Media agony aunts answer your questions on budgeting, attention and more

Media agony aunts answer your questions on budgeting, attention and more
(From left) Benjamin, Lyons, Caven and Mahon
The Future of Brands 2024

“We’ve all been there when it’s not working and it’s a horrible feeling on both sides. If you’re in that situation, be honest. Have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment and say: we need to get better.”

That was one piece of advice given by Havas Media Network chief planning officer Jackie Lyons at an “agony aunt”-style question-and-answer session held at last month’s Future of Brands 2024 conference, chaired by The Media Leader reporter Jack Benjamin.

During the forum, leading media strategists answered queries from the audience on best practices, including how to get creative and media agencies working more collaboratively, how to budget for AV amid a decline in linear TV viewing, the growing importance of attention and how to be present for younger audiences.

The other two “agony aunts” were Amy Caven, head of media strategy and planning at Boots, and Raj Mahon, director of client partnerships at MiQ.

Watch the full session now or read an edited transcript summarising the key takeaways below.

I have an AV budget of £500,000 and I want to spend it as effectively as possible. Normally, we’d put this into linear and BVOD, but we keep hearing that linear audiences are declining. How would you recommend we spend our budget?

Lyons: Who are they trying to reach? What’s the objective of the campaign? We have to tease all this out, because depending on the information we get as planners, the response will be very different.

Let’s say we’re looking at targeting younger audiences. For £500K, you’re probably looking at a burst. So we’d need to profile where those younger audiences are looking at media. We’d look at the cost profile of all the channels involved.

I would throw in attention at this point. Especially if it’s a brand campaign, I think it’s definitely worth including attention metrics in your planning.

All those things combined would give you a point of view more towards BVOD and other digital video. Probably cinema for a younger audience as well. And there’d be a question on social media of how to build that in.

I’d say for a brand campaign, avoid feeds and go for reels on social. And you can’t forget YouTube.

Caven: Hopefully I’d give you a better brief than that, but ultimately I’d be saying to the agency that I made a beautiful AV asset — I want as many people to see this and engage with it as possible.

All I care about is that it’s in the right environment, on a big screen ideally, and has that co-view behaviour. It needs to have eyeballs on it. And ultimately I leave it to the agency to find where that fits best.

I would expect linear to be on there, but I’d like to think there’d be other AV assets.

And of course I would also be saying: what’s worked well in the past?

Mahon: It’s an interesting idea, this question of over-investment into linear. I think we can acknowledge viewing habits are changing and we have this gut feeling that just investing loads into linear probably isn’t the right thing to do.

What the problem has been is the data availability and the tech hasn’t quite caught up to make those decisions quickly. Now, with these advancements in data, you can start seeing that the top 20% of linear audiences are seeing your ad 15, 20, 30 times; your bottom 20% are seeing it maybe once. So you get this distorted frequency curve.

When you can see this data in front of you this question becomes a lot easier to answer. You can start distributing your investment in a more balanced way to mitigate that.

When do you consider adding in other high-attention channels like OOH to a media plan?

Lyons: For me, if a brand campaign is about eliciting an emotional response, although outdoor is really powerful and I’m a big fan, video content will do a better job of that. That would be my first channel to invest in and I’d do it properly.

And if you have money left over — absolutely. Outdoor adds impact. If you get an agency to crack brilliant creative, it’s a different ball game.

Caven: I think it’s how you’re buying it as well. There’s some brilliant work I’ve seen recently about signalling strength; it’s about what you’re saying as a brand without actually having to say it. Just by being on an iconic OOH site in a high-footfall area with some beautiful creative.

If you can get into those premium formats, there’s definitely a role for it on the plan. Likewise, we’re doing way more at Boots with dynamic OOH.

Mahon: I would echo that last point. As a programmatic company, we buy more toward the digital OOH.

You can make your budget work harder. You can target in specific areas, during specific times of day. When you can make your creative relevant to where you are, what time of day, you will get better cut-through.

The measurement side of things is a little more tricky. Any OOH is inherently region-based, so you can start to do some geo-uplift tests potentially.

