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Do digital marketers care enough about their consumers’ ad experience?

Do digital marketers care enough about their consumers’ ad experience?

Media Leaders

Consumer experience must inform a more human understanding of effectiveness, meaning marketers need to put the ‘heart’ back into the brand and the media planning, writes Rakuten Advertising’s international MD

Of course digital marketers should care about how customers experience ads.

However, it’s caveated. It’s better answered with “yes, but…”.

Show me you care

Consumers adopt emerging technologies at speed, and this creates a major headache for marketers in keeping pace (and, arguably, in educating clients about how to react and respond when planning a campaign).

It’s not so much that marketers don’t care, it’s that consumer habits are evolving so fast that it’s a challenge to deliver the experience that demonstrates this care.

The pandemic drove consumer purchasing behaviour even further away from the high street once bricks-and-mortar doors closed. This accelerated transformational change and increased the pressure on marketers to focus on the quality of an integrated online and mobile strategy, making omnichannel arguably more important than ever now that in-store is back in the mix.

If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our humanity and human connection is more important than ever.

Consumer experience must inform a more human understanding of effectiveness, meaning marketers need to put the ‘heart’ back into the brand and the media planning behind its advertising approach. Success must not only be measured with adviews, clicks, engagement rates alone.

The pace of change

But the marketer is challenged with understanding how to put this quality experience across an increasing number of platforms and formats – and the speed of change is hard to keep up with.

Tectonic shifts in media consumption habits have made video, Stories an endemic aspect of any plan, as Snap, TikTok exploded and Instagram continued to innovate. Platforms have become media outlets in themselves, and advertising has had to rapidly adapt.

This evolution in ad formats and platforms correlates directly with the amount of time being spent online and on mobile, and as such exposure to advertising is inherently increased. But for the consumer, this isn’t a conscious consideration and therefore fuels a perception that there are more ads than before and they’re becoming more intrusive.

The former point is to some extent a reflection of the scale of use – if you do something more, you intrinsically see more of what comes with it. But the nuisance factor is separate to scale, and must be considered in isolation. Marketers can’t allow new formats to simply mean more of the same thing across more outlets.

The rise of the influencer

The concept of putting the heart back into the brand is a big factor in the rise of influencer marketing, which has exploded over the past few years. Brands are starting to see a shift in power, control and narrative, that’s increasing the movement towards the influencer market – but it has to be done properly, with integrity, brand values, and consumer ethics at the centre.

Fundamentally it has to be done with the right collaboration. It should be seen as a powerful media strategy to put meaningful and engaging content back in the hands of consumers, who want to be a part of the conversation. Embracing a decentralisation of power, messaging and brand values means that marketers must develop their core values in line with and alongside the consumer base.

Future-proofing

Right now, growth can be seen through innovations in how commerce and content (both ‘traditional’ and influencer) are merging, changing the manner in which advertising is consumed and acted upon. Marketers must react to change and align appropriately; the direct connection to purchasing should be a massive driver behind this.

We’re also witnessing an increase in the number of AVOD-first TV viewers. Rakuten Advertising data from 2020 suggested roughly 20% of UK viewers no longer watch live broadcasts and solely stream. Ignoring CTV within a media plan is therefore to automatically miss a fifth of the consumer audience.

So, what might we see in the future, and what opportunities does this represent for brands? Firstly, we need to recognise the impact of a reliance on first-party and proprietary data. There is huge opportunity in leveraging someone’s location, likes, dislikes, and privacy tools to get advertising right. This will act as a power shift and allow consumers to start to opt-in to the advertising they wish to experience.

I think we’ll see increased adoption of virtual environments; image-recognition; and smart devices – and marketers need to be on top of these changes. Additionally, the integration of hardware with the user interface at the core (such as Peleton), is going to be fascinating to watch. The explicit immersion within an activity offers myriad opportunities to put the brand at the heart of the experience.

Right place, right time

This all ladders up to the challenge facing marketers of ensuring the brand aligns with the right person, at the right time, on the right platform, with the right frequency. This must inform any strategy so that advertising doesn’t become so prevalent as to negatively impact the consumer experience of the activity they’re involved in.

So, do marketers care enough about the customer experience? Yes. Is it becoming harder to keep up with the pace of change? Yes. And is this exacerbating the challenge facing the marketer in delivering on this promise to show they care? Yes.

At the end of the day, more platforms, more formats, and more publishing end points can only bring more opportunities to the marketer.

We have to go beyond just clicks and visits and tie to a more strategic business purpose. This can be achieved through putting experience at the core or any advertising plan.

Most importantly, any strategy must revolve around the consumer, not the brand, because ultimately they will drive targeting in the future through the opt-in choices they make.

Rakhee Jogia is international MD for Rakuten Advertising

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