News & Opinion

Mediatel's Future of Brands: Is the tide turning?

Speaking at yesterday's event, panellists including Wavemaker's Richard Bradford, Newsworks' Denise Turner and Ebiquity's Andrew Challier discussed digital measurement and brand safe contexts. 

After last year's revelations about online brand safety, social media's measurement mistakes and ongoing questions about the effectiveness of digital display advertising, is there a renewed focus on long-term brand building and a swing back to proven media?

In the first session of Mediatel's new Future of Brands event, Direct Line's CMO Mark Evans said that the "world has been away with the digital fairies for the past five years". Picking up on that theme, a panel chaired by Dominic Mills took to the stage to discuss whether the tide is turning in favour of brand safe contexts, content rich media and rigorous proof of effectiveness. Here are some key takeout's from the session:

"A lot of people absconded their critical faculties for digital"

The panel agreed that while money has flooded into short-term digital strategies in the past few years, there is starting to be a "sea change" in approach, according to Andrew Challier, Ebiquity's strategic marketing investment advisor.

"I get the sense of waking up", added Wavemaker's group strategy director, Richard Bradford. "I think a lot of people absconded their critical faculties for digital – the promise of this new thing that could solve all our problems through innovation, measurability and at low cost."

Meanwhile, Newsworks' insight director Denise Turner agreed that "we stopped employing our critical faculties" in the headlong rush to digital, but that while the "pendulum is starting to swing back" towards proven media, it will not go back to where it was before as "we live in a different world".

So are actions following this narrative? In the first session of the morning Direct Line's Mark Evans said that the company had pulled digital display adverting back in 2012 as "it wasn't doing anything". In a similar vein, Bradford said that "price has been a red herring for us... If you're able to turn off a whole channel, you're not getting something cheap, you're pouring money down the drain".

On whether budgets are changing, Challier said: "Yes, in some cases, we're seeing money being rebalanced across the portfolio of investment."

"The illusion of precision"

Discussing the importance of meaningful measurement, Turner said that it's easy to fall for the "illusion of precision" where anything and everything can be measured, but actually nothing of any value is.

Similarly, Bradford said that while advertisers have "measured lots of things that haven't meant anything" such as auto-play initialisation rates, it's "extraordinarily difficult to measure impact".  

"We spend lots of money on reach" he added, "but then we get very shy about sending money on genuine evaluation". However, he believes the industry is starting to wake up to the value of measurement.

So what needs to happen next? Turner drew attention to the need to measure separate aspects of digital display advertising – in order to isolate the effectiveness of certain media – as well as the value of adopting a triangulation approach in order to build a measurement story.

Crucially, Bradford highlighted the need for independent, third-party measurement as "there are so many people with a vested interest".

"We've forgotten the 'where' of media planning"

In our digital world, where your ad is encountered is more important than ever, according to Turner, yet "we've forgotten the 'where' of media planning in the headlong rush to digital".

The online ad placement revelations published by The Times last year "raised the whole debate to a much more serious level", said Workman Partnership's managing partner Liz Workman, as brand value was in danger. In essence, it universally underlined the significance of context.

Yet while brand safety is "quite negative in its connotations" according to Turner, she highlighted the fact that brands can by the same token have "a very positive benefit if you appear in the right context", including trust, engagement and relevance.

The panel were optimistic that as an industry we're becoming more focused on outcome-based KPIs and prioritising measurement. When it comes to the pendulum swinging back to proven media, Turner said: "I'm confident that behaviour will follow the narrative."   

More coverage of the event will be published on Mediatel Newsline

by Jessie Sampson 09/02/18

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