When Gene Amdahl left IBM and founded Amdahl Corporation to sell mainframe computers in 1970, he predicted that his former employer would attempt to diminish his market credibility using a marketing effort he called “Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt” or FUD. Amdahl’s powers of prediction were all too accurate and IBM’s FUD campaign nearly put him out of business.
FUD is a marketing technique that a dominant firm employs to challenge the credibility of competitive threats. It’s used to raise doubt in the minds of customers about the performance of competing products, such as when IBM encouraged its sales force to proclaim that ‘only good things happen to people who stay with IBM equipment’. FUD is not limited however to competition between businesses, it’s employed by whole industries too. There is evidence that premium publishers, and the trade bodies that represent them, are adopting FUD in response to the development of Programmatic Brand.
Their argument goes something like this: advertising needs to create an emotional connection with its audience to change behaviour and a creative message delivered in the right media is central to this goal. Programmatic does not offer guaranteed access to premium content and brands may be negatively impacted if their ads appear in environments that are not ‘on-brand’. Moreover, the ability of premium media to improve the effectiveness of the ad that it carries — known as the Media Context Effect — is supported by a number of published studies.
In this article I’d like to respond to these challenges by looking at the opportunities that programmatic offers brand builders and why traditional notions of premium targeting are becoming increasingly inappropriate, particularly across mobile.
1. We look at our phones up to 150 times a time a day and spend 80% of that time using, on average, 29 apps. Smartphone owners generally spend the vast majority of their time in short “problem resolution” tasks which include “entertain me, I’m bored”. Advertisers, therefore, are afforded a very small window of opportunity to capture attention across a fragmented portfolio of apps. Real Time Bidding offers advertisers an optimal approach to reach consumers efficiently across such fragmented inventory opportunities.
2. Media Context theory was born when linear TV was central to family entertainment. This was a time when the number of channels could be counted on one hand and media/device fragmentation had yet to appear in our marketing lexicon. Consumers now, however, enjoy myriad choices when deciding where to focus their attention, and this includes the many apps they’ve installed on their smartphones and tablets. Media Context is unlikely to be the optimal planning approach for mediums and media that evolved a generation after the theory was first postulated.
3. Pro-Premium commentators claim that programmatic evolved to meet the needs of performance marketers and therefore it has no role to play in building brand. It’s true that while early programmatic efforts were designed to maximise efficiency, classic brand-building techniques were not a consideration. However, the confluence of mobile, Real Time Bidding (RTB) and new channels such as Opinion Targeting — which allows consumers to self select by answering questions to reveal their brand intent — now allow marketers to complement their brand-building armoury by buying mobile programmatically.
4. Does context really improve the receptiveness of brand impact? Some studies have confirmed that media content affects viewers’ emotions, which in turn, has a positive influence on the processing of the ads carried. Other studies, however, suggest that such a heightened state of emotional arousal reduces ad-recall. Assuming that viewers pay more attention to content that is emotionally exciting, this results in an inverse relationship between content favourability and ad-recall. Scanning the available Media Context Effects research, it appears that there is incoherent agreement with respect to the importance of Media Context on the effectiveness of ads.
5. Mobile programmatic brand, lacks a quality index that can be used to benchmark, for example, one app publisher against another. Today, brand safety and publisher transparency must be a given for advertisers before they invest in mobile programmatic; ideally agencies and the brands they represent would like to see a quality index for apps. Assuming, however, that our publishers are safe and known, we can go on to use one of programmatic’s key features — retargeting — to affect brand metrics with message repetition and recency. The author’s own experience of running campaigns across Qriously’s AdVox Opinion Targeting platform — soliciting opinions from in-market consumers before exposing them to branded ads – has demonstrated that retargeting can impact, at statistically significant levels, through-the-funnel metrics including top of funnel awareness and bottom funnel persuasion. Lexus used AdVox earlier this year to find hybrid auto intenders for the launch of the Lexus CT and increased intent-to-test-drive by 31.7% in absolute terms.
The current demand by advertisers for “premium” content across mobile is a flinch response to three factors:
– The FUD that brands feel when considering how best to use mobile
– The move away from demographic segmentation to individually addressable audience
– Misinterpreting the modern app ecosystem.
The top apps, while not household media names, are used daily by the same audiences that read the nationals, watch broadcast TV and listen to the radio. The top app brands haven’t had decades to penetrate mass public mindshare but ask whomever sits opposite you in your office if they’ve heard of Shazam, Spotify or Candy Crush and, although only anecdotal, I expect this test to deliver a firm “yes” 9 times out of 10.
So why are these publisher brands not seen as premium? The UK’s Channel Four attracts at peak viewing, 11.6 million 16-34-year-olds, but Shazam, aimed firmly at this cohort, has 20 million users – twice the reach, yet rarely spoken of in premium media context terms. Many so-called premium brands are thus because they were burned into our psyche during the pre-internet age. Fragmentation makes it far more difficult for App publishers to achieve similar brand fame, but this does not mean they’re less effective platforms to reach and influence audience.
RTB-driven mobile brand is in its infancy and there are numerous issues that our industry collectively need to fix including brand safety standards, quality assurance and impression fraud. I’m not convinced that these problems should be addressed by looking backwards to a time when buying premium attempted to eliminate these issues. Today, eyeballs are dispersed far and wide and restricting your communications to a handful of household premium brands will limit your ability to efficiently reach your campaign objectives.
If mobile programmatic brand is to succeed, agencies and brands need to see macro scale evidence that brand attributes — including but not limited to — awareness, consideration, favourability and intent can be affected by mobile retargeting. At Qriously we’ve integrated a Brand Health Tracking engine into our Opinion Targeting platform capable of deploying statistically significant exposed vs control tests for our client’s campaigns. Our own tests have demonstrated that retargeted brand messages, irrespective of environment, shift consumer attitude to brand — particularly top of funnel awareness attributes — but admittedly this conclusion needs further investigation across a much larger sample and ideally in conjunction with our peers in the industry via macro study. My hope is that this article will serve as an invitation to my industry peers to embark collectively on this important project.