When examining the role of digital creative campaigns in present-day advertising, the question has to be asked: are we getting the most out of it or are we being led astray by terminology and irrelevant KPIs?
Uncovering the meaningful metrics
When discussing digital campaigns, people throw the words ‘communities’, ‘engagement’, ‘fans’, ‘relationships’ and ‘advocates’ around, but is this really in-line with how people in the real world think about brands, products and services? Are we trying to foster a relationship with audiences who aren’t interested, and does this model actually fit in with the needs, motivations and requirements of the general population, or should we look beyond the traditional measurement models and investigate the role and value of digital campaigns? We believe so.
Three key problem areas marketers face in a modern era
Our fragmented media consumption
We’re given a multitude of options to ignore or scroll past and can even block any promotional message. The majority of the time, brand messaging is unwanted noise which we’ll drown out as we choose.
On-demand is default
Our lives, behaviours and even our economy has changed as a result of the digital revolution. We’re now in a period where on-demand is the default. We’re able to open businesses and sell products across the world from our living room, settling heated debates in the pub in seconds thanks to our smartphones. To put it simply, the general population’s lives and expectations have completely changed in the space of ten years.
Agency models are outdated
Finally, and most crucially, advertising plans, media buying, and executions are still following a model pioneered in the 60s. Agencies are reticent to change their model and approach. Add it all up and you’re faced with an approach that no longer works and needs to be redefined, putting the user first.
Speak to someone, not everyone
As platforms and formats evolve, they’re consistently viewed as a cost-efficient means to reach large audiences. Yet, with the user in such control, a generic message is pitched to a disinterested audience. The harsh reality is that users don’t want to see advertising messages, let alone engage with them; they’re only interested in something that appeals to them, whether it’s entertaining or informative.
This is where speaking to someone, not everyone, is key. What may seem totally crazy to some is enthralling for others. The Drummond Puddle Watch in Newcastle is a great example of this (a pool of water which was blocking a footbridge, for a short while, and became the focus of the internet). A widely watched live-stream captured the audience’s imagination, attracting inflatable lilos, surf boards and a raft of mad cap ideas. For a few, it was an opportunity to get involved. For others, it was great entertainment. For many, it was just plain odd, but it explains how digital campaigns can work. They don’t just have to exist online, they can manifest in the real world, powered by digital’s ability to connect and promote, and they certainly don’t have to appeal to everyone.
Personas and personalities
The truth is, online people behave differently. We call it ‘personas versus personalities’. Online, we curate our lives, creating a persona we want to project to our friends and families. The things that we watch or read to entertain us online are often radically different to those that interest us in the real world. This is why understanding users’ behaviours and habits online is so important and why applying above the line to digital often doesn’t work. What we like in real life is often at odds with our online consumption. Digital campaigns need to appeal to the persona, not the personality. That’s why we believe that applying above the line assets and thinking to the online world simply doesn’t work.
Appeal your customer’s humour
Using digital as a volume game simply doesn’t work. It’s a personal environment where the user is in control, so for anything to work, you need to understand the user on a personal level, identify what drives and interests them, then appeal to that.
Again and again, we see that emotional messaging beats logic when it comes to digital campaigns. Cards Against Humanity is a great example of appealing to its target users and forgetting everyone else. Its game, by its very nature, appeals to those with a darker sense of humour, so its campaigns should naturally follow suit.
On Black Friday in 2015, a day when they should be selling more items than ever, Card Against Humanity decided to shut down its online store. Instead, they offered visitors the chance to pay $5 and get nothing in return in a move that baffled most. Surely no-one would do that, would they? Instead, thousands of users bought nothing for $5. Some even paid $100. Anyone who doesn’t have that sense of humour would think these examples are nonsense, but to their target audience, it’s bang on.
It all comes back to one thing – speak to someone, not everyone. Digital is not a volume game. It’s about understanding the target users and appealing to them. It dramatically affects the direction of a campaign as well as the way you measure success.
Data alone is useless. Insights matter.
As always, Dave Trott explains it best: “Being right is overrated, being interesting is far more valuable. A challenge we all face when we’re presented with so much data and information is that it often pushes us in the direction of being right, and being right isn’t always interesting.”
With so much data available through digital platforms, it’s easy to get lost but when you look for the users, their needs, wants, challenges and motives, it can highlight an opportunity and direction in a way that no other channel can. Focus on things that matter, not views, likes and shares. Look to identify behaviours and attitudes you want to change or improve.
Simply put, only your customer – the person you’re actually selling to – is the person you are having the conversation with. Their mindset should the heartbeat of every activation.
Kieran Bass is managing director of creative digital agency Kitty.