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Priming – the answer to the planning challenge in the cookieless future

Priming – the answer to the planning challenge in the cookieless future


Priming is one of the ways good advertising works and it’s the reason why public and private work together, media planning consultant Justin Gibbons explains.

As media people we have a habit of making things complicated. We love acronyms, we trade in formulas, we go big on the buzzwords. I’m guilty, too.

At a variety of lovely agencies that I’ve worked at over the years I’ve presented on 360 degree planning, the ‘Rise of the Prosumer’ and there was a period when I used a Snakes & Ladders analogy that honestly defied any sense.

It’s why nowadays I love a simple idea.

During lockdown I’ve written two books and both were based on a straightforward principle; that public marketing and private marketing work best together.

If I was planning media now I’d have two big sheets of paper, one for the public statements and my brand’s behaviour out there in full view, and one for my private communications, seen only by the intended recipient.

I like it for several reasons. Public and Private cuts through the sometime unhelpful vernacular; brand vs response, online vs offline.

Public and Private feels human, we have public lives and personas and we most definitely have private lives.

We behave one way in the pub or mall or office and another way in the privacy of our home, with our significant other, or enjoying the solitude of our own thoughts. And it goes without saying that a good life is one that has both public and private elements, working together.

Why priming in public media is different

In the course of writing about public and private marketing I keep coming back to the idea of Priming.

It’s one of the ways good advertising works and it’s the reason why public and private work together.

Priming describes how first associations then go on to affect subsequent exposures and experiences.

One supermarket conducted an experiment, playing different styles of music in the wine aisle and then analysing wine sales. French accordion music, Italian opera, Spanish flamenco guitars.

The results showed that the music primed people to be more aware, more receptive, more in the mood for wines from that country. I cannot report how Australian wines fared in this experiment!

As media people we use priming theory in terms of being more likely to notice something when they have seen it before.

This is how we’ve used cookies, building theory when we use public media to grab attention or create meaning right at the start of people’s campaign registration.

Priming in public media means that the brand gets more effectiveness out of subsequent exposures in private channels.

This is really important right now as we prepare for the cookieless future.

Cookies have always worked on a priming principle: “I have looked at a certain item, therefore when I see that item again I am more likely to notice it.”

When the use of third-party cookies ends next year there will be a hefty negative impact on digital ads.

In a study by Lumen which scenario tested the impact, there was a 41% drop in spontaneous recall when the cookie trail gets broken.

In the same study, replacing the first digital exposure with a priming exposure in public media saw the recall levels return to their original levels. This is the new planning challenge for the post-cookie world.

The media planning challenge now

There are some interesting new developments in the world of Public and Private marketing.

I’ve been seeing a stream of innovation which explores how to link the two experiences.

How can my public marketing link a consumer directly to my private marketing? Lockdown has seen the universal adoption of QR codes.

Coinbase used its Superbowl spot this year to show nothing but a QR code floating across the screen.

It cost roughly $6.5m for the spot though I suspect the production cost of the ad itself was minimal.

Justin Gibbons

For other brands it will be a way for a brand ‘fan’ to continue the conversation or find out more.

There are technologies that make public marketing a portal into a world of wonder (if that’s your thing).

There are location-based triggers that bring an extra edge for retailers or geographic targeting.

I’m not calling any one of these innovations in particular, I’m interested that they are all emerging at the same intersection of public and private.

Justin Gibbons is a founding partner of Work Research, a media consultancy, and author of several books and research papers. His new book is P² + C = 6: The New Different

RichardBon, MD, Clear Channel, on 16 Mar 2022
“Love this & if ok, will steal with pride ;-)”

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