Display Advertising: Shots Fired, Ads Pulled!

display advertising

Pressure is mounting on the world of online display advertising to clean up it’s act. Both agencies, and brands demand higher standards. Recently this has resulted in Havas Media pulling it’s adverts for UK brands such as O2, Royal Mail, BBC, Dominos and Hyundai from both YouTube and Google display networks. This action relates specifically to ad impressions making their way onto “questionable or unsafe content”, which considering the size of Google’s display monopoly shouldn’t really be possible.

Brands are looking for more exposure in an increasingly online world, but at long last, the challenges such as ad fraud, measuring ‘ad viewability’, as well as guaranteeing brand safety online are coming to ahead.

Proctor & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser has been leading the charge.

“The days of giving digital a pass are over.”- Marc Pritchard (P&G’s Chief Brand Officer).

Are agencies and brands just being lazy with client media spend, or are display advertising standards and platforms in need of a dramatic reformation? The conclusion is yours to make on who is at fault when it comes to display advertising. The most important question, however, is: How are agencies and brands wasting money on ad spend, and how can it be avoided?

The example below may make you think that display advertising platforms such as AdWords and YouTube are at fault and that these platforms need to up their game.

The French multinational advertising and PR company Havas, based in the U.K.  has made a revolutionary statement by pulling out of Google’s advertising platforms, AdWords and YouTube. Why? Because Google is unable to reassure where ads will be displayed and Havas ads were displayed on inappropriate and offensive web locations. Havas spends around €200 million on advertising in the U.K. and their concern was to not cause damage to their brand by allowing Google to display ads that may infringe Havas’ company ethos.

“…Google, Facebook and others are media companies and have the same responsibilities as any other media company.” – Martin Sorrell (CEO of WPP)

Sorrell also deems that every digital media company must ensure that “brand safety issues” are addressed with care.

However, what if agencies and merchants are just being lazy with adspend and poiting the finger at these display advertising platforms instead of focusing on their own marketing strategies to attract more customers and increase revenues?

Traditionally, if buyers wanted to buy a used car in Ireland, they would simply visit all the available dealers and choose a car that best fit their criteria. The dealer owners would try to persuade their buyers who walked in the door. Buyers’ relationship with the brands at the car dealer and with the dealer owner was short-lived, and the buyer bought the car which best fit his or her criteria. Once outside the door, most likely the merchant-consumer relationship would dissolve.

How has the Consumer Decision Journey changed?

Today, the merchants have much less control on who is exposed to their brand due to digital marketing (Havanas example). Viewers are more engaged than ever online with brands, and they share, promote, collaborate and contribute to the brand’s development, often challenging or even reshaping the original meaning intended by the brand.

According to a study conducted over 20,000 consumers who engaged with five different industries, the conclusions showed the Consumer Decision Journey consisted of four stages; consider, evaluate, buy, and enjoy/tell others. 

  1. A consumer would become aware of a product if they met a friend who told them of a product, see a bill-board advertisement, become exposed to ad store displays or hear about products on the radio or see them on tv. Nowadays, consumers are exposed to digital marketing which is often based on to their browsing history.
  2. Today a consumer is more exposed to different brands than ever. Here is an example: Mary needs to buy peanut butter. Her friend told her that Tesco peanut butter is the best so Mary heads to her local Tesco store.
    customer evaluation, research, display advertisingShe also visits Dunnes Stores to see their options on peanut butter. Mary compares and evaluates these two products and figures that the Dunnes’ option is healthier due to its ingredients. Nowadays, consumers are more likely to make informed decisions based on the information which marketers provide rather than the persuasion of individual marketers. Mary would go online, directly on the brands’ website and research everything about the peanut butter brands. She would check out reviews on products, maybe view blog posts or check the social media channels of the brand and of the retailers (Tesco and Dunnes Stores). She may find inconsistencies about product detail, pictures available or mixed reviews. Yet the ample amount of information will make her come to a decision.
  3. Mary makes the decision to buy the Dunnes Stores peanut butter while she is in store, although she saw the offer in a magazine and she heard about it on the radio as she was driving. The in-store experience is very important (for example she would need to find the peanut butter quickly enough in order to not get frustrated and leave without buying). A merchant can capture a customer’s attention with product placement, packaging, pricing, deals/offers and more. How many times have you seen an ad online and said to yourself ‘I’ll come back to it’, or go to a store to physically inspect the product? This especially happens when you buy expensive products.
  4. Mary goes home and she and her entire family enjoy a hearty breakfast with the peanut butter she just bought from Dunnes Stores. Later she may go for a run with her friends and she tells them about the peanut butter, therefore promoting and advocating on behalf of the product brand. Her friends are more likely to buy this product if they hear a good review or recommendation. The after-purchase of a product is just as important. If a product is valuable (and the merchant is not selling ‘snake-oil’), their client base will increase and an enjoy/tell others loop is created, increasing a merchant’s customer reach. Had Dunnes Stores done any marketing to attract Mary’s friends? No. Therefore, merchants rely on reviews and customer opinions of their products for further marketing.

