Media Brand Strategy Media Planning and Buying

Wavemaker, TikTok, Twitter & Meta talk social media intelligence in 2022


By Jenni Baker | Senior Editor

December 16, 2021 | 7 min read

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Covid-19 dramatically changed the landscape for social media – but with the explosive growth of platforms, new ad tech and industry regulations, marketers are navigating a constantly evolving set of rules around the buying and activation of social ads.

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It's time for marketers to start embracing the differences between social media platforms according to Wavemaker's research

Given that every social platform behaves so differently, marketers should be treating each platform as an individual space that plays by its own rules. Only by understanding the platform and consumer dynamics on each can advertisers drive better outcomes.

These were among the key takeaways from a new webinar, in which Wavemaker’s head of display and social, Sophie Strong, explored findings from the firm’s Social Intelligence Report 4.0.

The report highlighted four key provocations – which were debated by experts from TikTok, Twitter and Meta.

1. It’s time to rip up the DR rulebook

Everything we know about social is going to change, particularly in the direct response (DR) space. Performance as we know it today won’t be what we know tomorrow.

“Anyone who thinks they should move from conversion to upper funnel is missing the broader point – it’s about the balance,” said Richard Costa-D’Sa, head of industry, media agencies at Meta. “People have missed the mark (when it comes to throwing out the DR rulebook) in social. The biggest trend is undoubtedly a contradiction between privacy-aware consumers and their demand for more relevant personalization. That’s what we have to get right in the coming years. The key change, though, is moving to a new era of prediction where channels increasingly start objective first and not audience first to drive outcomes.”

Firms must look to not only futureproof their tech by embracing developing trends such as social commerce but seek to optimize their performance higher up the funnel. This means ripping up the DR playbook by widening their targeting options and leveraging smart machine learning to find new growth audiences.

The problem is, according to Strong, that Google has “done the industry a bit of a disservice” by delaying the deprecation of third-party cookies to 2023.

She said: “Now, it’s about pushing forward and adopting new technology – trying conversion API, testing different signals within the dynamic space, thinking about how shops can play a part within your user social experience, and how your brand can tap into new formats like live shopping. That’s the only way we’re going to be future fit. Ultimately we need to try and plug the gaps in that data loss and move forward to be able to grow in social.”

2. Not all reach is equal

Reach figures are often misleading and not representative of performance. Different formats drive different results and engagement, so marketers need to better understand the true value of reach. They also need to be able to test different formats together to understand how they complement each other and drive deeper funnel metrics. It’s critical to set out a clear objective that will lead to a positive business outcome.

“Reach is just a metric,” argued Monica Majumdar, head of strategy at Wavemaker. “It goes back to: what are we trying to achieve? What are we trying to get our consumer to do? And where does it fit within that consumer journey?”

Elliott Millard, head of planning, Wavemaker, adds: “Marketers can get distracted by the big shiny number. We have a duty of care as media practitioners to quantify and understand the true value and meaning of reach across all platforms.”

It’s a re-education job. The conversation needs to evolve from dominance of reach to more nuanced measures of campaign success, looking at true business outcomes. It’s time to move beyond reach for reach’s sake because all formats are measured on reach, but it’s often not the right metric to fulfil the objective. And if you’re going to do reach, do it well – look to those premium formats that will drive eyeballs, completed views, and the best results.

3. Quality views don’t need video

Video views are declining across all platforms as users become savvier and more time poor. It’s important then to better understand the nuances of video ad placements to determine how to get the best results and deliver a better ad recall. Prioritizing video doesn’t always equal more time spent with content, so the role of social video shouldn’t always be to drive views.

“As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t make it good, make it short,” said David Wilding, director of planning, Twitter UK. “With each platform it’s about looking for the sweet spot between your brand, the platform dynamics and how people use [it].”

The Wavemaker report found that the optimal length for a video is little more than six seconds on most platforms – so start exploring short form video and in-stream to turn this to your advantage. And, align it to contextual premium content, which can drive a 2x higher ad recall.

4. TikTok doesn’t play by the same rules

Key market segments are spending more time on TikTok, which makes it a valuable platform for marketers. But TikTok doesn’t play by the same rules. It works on a content graph, not on a social graph. It’s dynamic and constantly reacting, which gives brands an opportunity to entertain people and be part of the content that users actively engage with.

“Every day our community are creating new trends,” said Joni Morriss, head of agency partnerships, TikTok. “The full screen, sound on format that is unique to TikTok provides brands with an opportunity to place themselves right in the middle of those trends. There are different ways of doing it but as long as you realize what you’re trying to achieve, you can do great things with it. Without testing and learning you’re not going to know what works for you. Don’t be afraid to fail, and have a bit of fun with platform.”

The unique aesthetic of TikTok means brands must blend in to stand out. Native content that feels like it belongs on the platform will drive optimal outcomes. Where polished ads won’t work, User Generated Content (UGC) and creator-led content is more likely to succeed.

Now’s the time to try new things

The panel consensus was that in this ever-changing social and digital landscape, advertisers and agencies should never become complacent. It is vital to test, learn and evolve, using measurement tactics to refine performance and build a solid foundation for positive business outcomes.

"Sticking to what we know isn’t what we should be doing. We need to constantly evolve and try new things,” said Strong. “Thinking beyond what we know today is ultimately how [brands are] going to unlock growth in social.”

Media Brand Strategy Media Planning and Buying

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We believe there always is a better way to grow. We positively provoke growth for our clients by reshaping consumer decision-making and experiences through media, content and technology. The Wavemaker way is globally consistent. Fuelled by the world’s most powerful consumer data, we understand where and how marketing can intervene decisively to help brands win more sales. Our 7,000 people across 88 markets have the deep knowledge, confidence and courage to provoke growth for some of the world’s leading brands and businesses. We are a part of GroupM, WPP’s global media investment management company.

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