A few hours before the madness of CES officially began, a group of Media All-Stars gathered at Digital Hollywood to discuss the impact of technological trends on contextual advertising. As he delved into the evolution of real-time marketing, David Cutbill, U.S. Advisory Leader, Media and Entertainment, Deloitte & Touche, and moderator, asked the group, “What do we really mean by contextual?”
Aaron Gallagher, Senior Vice President, Digital Ad Sales, Scripps Networks Interactive, jumped right in, “It’s putting advertisers’ messaging in the right environment,” he declared. At HGTV, that means integrating advertisers’ products into sweeps and dream home giveaways, which makes perfect sense. But the marketing gods aren’t always so aligned.
As Andrew Solmssen, Managing Director at Possible pointed out, “It’s more like sponsorship than advertising, and it gets harder when you don’t know as much about the audience.”
Dan Levi, Chief Marketing Officer at Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, agreed. “Context is driven by how much you know about the consumer," he explained. "The content we run is advertising. We don’t start with content; we start with the consumer. Where they are, what they’re doing, where they’re going and what action they’re taking after (seeing a billboard). We’re really focused on attribution.”
That’s why it’s important to understand the consumer journey through all the ways people interact on their mobile phones. “They’re on Spotify …Pandora … using Google Home … it’s all being funneled through this device. And the data that’s being collected needs to be considered for consumers, because if they’re like me, I can’t get through the stuff I don’t want to see fast enough,” added Beau Avril, Global Head of Product Commercialization at Google.
“Yes, it’s about a unified data set,” said Levi. “We are at that last block … we’re also the first. Our medium is out-of-home. People have to get where they’re going, that’s proximity targeting … that last half-mile to the store. The funnel is no longer linear; we need to understand individual action and mind set.”
Avril mines his own interactive experiences to understand the relationship consumers have with their devices and content. He received a popup mobile ad recently: “Are you at Costco?” And he was! But how did his phone know? He had put Costco in his navigation system on the way there, and his phone had location services on. The popup asked him to take a survey. He wasn’t annoyed because he believes it’s the key to understanding consumers. How could Costco provide a value exchange for his time? “Offer me a promo later,” he said. “That’s the movement towards thinking about lifetime value at Google. There is no traditional funnel; it’s an ongoing relationship between a brand and a customer.”
Solmssen said the goal is to have experiences that don’t feel like intrusions, but feel helpful. “And every once in a while it happens. The downside is that we have trained people [to respond] that, whatever you do, do not interact with an ad! We have to build micro-actions that are smaller than CTR … an ad doesn’t have to take them away from their experience.”
Steven Haft, filmmaker, producer, civic leader and most recently Senior Vice President for Innovation at Time Inc., said, “I’m still stuck on how infrequently people enjoy engaging with advertising in a mobile environment -- and that’s because I don’t believe agencies are organized to deliver native at scale.
“Let’s say there’s a sperm whale traveling down the Hudson River and it’s trending,” he continued, describing a potential viral moment. “By the time someone at the agency decides to use it … and then gets approval for an image the client likes … by then -- the story is over.”
Solmssen agreed that most agencies are poorly set up to deliver at scale. “Most of the time they don’t want to customize," he said. "Ten years ago, we wanted to put TV on the web for the first time, and agencies wanted to run pre-roll and mid-roll, and it was the same thirty-second ads during the same show. How do we customize?“
Avril suggested having a library with a minimum of fifty assets for dynamic advertising, knowing which to serve at the right time. With bumper ads, six seconds long, delivering micro-moments, these short bursts would provide reminders on mobile for people to get excited about a movie or show.
“For Mitsubishi, we show different features based on what the weather is and where someone is located in the country … tiny changes, but it really makes a difference when you see something relevant,” Solmssen added.
Levi cut to the chase: “Most mobile advertising just sucks. This is a screen that is personalized. Advertising is intrusive -- get off my phone! There is a perceived value on TV … but mobile, that’s my screen.”
He continued, “The more you can create understanding with the consumer, the greater click-thru rates you will see.” In mobile-OOH, when someone sees something they have seen before on a billboard ad and then an accompanying ad on their mobile phone later, the click-thru rates are 2-3 times the industry standard. It’s not intrusive because it’s something they’ve seen before.
“I’m a billboard guy; your outdoor advertising can’t be looked at outside of the context of other media,” he added. “All of our digital billboards have cameras facing the board, and we have built social media driving programs that empower the consumer to share and we pull those feeds into the digital display, and when it appears on the board we take a picture and send it back to them. And then what do they do? They share it.” That’s how you go full circle with contextual advertising.
At Google, they’re focused on intention. “Primetime is essentially ongoing; its moments you’re willing to receive a message,” said Avril. “While there may be dayparts, it’s really about the moment you’re reaching consumers. You’re more willing to receive an ad when watching preferred content. My wife’s primetime is Instagram. Mine is my e-mail. It’s about honing in on those moments.”
To round out the discussion, moderator Cutbill asked the group to peer into the contextual future. Haft said mobile ads just aren’t good enough. “It will be interesting to see if by next year there will be more of a ‘Super Bowling’ of what works on mobile, but, yes, mobile will still be the device,” he mused.
“Machine learning is where the future is, “ said Avril. “How can our lives be made more valuable, more productive, by having tech giving us what we need before we need it? Can the advertiser experience be integrated in a way that proves lifetime value? I’m blown away by Google Home … and it’s a glimpse into the future. You don’t have to do a physical search; it will do it for you. All voice-activated. What’s my commute to work? Put my coffee on. Turn on the lights. The most exciting opportunity for consumers and advertisers is the value that can be added.”
“CPG markets are no longer going to be willing to let intermediaries have their relationships, “ said Solmssen. “They’ll want a direct-to-consumer connection, like the Gillette Shave Club.”
Levi predicted that the promise of augmented reality would come to fruition from a consumer standpoint. “Snap spectacles -- my son loves them. They fit into his world. He’s 18 and he thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world that Google knows where he was, and is giving him suggestions on what he would like. To him, it’s a value exchange.”
Therein lies the key component to successful contextual advertising -- there has to be a perceived value exchange between brand and consumer, consumer and brand, consumer and medium. That’s the future of contextual advertising.
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