What’s your favourite ad campaign at the moment?

Mahon: 19 Crimes. The way they’re buying media and the creative they deliver is being done in a subversive way. They’re not the biggest of brands but they’re trying to own certain spaces.

And also Boots, obviously. [Laughter]

Caven: After Boots, we’ve just been talking OOH, and British Airways [ad] is brilliant. Something so simple — it’s very brave. I don’t know how many marketers here would be brave enough to have an OOH poster that has simply got some windows on a plane and their logo.

Lyons: I was genuinely going to say British Airways. I’m a big fan of Yorkshire Tea’s work the last couple of months, too. Simple, straightforward but very clever.

Our CMO says his daughter is on TikTok all the time and wants us to increase spend on the platform, even though it doesn’t make sense for every campaign. How do you push back against ‘me-search’?

Caven: You want to know that people are watching your ads, so if you’ve got someone sat next to you saying “Why am I not seeing your Boots ad, Daddy?”, he’s right to ask.

We’ve got so many data points to go after to say there’s opportunity here… There’s all these ways we can use data to help inform. I think it makes for a much easier conversation.

But I think it’s staying true to what you want to do. What’s the objective? The worst thing you can do is shut it down and saying no… it’s definitely a conversation and probing a little bit on the why.

Lyons: On TikTok, you need a very distinct approach in order to show up properly on that platform. So for some brands it’s the complete right environment, if you have the right tone of voice and authenticity baked into your creative.

If you just have a video asset and you pop it on the channel, you’re not going to get the same response.

Mahon: I don’t mind being challenged based on what people are seeing in the real world.

I would say that just because someone’s absorbing something doesn’t mean it’s always the best advertising opportunity.

There’s a lot of focus on visual attention, but auditory attention is arguably more important. How are you evolving your approach to auditory attention?

Lyons: We work with Lumen and it’s the next area that they’re focussing on. Their data isn’t fully shared yet. But a lot of the same reasons that visual attention cuts through and holds [memory] better is similar from an auditory perspective in that it’s about relevance and context and the ability to skip on.

But what hasn’t been properly overlaid, and is hard to stack up in media plans, is the power of the overspill of visual channels and their audio properties too. You tend to look at audio on its own and video on its own, and the grey area in between is where it gets blurry.

It’s really hard to quantify that into a reach curve. At the moment we don’t have that science to knit it all together.

What are the challenges that you’re finding with some (especially older-generation) brands wanting to speak to Gen Z?

Lyons: I have an example that’s popped into my head: M&S. They’re famous for their delicious ads and their subtle voices on TV.

But on TikTok they show up with a very different personality, sometimes handing it off to their staff in store. It’s a lot of Percy Pig. It’s very irreverent. I think that’s a very smart way to do it.

Think of your whole ecosystem of touchpoints and key brand assets and decide: how can I stretch here in a credible way, in a way that will still feel authentic to a Gen Z audience but wouldn’t alienate someone else who might see it?

Caven: We have a massively broad audience. On one end of the spectrum we have a younger beauty audience that are getting all of their inspiration from TikTok now. Whether that’s product, whether that’s skincare.

At the same time, there’s a lot of crap out there that isn’t true. We can kind of be the trusted voice to cut through that and provide accurate information.

Mahon: There’s been a lot of focus on YouTube as well for those younger audiences. It’s almost about checking our own biases from a couple of years back. The quality of content you can get on YouTube is high-production stuff now. It’s not just user-generated content.

I work for an FMCG brand and we don’t feel our media agency and creative agency talk together enough. How would you recommend we get them to collaborate better?

Caven: I think there’s a huge onus on the client to make that relationship better. It’s as simple as holding face-to-face, all-agency briefings.

Plus, briefing earlier and allowing time to get together to see about creative fit for different platforms.

Lyons: We’ve all been there when it’s not working, and it’s a horrible feeling on both sides.

If you’re in that situation, be honest. Have a “come to Jesus” moment and say: we need to get better.

Simple things like a KPI structure are useful. Are your agencies bonused to deliver collaboration? Everyone will listen if they are.

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