When a big company wants to grow mindshare, it supplies brand creative to its media partner, along with instructions for targeting. The task is to place the ads for maximal effect. This was a straightforward task when only a handful of networks had national reach. Now it can seem complex. Which channels? Which partners? What KPIs? What’s worth a premium price? Should we lock in guarantees? What’s the best balance between brand safety and viewability on the one hand and low CPMs on the other?
These complications fade into the background when brand media is viewed through the lens of evidence-based marketing. Scientific research on advertising has convincingly shown that:
- The most important factors for ad influence are creative and reach. A media team can’t affect creative, so reach is king. If the planning process prioritizes reach, the plan is unlikely to fail. If adding partners might reduce your reach, there’s no question it shouldn’t be done.
- Not all reach media gets the same attention. The metrics that matter for attention are the size of the ad, the content and layout of the ad environment, and the in-view duration. Generally, lower CPMs mean less attention. But there are exceptions. The most productive project a reach-focused media buyer can undertake is to find undervalued assets: placements that amount to bargains in terms of attention per dollar, even if their CPMs are quite high. The manual way to do this is to block the smallest placements and the most cluttered sites. Viewability tracking demonstrates the potential of automated ways to determine when it's worth paying more for a better placement.
- Ad attention is subject to diminishing returns. One second of attention is never enough; 100 seconds is probably counterproductive. Somewhere in between is an optimal level. An informed estimation is necessary and powerful. As the population of targeted users optimally exposed to brand advertising increases, so does lift. Frequency capping is an important tool, but it doesn’t help serve the underexposed population. As one expert put it, buying half the optimal dose of ad attention is like flying halfway to London. You’d have been better off staying home. This is a problem to which other challenges (except the two above) should take a back seat.
To be successful, digital media professionals must confront the fact that the process for branding was developed and scaled in a bygone era of extreme inventory scarcity. It made sense for planners to spend most of their energy negotiating with big sellers. Today, that resource allocation is plainly irrational. With universal access to millions of impression opportunities per second, brand advertisers are best served by teams that can forecast and deliver attentive reach. This new breed of media squad is hungry for a new category of tools, of which Adelaide is the first.
There is one optimal exposure pattern for any brand budget -- the one that influences the most targets. It’s a challenging and important job. The legacy process is powered mostly by inertia. Teams on a mission to serve clients better are moving quickly beyond it.
Adam Heimlich, President, Adelaide