A debate within the digital advertising fraternity has raised questions about whether brands have overinvested in this whole digital lark.
Sparked by the announcement that Sir Martin Sorrell’s client P&G has decided to dial back on its Facebook advertising spend, the WPP CEO cited issues like ad viewability and the rise of ad blockers to say that perhaps brands have dipped too far into digital advertising. Meanwhile, the idea of ‘impressions’ on a paid advert as a valuable asset has lately been brought into doubt by institutions like The Economist.
The idea of ‘impressions’ on a paid advert as a valuable asset has lately been brought into doubt
This is all taken as an indication that perhaps companies were too hasty to move budgets away from more traditional methods. There may be some sense in this and this is a debate that content marketers – who will invariably need to implement some form of paid promotion – should take heed of. Advertising and marketing are both part of the marketing mix, after all.
But perhaps while advertisers question whether companies threw too many eggs in one basket, does this dismiss the collaborative power of content marketing and advertising? While content marketing regularly leverages the power of paid promotion, this debate seems to suggest the feeling isn’t necessarily mutual. Faced with the prospect of marginalised advertising powers, shouldn’t brand managers and marketing managers be leveraging content marketing more?
Take the ad man’s word for it
Firstly, creative content marketing is a ‘pull’ technique of marketing; the traditional view is that content marketing is pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum to advertising, although paid promotion in the form of social media advertising is now common. However, through good quality content, the issues of ad blocking and ad viewability, designed to mitigate the intrusiveness of ‘push’ style advertising, aren’t issues. Carefully and conscientiously crafted content is not subject to the ad blocker and is perfectly viewable to anyone that wishes to view it.
Secondly, on P&G’s decision to dial back on its Facebook spend, Marc Pritchard, P&G chief brand officer, told the Wall Street Journal: “We targeted too much, and we went too narrow. And now we’re looking at: What is the best way to get the most reach but also the right precision?”
So in this sense it’s not that paid social media marketing didn’t work; it simply didn’t produce the desired sales in this particular context. That doesn’t mean it’s incapable of doing so. Bearing in mind that P&G is one of the biggest advertisers in the world, the bar for sales was set pretty high for those Facebook ads.
Thirdly, the sheer fact that ad blockers are an issue is surely more indication that audiences do not want the old traditional methods. They don’t want to be intruded upon. Using creative content allows them to find out about a brand all by themselves should they feel like it.
I’ll always extol the virtues of combining various communication channels in order to get the best out of a client’s promotional budget. If there’s one thing that is failing when it comes to digital it is that data and the roles of different key stakeholders (especially in larger corporations) are far too siloed. In order to create a cohesive ‘customer experience’ from start to finish, you need a strategy that is the sum of all its constituent parts, taking in every element of the marketing mix.
Audiences do not want the old traditional methods. They don’t want to be intruded upon
Build traffic, drive leads
In creative content we’re running a marathon, not a sprint, so we do need to pace ourselves. The same is true of content marketing that is augmented by paid promotion. Put simply, you need to build the traffic that spreads the awareness that drives the leads that drives the sales. This model will never lead to an overnight success story, because that isn’t its aim.
If you do need to make overnight sales, then yes, a direct advertising strategy is probably a good way of going about it.
The beauty of digital in general, and specifically content marketing, is that it lends itself equally to both the new marketer and to the more traditional advertiser. Content marketing can use sales to inform its targeting strategy, and sales can – and should – use content to inform customers at the point of purchase. Your strategy and the channels you choose should map against your business needs, but that ultimately means that nothing is wasted. No content is being thrown out into the ether without reason.
Clearly, audiences don’t want a return to old school, intrusive advertising, or ad blockers wouldn’t be an issue and content marketing wouldn’t be an industry. Patience is a virtue; Quicksprout, for example, reckons that it’s only once you hit something like 10,000 to 30,000 visitors a month that you can feasibly do proper A/B testing to see what content is working for whom and accurately identify trends.
Content marketing can use sales to inform its targeting strategy, and sales can – and should – use content to inform customers at the point of purchase
Digital strategy is about continuously adapting and improving based on your various audiences’ ever-changing needs. And it’s about linking that strategy to your returns. In the case of P&G, they found one paid digital channel that wasn’t delivering; they’ll find other avenues that do.
Perhaps it’s true that some brands dove too far into digital advertising. I’d argue this supports the case to leverage creative content marketing more.