Mid-year report: how media and marketing are performing so far

Halfway through 2017, James Boardman takes a look at the trends that are making their mark on the marketing industry.

reportSo far, 2017 has been a year of reassessment and substance over style. The marketing profession is losing its infatuation with buzzwords and collecting data for the sake of it, in favour of real insights and analysis. The result is smarter, more targeted advertising. Here are the five defining trends to emerge this year and how they stack up in our half term report.

 

Keep up the good work: managing the media mix

For 50 years, ‘the right content, to the right people, at the right time’ meant TV.

For the past 15 or so years we’ve been relearning the art of complexity and we’ve been getting a lot wrong. Now, the marketing industry has finally gotten better at managing complex media mixes in a sensible way. Importantly, the shiny new toys are under more scrutiny and traditional channels are being reappraised with fresh eyes. This has helped with managing our messages better and thinking more broadly and carefully about our target audiences.

 

Most improved: social media usage

While the furore around brand safety and viewability has consumed a lot of column inches and screen time this year, it’s actually part of a bigger trend in marketing – brands are becoming savvier about how they use social media.

They are opting for fewer, bigger, better pieces of content rather than a constant stream of useless annoying content. For the first time, according to the latest IPA analysis in the UK, more award-winning campaigns had social media in them than had TV in them. Interestingly, the IPA had this to say: “However, while most campaigns used social channels as part of their media strategy, few used social as a lead media and usage of social media as a lead channel has declined by 40% since 2012.”

 

Pleasing progress: Fitting purpose to culture

There’s been a lot of talk about brand purpose in recent years but it’s only now that brands have become more sophisticated in how they tie together purpose, product and cultural insights – and that makes for more relevant and interesting campaigns.

Take Vodafone’s DreamLab, an app that allows users to help find a cure for cancer by pooling their smartphones’ computing power to create a ‘supercomputer’. Vodafone is not claiming to be anything other than a telco – it’s just using the power of its customers for a greater societal benefit.

P&G’s long-running ‘Thank you, Mum’ campaign didn’t try to present P&G as an unrealistically ambitious, world-changing, poverty-solving company. It set them up as a champion of mums. Again, this is brand purpose at a scale that is connected to products and what everyone knows your company to be.

It is brand purpose that encourages reappraisal, not flights of fantasy. The end of the ‘stuck out on a limb’ CSR initiative is nigh.

 

Top marks for effort: using measurement to learn and improve

Marie Oldham, chief strategy officer of VCCP UK, commented on the recent IPA Effectiveness Awards that the winning papers “are the ones that take it right through to a proper analysis of exactly what worked in the campaigns, what effect communications had amongst all the other things you did and working that right through to an ROI based on profit”.

She’s right. Before digital, we had only small amount of data so we were good at analysing it. Post-digital, we got so focused on counting that we forgot to analyse. The most successful of the recent IPA Awards campaigns set on average 3.6 metrics – in other words, not trying to count everything but rather focusing on the things that really matter helps avoid annoying audiences with ineffective campaigns.

 

Demonstrates willingness to learn: exploiting true missed opportunities

The IPA recently identified that companies are increasingly heeding the advice of Professor Byron Sharp and his colleagues, and focusing on penetration and profit at the expense of targetting narrow audience groups. This trend is interesting for two reasons – it helps us avoid bombardment of existing customers and bring new audiences into the mix; and it starts to temper our fascination with those elusive things… Millennials.

Marketers are chasing Millennials because for a brand to be successful in 20 years’ time, we need Millennials and Gen Z to feel positively about our categories and brands. But we also need to balance long-term brand building and short-term sales – and that’s something we’re all increasingly focused on getting right.

Since the publication of Sharp’s How Brands Grow in 2010 and the work of Les Binet and Peter Field (The Long & Short of It, Marketing in the Era of Accountability, Selling Creativity Short), we’re seeing an increased focus on growing market share rather than constantly trying to extract more from existing customers. That means focusing on all your potential sources of growth – young and old.

Finding missed opportunities is more important than blindly targeting Millennials in the hope they’ll fix all our growth issues.

 

James Boardman is national head of strategy at MEC Australia and New Zealand.

 

Further reading


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