The State of Paid
Apr 1, 2016
Anybody else feel like they’re constantly hearing differing opinions and ideas for paid media planning and tactics? We decided to ask two of our strategists – Lou Tufillaro and Meghan McKeon – to weigh in on the topic.
First, though – why these two?
Before coming to Centerline, Lou was involved in the planning and execution of national media campaigns for brands like Char-Broil and Texas Pete. He was directly responsible for determining how to report channel-specific performance on various owned properties, turning into a watchdog for channel performance.
“I look at media performance beyond the surface-level metrics, and will always push brands to connect media tactics to value,” he explains.
Meghan has spent the last five years watching social media transform from an organic, free-flowing social environment to a new, exciting advertising platform. She’s worked with big budget brands to learn the ins and outs (and hows, and whys) of the content/paid mix.
Now, let’s get started.
Centerline: What does activation and paid media planning mean to the non-linear buyer’s journey? How does one plan for it?
Lou Tufillaro (LT): There are many ways paid media can help a brand be where their prospects are looking, and/or foster general awareness. Examples include influencer outreach, targeted content boosting in social, retargeting, direct buys, syndicating content…the list goes on…
Meghan McKeon (MM): I think that a non-linear buyer’s paid media planning is very similar to that of a linear buyer’s journey – it just means a different content strategy is needed.
LT: …Using SEM to drive traffic while we wait for organic rankings to build, pre-roll, streaming…
When should channel planning be considered in the creative process? Before, during, or after?
LT: Before. I’ve seen great ideas fail because the channel was not considered. It’s all about what you want to achieve. Know your goal, understand the channels that will reach your buyer, and design your content to suit.
MM: Before/During…I agree with Lou, with the exception that sometimes the creative idea takes precedence, and then you plan for which channels are right for creative execution. It’s a fine line because channel planning should never be after creative has been completed, then we’d still be working in silos.
What does it mean to be “agile” across channels? How does that influence paid planning?
LT: Create, test, adjust, test, adjust, test, never stop? I would love to find a client that is interested in testing the waters with multiple creative concepts before going all in with a heavy spend. We would nerd out so hard over the data.
MM: Agile across channels means that we should constantly be looking at how paid is performing, and always be ready to spot opportunities and quickly adjust.
LT: As far as planning, I feel like planning and agile are oxymorons. There is always some degree of planning, but an agile mindset means we understand we don’t have all the answers, and rely on real audience feedback.
MM: In terms of planning, this means the paid agency and the creative/strategy agency and the brand need to be well coordinated. As Lou says, there is always a degree of planning, however planning for opportunistic shifts in both paid and content should also be “planned” for.
Are ads really “dead?” Or are they still integral to the content marketing mix?
LT: No…unfortunately? It’s all about proper targeting. The good: TV is still the best way to reach a wide audience. Pre-roll ads are even more targeted than TV and can be clicked-through. Facebook targeting is crazy precise. Streaming ads, while still disruptive, reach a fairly targeted audience. SEM is expensive but highly effective if done well. And don’t forget that radio still works, billboards still work, apparently newspapers still reach boomers…
What could be better? Display/banner ad CTR and view-through can be measured. The “halo effect” of awareness is nearly impossible to measure. But there is a lot of sketchy stuff going on in this channel. I’ve seen junk click numbers as high as 95%….I’ll rant about that later.
And, when it comes down to it, what’s the expected end game from an ad and a paid influencer-written blog post?
MM: Ads aren’t dead, they might just be non-traditional ads disguised as an editorial feature, influencer post, Snapchat video, consumer review, etc. And as platforms evolve, they are getting better and better at injecting ads as part of the platform experience, becoming more organic and less intrusive.
This is a challenge for brands and their agencies – as consumers/users become more aware of the advertising around them, we have to be more creative in how and where we position ourselves through advertising.
What are the trends influencing the paid media landscape?
MM: Consumers and platforms…or platforms and consumers…are influencing the trends.
To me, the most amazing thing about social media and the digital world is the speed at which one can receive feedback. Platforms have caught on, and have began listening, analyzing, learning and changing based on consumer behavior online. I like to think of it as consumers “break” platforms – they figure out a way to use it in a way that the platform wasn’t necessary designed for.
On the flip side, there are definitely platforms that have changed they way consumers digest content, like Twitter and Snapchat. Either way, the digital space is constantly changing and therefore so is the ad space.
This is another case for why we need to work closely with paid agencies. From a creative execution standpoint, we need to understand these new trends and how they are performing in order to evolve our creative thinking.
LT: I think the same principles of proper targeting with a seamless CX are still driving things, but they’re just now actually becoming enabled by technology.
Facebook Canvas is a great example of something that can be hyper-targeted while delivering an immersive experience, that avoids a slow-loading landing page and keeps you in Facebook.
What research methods or key insights influence how we decide which channels to activate?
LT: In my experience, ad buys were based on consumer research studies. Our research group would deliver segmentation studies, like demo and psychographics, and a media planning agency would use this info to recommend buys given the vertical.
I would hope our clients would have some level of customer research, or a general idea of how they plan to activate their marketing efforts. This would be Centerline’s entry point into the conversation.
MM: I’ve had the same experience as Lou. But I definitely think it’s a mix of an art and a science. Some of the decision making should be based off of research, which is primarily done on the brand side, and the other part of decision making practice should be based off of what’s trending, what’s working for other brands, what will grab the user’s attention, etc.
What role does syndicated content play?
LT: This is another activation channel, and again it all depends on the vertical. Paid syndication services like Outbrain are responsible for putting much of the internet’s “from similar publishers” content in sidebars.
But many verticals are likely to have non-paid syndication channels. Even Reddit can be a syndication channel.
MM: Agree with Lou in that syndicated content crosses from organic to paid and back again. I think in some ways syndicated content is a great way to extend a successful or resonating message, which helps tell a holistic story across all channel points.