Michael Rich
Sep 18, 2017

The digital ad era comes to an end

To get the best value from advertising, brands must look beyond plugging money blindly into a narrow digital advertising strategy.

The digital ad era comes to an end

The reign of digital advertising is coming to a close. After years of myopic focus on programmatic, paid search and social media, today some of the world’s biggest brands are slashing their digital advertising budgets. In July 2017, Procter & Gamble announced a plan to cut up to US$140 million in digital ad spending due to brand safety concerns; while data from MediaRadar indicates that Unilever reduced its digital advertising budget 59 percent between January and May 2017.

It’s no secret that online advertising can pose a risk to brand safety. Just look at the investigation this spring which revealed that YouTube had shown ads for Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and other mainstream brands next to extremist content. But safety isn’t the only reason brands are reducing focus on digital. Businesses are finally beginning to ask important questions about the true value of digital advertising when the biggest platforms are essentially marking their own homework.

One such question is—which metrics accurately indicate the success of an ad? On Facebook, for example, a video “view” can be as short as three seconds. While there’s no question that bite-sized ads are the new normal, three seconds is barely enough time to glimpse a brand’s logo, much less take in the context of the ad. Add to that the fact that 85 percent of Facebook video is viewed without sound and it’s no wonder that brands are questioning the true value of their online ad spend.

What’s more, it’s still impossible to reliably track attention and engagement in order to truly determine the effectiveness of digital ads. Each of us is now exposed to as many as 10,000 marketing messages every day, and without the right measurement tools, there’s no way to know which ones are having an effect. Even the most common digital advertising metric—clickthrough rate—has been proven an unreliable indicator of consumer interest. Click-through metrics can also be skewed by fraudulent bots; with research indicating that in one year, ad-clicking bots could drain as much as US$7.2 billion from online advertising budgets.

To get the best value from advertising, brands must look beyond plugging money blindly into a narrow digital advertising strategy. Instead, they should focus on truly connecting with their audience by creating engaging content and sharing it far and wide; exploring integrated, multi-channel strategies to reach consumers across every touchpoint; and leveraging partnerships to do all of that, and more, in a manner that will ensure the best results and value for the brand.

To secure a future in the evolving advertising landscape, brands should consider developing content. This is why some of the biggest businesses in the world—from Amazon, to Apple, Snapchat and even Facebook—are now climbing aboard the content production bandwagon. Content creates real engagements with consumers and today, the possibilities for branded storytelling are limitless. From product sponsorships in major TV shows and films, to branded online video series, businesses now have the unique opportunity to weave their brand into entertaining content that naturally grabs consumers’ attention.

Brands must also recognize that consumers don’t live via communications channels. Consumers are exposed to a huge number of channels throughout the day, making it crucial to have a layered communications plan that meets the consumer where they are, and delivers the multiplier effect. A single banner ad will be glanced over once and likely forgotten, but a compelling campaign that translates from online to offline—perhaps comprising bite-sized digital content, longer TV spots and on-the-ground activations—will be much more meaningful and memorable.

To create the best content-driven, multi-channel ad strategies, and to ensure that they are shared with target consumers far and wide, it’s paramount to work with the right partners. There are many new players coming into the content production business, but the best partner will bring a deep and long-term understanding of content, entertainment and holistic advertising strategy. To get the most value from their advertising dollars, brands must be smart about finding experienced partners that can truly deliver on the promise of great content and the value it can deliver. The right partner will have wide reach across traditional and digital avenues, and understand not just the delivery of content, but the art of putting brands at the heart of a great story. 

It’s time to deemphasize clicks, reemphasize value, and get back to the root of advertising—connecting to consumers. For us, now is the best time to be in the business and we are ready to lead the charge in helping brands make the most of fast evolving technology, without falling prey to metrics that cloud the value of ads and without ever losing sight of engaging content produced from real consumer insight. With compelling stories at the heart of our business and the scale to bring the best value to each and every one of our partners, we know that the future of advertising is bigger and brighter than ever before.

Michael Rich is EVP of advertising sales and content partnerships at FOX Networks Group Asia.


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