As digital budgets become bigger and bigger, networks and platforms – in their attempts to follow the money – will be offering new opportunities to advertisers, many of which will be more relevant to brand marketing and less appropriate for direct response. However, these tactics can and should be used to support a direct response strategy – and we’ve outlined how.
Digital ad spend surpassed TV for the first time in 2016 and, with each passing year, more money will be funneled away from TV and into digital. As an agency, we’ve written at length about why digital is the perfect medium for direct response marketing, but as digital budgets become bigger and bigger, networks and platforms – in their attempts to follow the money – will be offering new opportunities to advertisers, many of which will be more relevant to brand marketing. However, these tactics can and should be used to support a direct response strategy. Outlined below are a few (of many) changes happening in digital advertising, as well as some tips to leverage them to support your own direct response initiatives.
New ad formats have created a mobile-friendly space for brands to create engaging, interactive multi-media mobile ads. For example, Facebook recently rolled out Facebook Canvas Ads, allowing advertisers to create custom, immersive mobile advertising experiences providing new storytelling capabilities that aren’t possible with a 300 x 50 pixel rectangle. The Facebook Canvas Ad is a full-screen experience that supports image galleries, videos and product feeds and loads ten times faster than standard mobile web. It seems less like an ad, and more like a branded microsite.
Similarly, Snapchat’s advertising platform, released in 2016, has provided digital advertisers with some of the most playful and engaging advertising opportunities to date. Snapchat’s ad products range from custom image filters and lenses (the thing that turns your face into a strawberry or a dog) in addition to several different types of Snap Ads. With no call to action in sight, branded lenses and filters are a new way to get customers to engage with a brand and create amplifiable content, driving greater awareness and interaction with a brand in a format native to the platform.
Lastly, video as a direct response tactic rarely performs as efficiently as search or display advertising, yet we are seeing increasingly larger shares of advertisers’ budget being funneled into digital video. According to a 2017 Video Ad Spend Study by IAB, video represents 54% of the average digital budget (up 67% from two years ago). A key reason cited for the increase is the proliferation of original, high-quality digital video content, which has provided advertisers with a greater opportunity to put their ads next to higher quality digital content.
These developments are a part of a larger trend making digital more effective for brand marketing, however these opportunities shouldn’t be ignored by those in direct response. Driving awareness should be seen as an upfront investment to create long-term lift that can then be captured with an effective direct response strategy.
First, test small and define it well. New digital tactics are much easier and less risky to test than other media, so the first step is to allocate a small budget for testing. In addition, it’s also important to acknowledge from the beginning that these tactics are higher up the funnel so realize your goals will be different and define in advance what they are. It is also likely that the lift from these awareness tactics won’t be seen immediately, so when these objectives are being defined it is important to also set a realistic timeframe.
Secondly, timing is important. Pick a time during a seasonal upswing for your business where potential advertising inefficiencies won’t hurt your overall bottom line and when you may have incremental budget to test. Also, avoid testing new tactics during competitive periods, which will drive up advertising costs. Black Friday, for example, is probably not the best time to test something new, since you’ll be paying more on average for clicks or impressions while you work out the kinks of your new tactics.
Thirdly, view your digital strategy holistically. If these ads are working to drive awareness higher up the funnel but aren’t necessarily driving conversions directly, it’s likely that your search campaign will be doing most of the heavy lifting to bring those conversions home. If there’s a significant increase in the amount of conversions coming in through search keywords (in particular, brand keywords), then these awareness tactics are doing their job. Keeping an eye on view through and assisted conversions in Google AdWords and Analytics will also give you a better picture of how your digital tactics are working together.