10 hard truths about media today

media sandeep

(for marketers and their agencies)

By Sandeep Joseph
This piece was first published in Marketing Weekender Issue 304

REACH IS LESS IMPORTANT THAN IT USED TO BE, THANKS TO GOOGLE AND FB. Maximizing reach is an objective that made more sense in the days of traditional media. Google and Facebook have destroyed the importance of reach: they offer it mainly as a by- product for free, preferring to charge advertisers for results or reactions to ads. Today, when an ad that people scroll past in a blur for a fraction of  a nanosecond on Facebook can count as reach, the metric is not what it used to be. Real measurable awareness, frequency, engagement, driving consideration and generating actions have all grown in importance due to the pricing models of media platforms. This puts even greater pressure on agencies (both creative and media) to deliver results, not just media or creative metrics.

DIGITAL IS NOT GOING AWAY AND NEEDS TO BE EMBRACED. Digital is at least 55-60% of all Malaysian adex today, depending on which source you trust. Does this seem enormous? Well, the worldwide share of digital is estimated at 62% for 2022. Clearly, the medium is here to stay. The sooner marketers and their agencies embrace it and staff up to deal with this reality, the better for their brands.

MEDIA IS FRAGMENTED. Many Malaysian millennials are avoiding Facebook but more active on Tik Tok and Instagram. TV viewership grew during the early days of the pandemic, then receded. Digital is not one thing, but is a plethora of options, apps and sources of news and entertainment. Marketers need to consider more than 1 option, to make an impact.

OPTIMIZATION IS CRITICAL. Any media buy needs to be monitored and optimized. Clients are now asking for agencies to share sample reports in pitches, because they want to know how the agency will optimize. But what to optimize, and how? Often there will be a multiplicity of choices. This leads me to my next point.

INVEST IN PEOPLE FOR MAXIMUM GAINS. One thing I see however is that not many clients have invested heavily in building up their own digital capacity. Thus the client personnel managing the agency may not be learning fast enough to push their agencies or make the most of that relationship and its possibilities. And they won’t know how and what to optimize. At the same time, agencies also need to keep improving their digital game.

THE FUTURE IS GOING TO BE COMPLEX.  If you think marketing is frustrating or too technical, now is the time to leave it. The future is going to get even more complex. Cometh the Cookiepocalypse, deep data analytics, martech, VR, AR and more. Continuous learning will be key to survive. If clients and agencies don’t want to learn, they are destined to be roadkill.

media sandeep

E-COMMERCE CANNOT BE GROWN AT THE EXPENSE OF BRAND-BUILDING. Bottom of the funnel marketing is good for the specific purpose of driving sales. But it cannot substitute for brand-building. Marketers must put TOFU into their diets. TOFU or Top of the funnel advertising (awareness, consideration) drives growth, often just as much as BOFU or Bottom of the Funnel (action) does. Brands of all sizes who stop advertising see a drop in sales, as the Ehrenberg Bass Institute reports. Cutting advertising in favour of e-commerce is not the answer to growth.

THE PANDEMIC HAS CHANGED CONSUMERS, PERHAPS PERMANENTLY, AND MARKETERS MUST REACT. As consumers cocoon, learn new skills on the internet, work from home or anywhere, cook and consider their relationships more deeply thanks to Covid-19, it is debatable whether life will ever be the same. This also impacts media choices: what will happen to print, cinema, magazines, out of home and even TV? The shifts in media consumption are all towards digital. How often will consumers shop in real life (as opposed to online)? Will online food ordering become a permanent feature of urban life? Will work from home or anywhere become more accepted? Most pundits predict significant changes and marketers need to gear up for evolving scenarios.

CEOS AND CFOS HAVE BEEN UNIMPRESSED BY MARKETERS. What makes me say this? Ad spends in Malaysia in 2020 fell by more than 20%. This is despite all the learnings that tell us historically that brands who invest in a recession find growth as the recession ends. Clearly Malaysia has not invested in advertising in the recession, because marketers have not been able to defend cuts asked for by their C-level decision-makers. Most brands cut spend and have not grown their spends in 2021 significantly so far. It becomes even more critical for marketers to be accountable and stick their necks out for what results ad investments can bring. Looking outside, in the UK only 7% of brands increased their spends, and 30% maintained spends. Perhaps the biggest reason why more didn’t spend is that they did not use data to decide: only 13% said they based their decisions on data. Which leads me to my last point.

DATA-DRIVEN DECISION-MAKING IS CRITICAL FOR MARKETERS. The best way to convince leadership is data. And the best way to save marketing is data. Data can provide room for controlled experimentation, and the basis for wild ideas to be implemented too. Data can provide a corridor of possibility for initiatives, campaigns, promos and tactical efforts. Data can also be used to break out from the habits of a lifetime, or conventional marketing instincts. Is data alone the answer? No, and it must always be tempered with experience and instinct.

Are these truths bearable? And can marketers and their agencies adapt? They must try, or perish post pandemic, in the new normal of media.

Sandeep Joseph is the CEO and co-founder of Ampersand Advisory, a strategic media and data-driven consultancy. The company’s mission is “business results now!” and it has won numerous local and international awards.  The views expressed here are the author’s own: you can debate with him at [email protected]

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