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Why Programmatic Could Be Doing Your Brand More Harm Than Good
Sep08

Why Programmatic Could Be Doing Your Brand More Harm Than Good

The supposed Holy Grail just can’t live up to the hype.

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How Advertising Works Today
Mar21

How Advertising Works Today

The ARF just released the results of their ‘How Advertising Works Today’ study, touted as the most extensive industry study in more than 25 years. We were gratified to see that their findings line up very closely with ours – and mirror how we have for years been advising clients to optimize their advertising campaigns and spending allocations. Headlines from the study, and from Communicus, include the observation that campaigns that include a diversified media mix are far more effective than those that use just one or two media venues. The worst case scenario is to use just TV, with campaigns that utilize additional media performing far better than TV-only campaigns. We also have found that campaigns that only include one video execution are seriously handicapped as compared to those that use a larger number of TV spots – which parallels the ARF finding that overexposure to too few executions reduces campaign ROI. But while investing too much in TV can be problematic, this old-school, traditional medium is a must-have as the foundation for an effective campaign. Not only does TV continue to provide more broad-based awareness (even among Millennials) than any other medium, but helps to amplify the impact of other campaign media. In their attempts to keep up with changing consumer behavior patterns, we – and the ARF – find that a lot of advertisers overspend on digital. What’s worse, this overspending is exacerbated by the fact that many are running too few creative executions – far beyond the point of saturation and even straying into the territory of negative impact. Campaigns achieve the best results when they include a lot of different executions, but maintaining consistency across media types is key. We’ve seen time after time how carrying strong Brand Linked Equities throughout boosts awareness, branding and impact. The ARF found the same, both through their in-market and neuro-based approaches to measuring advertising performance. And, finally creative quality matters a lot more than media spending. Advertisers who create campaigns that are engaging and persuasive, and who employ creative best practices to ensure that consumers know what brand is being advertised no matter where they might see the brand’s messaging can achieve far better results with a relatively modest budget than their competitors who overspend on creative that isn’t up to par. The good news is that there aren’t a lot of surprises in the ARF findings. Advertisers who pay attention to this best practices advice can surely optimize their results without the trial and error that plagued many of the poor-performing brands that served as the ‘what not to do’ cases in this large, multi-brand research...

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Why Switching Ad Campaigns May Not Be the Answer
Oct30

Why Switching Ad Campaigns May Not Be the Answer

In reading the advertising trade press, it’s striking how many advertisers are launching new campaigns at any given time. Not surprisingly, these often follow a change in ad agencies, which often follows a change in senior marketing management on the client side. The new campaigns are typically welcomed as the next big thing, surely destined for greatness and to solve whatever sales problems the brand might be experiencing! But is all this switching of campaigns really a good idea? Not too long ago, we looked into the question from a data-based perspective. We wondered about the odds that a new campaign launched in replacement of an established campaign would outperform the original. A search of the Communicus database provided the answer: on average, in the first year of a new campaign only 20% outperform the established campaign that they replaced! So, Mr or Ms new CMO – be forewarned: while the fanfare accompanying your new campaign may be compelling at the moment, the odds are stacked against you. How can this be? If you think about the great campaigns, the ones that you really remember, they have endured over years and years, with their meaning and contributions to the brand strengthening over time. They were kept fresh, but they captured the essence of the brand in a way that became the brand. Dove’s Real Beauty, the Geico Gecko work, the Marlboro Man (sorry, not politically correct, but great advertising). These campaigns have come to define the brand in a way that sequential creative approaches – even if they were built off of a consistent positioning strategy – could not have done. Consumers want your brand to be like a friend, they want to know what to expect from you, their brand/friend (even if part of the expectation is freshness and surprise). They don’t want you to be something new, something unpredictable and unreliable, every time they turn around. It’s no surprise, to me anyway, that so many brands are not differentiated in the mind of the consumer. It’s not about the product – many categories do, in fact, have a number of brands that all deliver similar levels of functionality. Rather, these brands are not differentiated because they all switch ad campaigns every year or two. None ever get to the point where they’ve really solidified any real meaning and connection from a consumer standpoint. Sure, it’s got to have the makings of a great campaign at the date of the launch; running a non-differentiated and non-differentiating campaign for years and years won’t do the trick. But advertisers who don’t truly believe in the long-term potential of their campaign...

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Cord-Cutting, Tipping Points and Advertising
Aug20

