Stephen Hunt

A meeting place for leading digital voices

Have we lost empathy for the Consumer?

As marketers, our fundamental job is to shift product. As brand marketers we are generally tasked with shifting the perception of potential buyers so that when they are next in a buying situation for a product, they consider ours more favourably and hopefully purchase it.

To influence the perceptions of the consumer, we need to understand them, we need to identify with their situation, we need to pretend we are them – we need to emapthise with them!

Traditional branding mediums like TV have known this all too well and spent the last 50 years perfecting the blend of reach and frequency built into their planning tools to drive optimal brand lift. While online video is a new medium and has it's inherent differences, it seems we aren't paying much attention to the existing knowledge at hand and have lost touch with the consumer we are inherently trying to effect.

Digital media planning is over-complicated and we all know it. There are so many metrics like clicks, completion rates, shares, likes and engagement that we often look past frequency which could arguably be more important than anything else when it comes to shifting perception. The creative itself needs to be good to do half the job but assuming you have that covered, the number of times your ad is exposed to the consumer within a certain timeframe is the ultimate determinant of whether that consumer recalls your brand and has been positively impacted by its message.

When marketers plan digital video today, we see two main objectives prevailing that inspire the title of this article:

1. Maximise Reach At The Expense Of All Other Metrics: The planner who is trying to use online video to maximize reach is going to try and keep frequency as low as possible across the buy no matter how long the campaign runs for. This is often requested to be as close to 1 as possible or 3-4 in most cases. Now empathise with a consumer and think whether being exposed to 1 ad or even 4 in a 3 month period is going to have a lasting impact on your perception of that brand. The reality is that online video is planned with a tiny portion of the budget compared to TV and yet the digital team are expected to deliver a similar gross reach with very few impressions while TV planners are building their frequency week on week towards their optimal sweet spot. Digital can be capped weekly too and even daily so it's always a shame to see a great opportunity to drive brand lift wasted by a lofty reach goal with insufficient budget to back it up.

2. Only Pay For A Completed View: The second trend is the opposite where buyers choose to pay only for a completed view for-going control of frequency altogether. Just like direct response campaigns, this de-values the CPM of the format and tends to annoy the consumer as they are constantly exposed to the same advertiser again and again leading to a negative impact on the brand. Have you been on YouTube lately for a solid session? I got served the same ad over 20 times in one session and now have a loathing hatred for that financial institution who subjected me to it.

We know from various local and international studies that a high daily frequency can drive a negative brand impact as it annoys the consumer so while it's easy to buy on a completed view, spare a thought for your consumer and consider doing a little math to back it out to a CPM before you get too excited about the perceived value.

My advice is to spend some serious time with your offline counterparts to get a solid understanding of how TV is planned and bought before applying that knowledge back into the digital world. You will need to make changes given the active nature of digital vs. the passive nature of TV but ultimately it's common sense to determine a rough, ideal frequency if you just view the creative yourself and empathise with your consumer.

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