win situation, where consumers are shown ads that matter to them at that particular moment, and brands receive more favorable outcomes.

Digital storytelling needs to read like a book

At the same time, innovative storytelling techniques can enhance the way a narrative unfolds. Delivered at the right time and environment, a marketer can deliver an experience that matters to the user, providing the ‘why’ and ‘how’ the user should care.

Expanding on the previous example, after showing display ads of a new product launch on an article for the latest red carpet fashion trends, the cosmetics brand can utilize interactive video ads to show how the user can pair that product with other products and fashion accessories. Some video formats even allow you to transact in that moment!

Of course, these are shown within the same context as the environment which the user first saw the display ad. With that said, testing and optimizing is key in finding out the most optimal sequence or formats to use.

At this point in time, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven advances in contextual targeting and matching technologies now make it possible to identify storytelling opportunities at optimal moments of the user journey. A good example in point is the work done by Channel 4 in the UK in exploring AI driven ad placement to achieve higher brand recall.

Suffice to say, context is more powerful today than ever before, presenting new and unique opportunities for marketers. Creative storytelling on relevant, high-quality publishers is what will drive results and capture your audience's imagination. The savviest marketers are either already making things happen internally or working with the right partners to help them along this journey.

Vivek Misra is director of strategic initiatives at AnyMind Group.

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