Cord-Cutting, Tipping Points and Advertising

Recent reports confirm that the number of consumers who have decided that they don’t need cable companies anymore has increased dramatically lately. Clearly, Wall Street is worried about this trend, with the large media companies losing as much as $60 billion in value in a recent two-day period. When we listen to cord-cutters, and to those who haven’t cut the cord, it’s clear that the trend has reached a tipping point. Cord-cutters, comprised largely but not wholly of Millennials, are proud of their choice, and are advocating to their friends who haven’t made move. Many of those Millennials who haven’t cut the cord seem slightly embarrassed, feeling the need to explain why they too haven’t cut yet. And then, there’s that group of incoming consumers, the ‘cord-nevers’. These are young Millennials, and the soon-to-be adult group, Gen Z, who move into adulthood and household formation having never established a TV subscriber relationship and who feel no need to do so. Many experienced cord-free college dorm rooms, and learned early that there are many ways to view the content they need without a cable subscription. But what’s bad for the media companies may actually be good for advertisers – at least those who stay on top of consumer trends and have the agility to adapt to the changing environment. Sure, it was a lot easier to buy advertising impressions when everyone was just watching TV. But many of those impressions didn’t actually make any impression, because so many consumers were so disengaged with what they were tuned in to. In the new world of consumer as CEO of their own entertainment, advertisers can expect a much more engaged audience. The viewing environment used to be one in which the TV was often the ‘talking lamp’ in the room – constantly on, but often with little attention being paid on the screen. While Nielsen counted every household that had a set on as part of the viewing audience, advertisers had little hope that their target consumer would actually engage with the commercials that lit up the screen for :30 seconds or so. In contrast, today’s cord-cutters have taken control, becoming CEO of their content – what they watch and when they watch it. Sure, for some of the content, the commercials are optional. But the majority of these consumers say they’d prefer to have a few commercials sprinkled in rather than pay for the content. And they are actually watching what they have chosen – giving advertisers a better chance of holding their engagement during those commercial moments. Commercial content will still need to be captivating, well branded and persuasive to...

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The Marketing Genius of March Madness
Mar10

The Marketing Genius of March Madness

As March Madness sets in, it’s worth pausing to tip our hats to the NCAA for what they’ve created over the years since the tournament was first launched in 1939. While not drawing the audience of the Super Bowl, the final weeks of the college basketball season is a phenomenon that is clearly a focus of attention for a broad swath of both male and female consumers. Since long before Fantasy Football, workplace ‘Bracket’ competitions have been part of what defines March, and we all hear about the bracket picks of no less than the President of the United States! For brands like AT&T, Capital One and Coke, March Madness has become a worthy, and pricy, venue for advertising. Its value is enhanced because the audience is large, the viewer demographics are strong and the real-time nature of the competition discourages time-shifting (and the associated commercial skipping). Further, the multi-week span provides a larger promotional window than do one-time events like the Academy Awards (with its disappointingly small audience this year) or the Super Bowl (although the promotional window for the Super Bowl has been stretching, with advertisers launching PR programs, online activations and YouTube teaser pre-releases as early as four weeks prior to the event, most consumers don’t pay a lot of attention until the day of the game). How did March Madness, and the brackets, become such a phenomenon? It doesn’t hurt that not much is going on in March, sports-wise. Some might point to the strong social media marketing programs that the NCAA utilizes to encourage viewer engagement. And yes, they’ve done a good job with Facebook, Twitter and the like. But so have other sports marketers, and March Madness has been a hot event since well before social media were even around. I think there are two key drivers that underlie the success of NCAA’s college basketball finals from a consumer engagement (and thus, advertising value) standpoint. The alliterations: Sure, it’s March Madness, but it’s also broken up into Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four. These easy-to-remember and recite labels help TV commentators to talk about the event, and help both sports fans and non-fans to keep track of what’s going on and the current status of the event. The names are catchy, sticky and helpful. The bracket pools: Since long before Fantasy Football drew non-football fans into the competition, college basketball bracket competitions have pulled non-college basketball fans into March Madness. The nature of the competition, one loss and you’re out, means that even those who don’t follow the sport can win office pools! The fun associated with non-fans having a chance to...

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Are Parents Too Busy to Notice Your Ads? Or Actively Solution-Seeking?
Jan15

Are Parents Too Busy to Notice Your Ads? Or Actively Solution-Seeking?

Parents are time-constrained, cash-strapped and trying-to-do-it-all, and are one of the most highly sought after group by a variety of brands. Brands ranging from diapers to food products to cars to financial institutions, target parents with family-filled advertising images and benefit propositions aimed at making their life just a little easier. With all the demands facing parents today, do they really even notice? Surprisingly, Communicus has consistently found that parents are just as likely as other consumers to take note of advertising – including TV, digital and print ads. Between soccer games, late night feedings and other demands of family life, parents are noticing advertising at the same rates as non-parents. However, parents are significantly more likely than their non-parent counterparts to notice FSI and point-of-sale efforts. These platforms, which often provide monetary incentives and/or solutions for everyday concerns –like what to make for dinner tonight – are particularly effective in reaching parents. Simply getting parents to engage with ads is merely the first step towards driving purchase intent – they must also register the brand. The good news for advertisers is that parents are actually significantly more likely to recall the brand being advertised across mediums (TV, digital, print, FSI and POS) than are non-parents. While the differences are strongest for FSI and POS elements with which they are highly engaged, correct brand linkage tends to be 20-30% higher across other mediums as well. What might explain these differences in engagement and brand linkage across consumer targets, you ask? It appears that despite being busy and having significant demands on their attention, parents are looking to brands and products to provide solutions, inspiration and to help them be better parents. This intersection of consumers hungry for brand-driven solutions who also yield substantial purchasing power poses great opportunities for brand marketers. To capitalize on these dynamics there are a few simple things advertisers can do to successfully reach and persuade parents: Leverage FSI/POS elements widely and ensure they are creatively tied to other campaign elements so that they function as both an immediate incentive to purchase and also remind the consumer of the brand’s key benefits. In this way, they can help to fulfill both short and long-term brand building goals. Make it easy for parents by providing them with solution and/or inspiration driven messages rooted in your brand’s key point-of-difference. Find them in multiple places – parents are looking for solutions across mediums so having a robust multi-media approach is key in generating both strong engagement and in generating the strong branding dynamics that will further your brand’s objectives. Are parents a key target for your brand? If...

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