3 “Big Shifts” in the Advertising Paradigm

August 16, 2010

From my July 11th guest post on Meng Blend:  

In the old advertising paradigm, Marketers worshipped at the altar of pre-market “copy-testing,” myself included. The belief system was simple: get great TV advertising—measured by above norm copy testing results—and in-market success would follow.  

3 "Big Shifts" in the Advertising Paradigm


It was a pretty simple world—with a clear route to business results nirvana. Marketers knew exactly what they needed to focus on. And, it actually worked pretty well. In fact, some CPG companies “validated” copy testing by showing that some of the key copy testing metrics, for example persuasion, were correlated with in-market results.  

It was a great system—while it lasted.  

The Future Advertising World Looks Different  

The advertising world is changing before our viewing eyes. Beyond the obvious move– to consumer engaged, digitally enabled, social media — advertising will be revolutionized by several “big shifts.” These big shifts will upend and largely destroy the monolithic model of a single ad effectiveness measure—and will enable a much more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of ad performance in the future.  

3 Big Advertising Shifts 

Big Shift #1 – Form Factors Matter 

Advertising device “form factors” are proliferating. It’s now possible to run the same basic advertising on linear TV, non-linear DVR, on-line video, and mobile. And it doesn’t end there. With the Apple iPad, we have the makings of a whole new form factor. And newer forms are proliferating all around us—think of app driven advertising via iAd, in-store video networks, etc.  

Big Shift #1: Media Form Factors Matter -- And Are Proliferating


Why should we care about the proliferation of media device form factors? Beyond having interesting, cool new ways to consume content and connect with others, these new form factors matter to Marketers because they change how we should view ad effectiveness.  

Media device form factors influence ad effectiveness. The evidence to date strongly suggests that the same ad performs differently based on the “form factor” the consumer views it on. Surprise—you don’t really have a single ad—you have multiple ones—each one performing differently via the device it’s viewed on.  

Big Shift #2 – Content Matters 

Every Marketer intuitively knows that programming content—whether it’s a TV program, a web-site, or some other content—should either enhance or detract from an ad’s effectiveness that sits within it. Contextual ad measurement is now rapidly moving beyond on-line search and digital into other areas—including TV. And the early learnings are compelling—content does, indeed, make a big difference in how ads perform.  

For example, consumers’ attentiveness to TV programs is highly correlated with their ability to recall ads—the more attentive the program, the more they recall the ads. TV genres also matter. Web site performance varies too—the same ad works differently across sites. Content and context matters—in a big way.  

Big Shift #2: Linking Consumer Engagement, Context & Content


What’s different now is that these content based effects are measurable in ways they weren’t before. Hard facts and data about ad performance is replacing gut instinct or intuition by media planners.  

And as our understanding of the impact of content and context grows, these effects will eventually be priced into the content itself—so advertisers have to understand the differential performance by content or risk being placed at a major disadvantage in the market.  

Big Shift #3 – Synergy Matters 

I grant you that the word “synergy” has come to have negative connotations—puffery, or as one old boss used to say “all clouds, no rain.” What’s synergy anyway but a hope and a dream from a desperate salesperson? All the synergy bashing aside, advanced measurement is proving that 1+1 can really equal 3 when it comes to cross media impact—synergy is real and it’s big.  

We now know that consumers exposed to TV + On-line ads, on average, react more favorably than to either individually. At a more refined level, we also know that ad effectiveness among consumers exposed to  TV + On-Line video ads is greater than either on its own. And finally, we even know that ads seen by consumers in a combination of all three — TV + banner + on-line video ads — perform best of all.  

Big Shift #3: Platform Synergy Boosts Online Advertising


And this is just the beginning. There are thousands of other permutations—all unique to the brand, ad and contact point. The message is this: the time is fast approaching where marketers will be able to measure and understand their ads’ impact across all manner of combinations and permutations of media contact points. This is big. Integrated marketing communications is finally for real.  

So What Does All This Mean? 

If your head is spinning, it should be. Advertising effectiveness measurement is going to get a lot more complex and complicated. Advertisers will now need to understand advertising performance across a range of dimensions that they didn’t previously understand nor have knowledge of:  

  • By media device form factor
  • By program content
  • By combination of media contact points

There will be no single “advertising effectiveness” score anymore. There will be hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, all based on the media form factor consumers view advertising on, the content ads sit within, and the combination of contact points that a consumer sees or interacts with.  

Managing a Future of Advertising Complexity 

There are two paths for dealing with this potential chaos.  

First, there will be ever more sophisticated algorithms and model based approaches for managing all of this data. Marketers will need to become a lot more sophisticated at understanding how all of this works and not be overwhelmed or misled by the potential “black box” phenomenon.  

Second, advertisers need to develop a set of “universal truths” that simplify advertising decision-making. Newton created the scientific formulations underpinning the theory of gravity. But, most people simply know that a dropped apple will fall to earth, Similarly, advertisers don’t need to know every fact or formula across the above dimensions for ad success. They just need to know the “essential truths” of how advertising works to be effective. Divining these essential truths will be key to success in the future.  

We are moving from a mono-theistic “single ad performance” world, to a more complex poly theistic “many ad performance” approach. This world represents both an opportunity and a threat to Marketers.  

Advertisers who take the time to experiment, learn, and divine the new “advertising truths” in media device form factors, program content and cross-platform performance will be amply rewarded. And those who don’t – well, they’ll probably still be arguing with the CEO that business results behind the new ad campaign can’t be bad—after all, they had great pre-market copy test scores.  

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