AdWeek New York once again brought together leading visionaries, creatives and thinkers to reconnect and explore the latest in marketing, advertising, tech and creativity. This year we were excited to have over 20 team members from across our agency attend AdWeek New York, representing all disciplines. Here are our team’s top takeaways to consider as we collectively look ahead to 2023.
The progression of programmatic media buying
As programmatic matures, measuring attention is a challenge our industry is working hard to quantify. Brands are vying for attention in an environment that is more crowded than ever; however, all attention is not equal. Increased attention doesn’t always correlate with outcomes. Ad viewability, increased ad load and measuring outcomes necessitate that a brand looks at programmatic media buying through the lens of its brand awareness. A brand with an awareness advantage can leverage low-value ad placements and still receive strong outcomes. The less brand awareness there is in the market, the more you may need to invest to gain active (versus passive) attention. In this current environment, brands need to work closely with their agency partners to ensure they are investing appropriately for their current awareness level and the desired outcomes while utilizing the most relevant media placements.
The good news is programmatic media buying continues to expand and offer more options and control to brands seeking relevant media placements. Digital out of home (OOH) is a great example of how programmatic has progressed recently. Now, digital out-of-home inventory has become accessible through digital buying platforms and not solely through direct partnerships. We can access previously high-value placements that may have been out of reach for a brand without minimums or long-term contract obligations. For example, local outdoor inventory is available for a weekend, or you can focus deployment only during the commuter times or an event without wasting dollars on the ad space during off-peak or non-event times. This kind of access and control also means we can now quickly change the creative messaging in market as well to optimize results without production or placement schedule delays.
Speaking of creative, personalization continues to remain crucial for ads to get active attention. Foundational-level data, including purchasing data, is essential to understanding a customer’s habitual behaviors. This data can help build a more complex potential customer profile, and creative should align with this profile. Creative needs to reflect the personalization of your various customer segments—one customer’s needs aren’t the same as another’s, and personalization can drive outcomes and bolster the perception of your brand through its digital advertising efforts.
The shift in social strategy
In social, brands that value creativity are winning. Younger audiences (Gen Z and A) are not responding to paid or sponsored content, but it is not because they are multi-screening. They pay attention to brands that entertain them rather than try to sell to them, and this is becoming the new focus for social. There is a decreased focus on social as a driver of ROI and more importance on building a playful online brand identity to capture attention and drive brand awareness with younger generations. The quality of the production matters less here, as Lo-Fi (low fidelity) content continues to be acceptable if it provides the right entertainment for the platform.
An entertainment-focused social strategy comes with risk and takes longer to have an impact. This means thinking of social as a tool for brand expression and moment marketing. To successfully use humor and playfulness, marketing and creative teams need open, ongoing communication and an understanding of what risks the brand is willing to take with messaging. Each social platform will need its own strategy, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all—brands need to be able to change their voice to match the audience of each individual platform to convey authenticity. However, the platform should not dictate your social strategy. While companies should consider individual strategies for various platforms, the brand’s overall strategy should drive decisions here. People want to see realness and deeply human stories from brands in social, and any shifts in social strategy must start there.
The podcasting boom brings new opportunities for your media mix
Podcasting earned a front seat at AdWeek as the industry has exploded in both size and popularity in just a few short years. One out of three Americans listen to a podcast every month, and the number of podcast “super listeners” (those who listen to hours of podcasts every week) is growing. YouTube is fast becoming the preferred platform where people go to consume their podcasts, as audiences enjoy the video component that supplements the audio. With essentially two podcast models (free with ads or paid subscription-based), it is still unclear whether people are willing to pay for them. Which of these monetization models will ultimately reign supreme remains to be seen, but this hasn’t stopped advertisers from realizing the opportunity at hand. Google recently announced that they have opened podcast-specific inventory for purchase on their platform. Advertisers can deploy either audio or video ads that can be inserted into various points of a podcast. This inventory availability combined with booming popularity creates the perfect environment for brands to revisit and explore audio touchpoints for their media mix. In the past, audio was limited to terrestrial radio or digital audio. With the decrease in terrestrial radio listeners and the fragmented and (sometimes) non-addressable market of digital radio causing challenges for advertisers, YouTube has become a centralized and accessible hub to reach target audiences who make podcasts a part of their daily lives. Google is also beginning to try to populate search results with podcasts. More to come in this space in 2023 for sure.
In health care, micro changes create macro wellness effects
A traditional focus on sick care in medicine (especially during the pandemic) has led to an increased interest in “little ways” to become healthier. This interest in micro changes shows how consumers are becoming more active and thoughtful participants in their health, particularly when it comes to self-care. Micro changes are creating macro wellness effects. An example of this is the continued popularity of wearables; consumers can monitor their health every day and track patterns in their health as opposed to relying on a doctor to tell them how they’re doing — or waiting until they need sick care. Once sick care is needed, a sense of community and connection for consumers is important (people with chronic conditions, for example, crave community with others with similar conditions).
As health care brands seek to connect with consumers at a human level, they must ensure their health data is human-centered, breaking down the complex and making information easy to understand and digestible. Chasing these insights isn’t a strategy—the important thing is to understand why trends such as micro changes and wearables are happening, see what’s behind them, and then consider what that means for your brand.