The media and advertising landscape has become far more complicated for marketers over the last several years, given the rise of social media and other new platforms. But the current pandemic—coupled with more-recent public conversations about race and social justice—have put marketers in an even tougher position.
In mid-June, Battery convened several top marketers from its portfolio to talk about the current environment in an online conversation called “Making Every Dollar Count: Demand-Gen, Media Buying and Advertising During the COVID-19 Era.” The online event, hosted by marketing consultant and former Battery Executive in Residence Jonathan Sills, featured executives from ad-fraud detection company Cheq*; business-intelligence company SiSense*; and global media company Minute Media*.
Daniel Avital, Cheq’s chief strategy officer, kicked off the conversation by noting that the cost of online advertising, measured in CPMs, has dropped markedly across all platforms over the last several weeks. These platforms ranged from open web display to mobile-app display to search to digital radio, among others. Non-online platforms like out-of-home advertising are also relative bargains now, other panelists noted, given recent stay-at-home orders.
But while prices have come down, risks have increased, too. There has been a 21% increase in click fraud across paid search and social channels recently, Avital noted. There is also the broader issue of context—what types of messages are appropriate today if they’re being delivered in channels full of news or images about virus-related hospitalizations or racial strife. Often this requires a softer approach—calls to actions like downloading a whitepaper or inviting a potential customer to a free trial, say, instead of aggressively pushing a coupon for a product discount.
“The context really matters,” said Rich Routman, Minute Media’s president and chief revenue officer. In some cases, it’s smarter to spend money today on influencer marketing, rather than social media, given the potential downside. Conversions may be slower, but they may be safer, he noted. Routman also likes channels like LinkedIn, Reddit and online industry conferences these days. Costs for sponsoring those events have come down, compared to live gatherings, but “the audience is still captive” and can be tapped, he said.
With social-media platforms like Facebook and Instagram dominated by social and politically themed content, there can sometimes be questions about whether any corporate-brand message on those platforms could be seen as tone deaf, Sills noted.
Brands may not be able to tell their usual story on all their usual platforms, but they need to remain authentic to their core values, said Danny Essner, the vice-president of revenue marketing at SiSense. He advised brands against inserting themselves into socio-economic or other conversations if they don’t do so normally.
Still, this unusual economic time also provides companies with a good opportunity to “think about your brand purpose more deeply,” Routman noted. “You want your brand to stand for good.” And that could pay dividends later, he noted.
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