Digital is not ‘cheap media’, and this view needs to change

Despite the bulk of conversations about media strategy focusing on how to drive effective integrated campaigns, I spend a lot of my time talk talking to brand leaders about their TV investment. TV is still king in Asia, with countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia maintaining high levels of viewership and TV-centric media plans. Investment in TV is still huge amongst the brands we work with – on average the lowest level of investment in TV is still higher than the highest digital investment.

The well-founded belief behind this is that securing the highest share of voice on TV results in the most notable impact on sales. However, many brands are finding that they need to divert higher investments towards TV in order to win the share of voice battle, especially around festive events such as Christmas or Ramadan, which some marketers say are starting to feel like black holes for budget. Is continuing down this route the right move?

TV is seen as straightforward. Digital channels are not.

The credibility of digital to provide the solution to the TV arms race has also come under criticism in the past few years, with the likes of brands such as P&G cutting spend on online channels and seeing no impact on metrics. With a variety of possible ways of tracking performance, it’s also hard to benchmark the results against the performance of TV. But does this mean we should reduce spend here?

At a point at which both TV and digital are creating headaches for marketers, it’s time to evaluate the investment we’re putting into both and focus on a more holistic approach. How can we allocate budgets in a way that takes into account the effectiveness of every dollar?

We’ve worked with advertisers in Indonesia who decided to decrease TV spend substantially over Ramadan and instead divert budget towards digital channels such as YouTube. The result? An improvement in KPIs with lower investment. Every channel played a different and complementary role, with TV building awareness and digital impacting consideration and purchase.

A recent study we conducted with Google looked at performance of cross-media campaigns across Southeast Asia. The research revealed that a lot of advertisers were aiming for a frequency of around 20 to 25 for TV campaigns – in other words, they wanted their target consumer to see the ad over 20 times. However, the optimal frequency that balanced outcomes with spend was around 15.

In contrast, the digital strategy on YouTube was for a frequency of less than five over the course of the campaign, or less than one per week. Investment in digital was so low it wasn’t meeting the threshold to be effective and therefore not perceived as a successful approach. However, the campaigns that aimed for had a higher frequency on YouTube (a frequency of more than one per week) over a longer period of time (longer than eight weeks) secured a significant higher impact and demonstrated the potential effectiveness of these digital channels.

Digital is not “cheap media”, and this view needs to change.

Paying peanuts for digital campaigns then expecting results is not going to work as the media behaves totally differently to TV.

Brands need to be ready to create custom content for a channel like YouTube, and be willing to be flexible with their budgets and timelines to find the best mix. In doing so they can discover more effective ways of winning the share of voice battle and identifying the threshold investment levels that work for their brands.

Building a holistic strategy

  1. Accept that TV is important, but don’t get sucked into the black hole. If your investment in TV is increasing but the metrics aren’t moving, be open to more inventive approaches.
  2. Reassess what you’re measuring. You need to be measuring the right things if you want to establish the effectiveness across different media.
  3. Stop underinvesting and expecting returns. Digital is not cheap – it can even be a waste of money if you are not prepared to invest enough to meet the threshold.

The writer is Pablo Gomez, regional chief digital officer, Insights Division, Kantar.

(Photo courtesy: 123RF)

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