While it may not be right to concentrate on sales over brand, that’s the way the money is going
The battle between creative and targeting is as old as marketing itself. It forms the basis of the ‘line’ between advertising and direct marketing. And before the web, the fact that ad agencies described themselves as above the line while their DM colleagues were below the line tells you all you need to know about the perceived pecking order, no matter what you think the ‘line’ actually means.
One of the interesting effects of interactive media has been to throw new light on traditional perceptions. In the old days, only DM campaigns could be measured in terms of results. Creative was measured in terms of brand uplift, propensity to purchase or perhaps even number of awards won, so no direct comparison was possible between the two. Internet advertising changed all that.
Four years ago, at an event organised by the IAB and IDM, the then-senior manager of Sony Europe’s Database Marketing Communications Group showed an untargeted email that included the Sony Bravia ad where paint was sprayed up tenement blocks, followed by a visually dull but very targeted email campaign for digital cameras, and asked the audience to guess which was more successful. To no-one’s great surprise (it was a digital and DM audience), the targeted campaign wiped the floor with the most celebrated ad of that year.
Of course, you can argue that one was branding, the other sales, and comparing them is missing the point. But interactive advertising has tilted marketers’ emphasis far more towards quantifiable results, further driven by the recession. So while it may not be right to concentrate on sales over brand, that’s the way the money is going.
Recently this change manifested itself in the rise of new targeting technologies: behavioural targeting, retargeting and real-time bidding based on previous behaviour. At the recent nma Live conference on RTB, Sky’s head of sales and online marketing said the broadcaster rationalised its creative agencies last summer to ensure they had the right technical credentials to fit in with its long-term plan to adopt dynamic creative optimisation: the ability to tailor ad messages to users on the fly, based on their relationship with Sky (nma 21 April 2011).
This is clearly much closer to the DM model, and the fact that it’s the creative agencies that are having to change suggests the old hierarchy is under pressure. Sky also expects half its online display budget will be spent via real-time bidding within two years.
Clearly the sweet spot for advertisers (and their agencies) is to deliver great creative that’s perfectly in tune with and delivered to a precisely targeted audience. But in terms of driving response, which is where advertisers are putting their money, that creative will be less about big ideas and more about precise messaging. And that’s only going to challenge advertising’s old pecking order even more.