In defense of advertising: 5 steps to deliver long term value to your business and your customers

Agnieszka Kendrick

26 February 2020

I recently tried to view an article on The Independent, a UK online news publisher, and was greeted by a pop-up window asking me to disable my ad-blocker. Not an unusual request, but what came next was something new to me. The message explained that advertising funds The Independent’s journalism, and I could either choose to disable the ad-blocker or pay a fee to access the news on its website. Which seemed fair.

Against a grumbling backdrop of stories of advertising bad practice, this message presented a glimmer of hope – and a vision for how advertising might contribute value to brands, publishers, and consumers long into the future.

A Fair Value Exchange is key to advertising’s future

The notification was a reminder that there are no free lunches. Advertising pays journalists’ salaries and without it most websites would need a paywall to survive. I would suggest many of the online services we know and sometimes love probably wouldn’t exist – certainly most, if not all, of the social networks we use.

At Metia we champion the notion of a Fair Value Exchange, particularly in the context of asking for customer data. But that idea also applies to us all as consumers. What sort of exchange are we participant in when we access ‘free’ content?

Invariably, we hastily Accept Cookies and hand over our personal data. In exchange publishers sell that data to advertisers, using the proceeds to create more ‘free’ content. When advertisers and publishers get the balance right, advertising enriches our online experience by allowing consumers to easily access great content they would not otherwise pay for. This provides benefits for publishers, advertisers, and consumers.

Of course, there are bad actors present – just look at the ever increasing levels of ad fraud for evidence. Misaligned incentives and opaque buying systems have nurtured exploitation throughout the media supply chain. However, it doesn’t need to be this way. There is a clear, fair value exchange available to consumers, advertisers and publishers without bad actors exploiting the system. Given the technological progress we are seeing in advertising and related sectors, it’s now very possible to do right by everyone.

Delivering long term value through advertising

Here are 5 steps marketers can take to improve the effectiveness of their advertising while also providing increased value to their customers:

1. Marketers must take the lead on how and where they advertise their brand. You must understand the channels being used and exactly where your ads are shown. The reliance on outdated commission-based pricing means many media agencies are still incentivized to simply spend your money, and fast. Advertisers must take responsibility to ensure their own interests and those of their agencies are aligned.

2. Ensure your advertising supports the full customer journey. Keep messaging fresh and relevant. Most customers will see ads multiple times before taking an action, so sequence messages to tell a story rather than serving the same ad repeatedly. Be mindful of frequency capping too, this limits the number of times an individual sees any advert. These are especially important factors in B2B sales, where longer consideration periods are common.

3. Marketers must be smarter with data. Use audience insight as an input to campaigns to ensure messages are more relevant and always served within the right context. While broader targeting often works for brand building activities, marketers promoting specific solutions or looking to generate leads usually require more focus. Review past campaigns with an open mind, identify areas of wastage to remove and explore new hypotheses to test in your next activity.

4. Utilize technology to help validate metrics and safeguard your brand. Partnering with a trusted verification vendor, either via your agency or directly, ensures you are following current industry best practice and are mitigating risks such as fraud and placing against inappropriate content. Ad fraud in particular is a fast-moving and constantly changing threat – while you cannot completely eliminate the risk you must take steps to reduce it.

5. Measure, measure, measure. Judge the success of your advertising by the outcomes that matter to your business – and be mindful that these may not be the metrics provided by your agency, or even those demanded by your sales team. Collect data from everything you do and make real-time changes to deduce what works and what doesn’t. Advertising is no longer a single shot process of fire and hope – you can shape success in-flight. Marketers who fail to take this opportunity are handing the advantage to their competitors.

With the arrival of tighter privacy regulations, and against a background of well publicized malpractice, advertisers and publishers are under intense scrutiny for their behavior.

Taking a balance and responsible approach to advertising will not only leave marketers on the right side of history, but will also deliver tangible benefits to their businesses, and to the customers they serve.

If the idea of creating a more positive world of advertising grabs your attention please get in touch, we love sharing ideas on best practice. If you are client-side marketer even better. Advertising needs pressure on agencies from their clients to drive these best practices.