How Are Ad Agencies Wasting Money On Ad Spend?

ad spend, display advertisingWhile most marketers and merchants spend 70%-90% of their budget on media, television and online to reach their audience, consumers are most likely influenced at the buying/enjoying stage of their purchase. Aren’t marketers wasting money if they spend more on advertising rather than promoting customer advocacy? No matter how much Tesco or Dunnes Stores spent on promoting that peanut butter (online, on tv, on the radio, in magazines), the success of a product sale lies in the enjoy/tell others stage. Who is not to say that a potential customer could have turned off the radio, thrown out the magazine/newspaper, or ignored the online ad about the peanut butter promoted by both Tesco and Dunnes Stores. In so many cases, it is the advocacy of a friend, a referral or a positive customer review that increases sales for any merchant or industry. (Why are brands paying celebrities to promote their products?)

How Can A Marketer Make Ad Spend More Effective?

What makes a brand reliable is the coherency with which it displays its information across the media. A customer’s understanding of a brand would come from official manufacturing websites, retailer sites, discussions, social media and in-store experiences. But it doesn’t stop the minute a shopper leaves a store with a newly bought product. It goes beyond that. Merchants must continue their communication with customers through customer service support (especially troubleshooting issues), warranty programs, training videos, invaluable content, post-purchase emails, retargeting and remarketing,  future discount/referral offers to loyal customers, loyalty programs, and social media reviews from existing customers.

Did you know that the majority of viewers will only click on a display ad or view if a discount offer is at play?

Beyond product packaging and creating enticing and creative ads, marketers should take charge of more channels, not just rely on ad spend and marketing. This means maintaining the company website, taking charge of customer service, making the consumer decision journey more coherent and easy to navigate, market research, video and content creation, and making sure that the customer feels valuable and rewarded, and that any of their queries and concerns will be attended to. This will enhance the enjoy/tell others stage of a customer’s decision journey. Try to find a gap in the consumer decision journey and fill it.
display digital marketing, display ads, ad spendHow have others done it? If you look at the Apple website, for instance, it is rich in highly informative and persuasive content, it boasts captivating and creative videos and tutorials, there are customer forums where clients can express concern, ask questions, interact with other buyers, provide product reviews and more. This creates a consistent and accurate community for the brand that remains with customers long after they bought a product. This customer decision journey is effortless and anyone would engage.

To wrap it all up, are display advertising platforms in need of a reformation or does the role of marketers need to change? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. AdWords and YouTube has yet to up their game in providing their clients with crucial information of who will see their ads and where their ads end up.   Marketers may be shooting in the dark and spending a fortune on ad spend, trying to raise brand awareness and so on. But what is the point in spending so much and opting for the lazy option of allowing these advertising platforms to do the job for them? Maybe advertisers and marketers would be better off to spend quality time doing market research, answering and building on customer trust, loyalty and coherent brand awareness, enhancing their customer decision journey, and watching the joyous results of the enjoy/tell others stage, where the work of the marketers is done for them at literally no cost, but only human effort and interaction with their clients. The B2C relationships have changed dramatically due to the digital transformation of our time. No longer are customers walking out with a product, forgetting the very brand they bought from. Brands are big. Brands are powerful. And human communication in a digital age is the most powerful of all.








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