The Great Re-Opening Calls for a Great Re-Think of Your Media Mix

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Earlier this summer, GroupM’s Mindshare ran a study which found that Americans are planning to spend more time outside this year, particularly in these warmer months. Not Earth shattering, I know. However, when you read the fine print, the study is a bit more revealing. It indicates that these same consumers plan to spend more time outside this year than years prior to Covid and spend less time on devices and engaging with screens than years prior to COVID.  

Now, that’s a bit juicier. Yes, folks, we’re going back to the future, when people actually want to interact with each other in the physical world. Just as consumers are utterly exhausted with the terms ‘unprecedented’ and the ‘new normal,’ one thing is clear – they are also utterly exhausted by staring at their phones and TVs. We’ve already started seeing this with Roku’s earning report showcasing the decline in streaming hours and with Facebook and Apple’s griping about mobile attribution re: iOS 14.5 (spoiler alert – there just aren’t as many people on their phones this summer). 

This is both bad and good news for marketers. For media planning purposes, the bad news is marketers need to re-plan everything. 

First off, they are way over-leveraged on CTV. I get it —CTV has been the shiny new thing for the past several years. Consumption behavior rightfully exploded due to cord cutting, and the pandemic accelerated the trend. And while leaning into this format made sense during the height of the pandemic, it’s leveling out now. Just look at the engagement for the 2021 Olympics; they were below expectations on both linear and streaming. So now, as summer winds down and school boots back up, parents aren’t saying, “Okay, kids — let’s sit inside and watch and stream more TV.” I know I’m not saying that. My kids need fresh air. I’m turning off the wifi; we’re going out. 

And, with that, is the good news: marketers know where everyone is. Everyone can be found outside, on the road, exploring our great cities, and will be for (at least) the rest of the year. 

So, now what? Out-of-home ads? Those are just a collection of signs on sticks that can’t be measured, right? It’s hard to prove a return on investment or achieve measurable campaign goals with that channel, right? Out-of-home is just a small, supplemental part of the brand’s advertising mix — a vanity play that represents roughly 4-5% of measured media. That’s all it will ever be, right? 

But today’s world is different. Brands can re-plan their media mix and use intelligent out-of-home to deliver on the same goals they used CTV, and frankly all digital, to meet: brand awareness, engagement, and response. Here are some tips for marketers rethinking their media plans amid the return to the great outdoors.

Focus on Relevancy and Attention

If we’ve learned anything during the cookie era of digital advertising, it is that you’re only as effective as your business says you are. Don’t believe the effectiveness of your marketing spend from anyone, especially Facebook and Google.

As marketers, we need to focus on relevancy and attention; that’s what moves consumers to act, not gaming attribution. Larisa Johnson from the NBA captures this perfectly. Collect data from your various sources, and then see how your media is moving your business forward, not how your partners are gaming the system. Measure everything, and do your own homework. We’re seeing more and more advertisers be highly successful doing this. 

In out-of-home, you can now measure everything you’re accustomed to seeing measured; it’s just a bit more complicated, as you don’t convert on the physical screens. Do it, and don’t be surprised when ads on 700 square foot screens perform better than those on 12 square inch screens.

Stay Flexible

As things continue to evolve, marketers need to remain flexible, ready to change strategies and creative in real-time. Brands learned the hard way in 2020 about the need to have the ability to pivot on a dime. 

In 2021, brands that don’t have this down are falling even further behind. Pivoting doesn’t mean abandoning advertising altogether or eliminating channels. Even during the height of the pandemic, out-of-home advertising in essential service locations was a reliable avenue for marketers to reach valuable consumers.

Keep Advertising Consumer-Centric 

What continues to be a struggle for many brands is keeping advertising focused on the consumer. Every interaction with a consumer is about said consumer and not your brand. This is especially important after the suffering collectively felt during the pandemic. Humans yearn for connection. In the physical world this burden is eased, and there are countless examples of poignant creative where brands can emotionally connect with consumers in the real world (without the intrusion sometimes felt with digital advertising). Consumers don’t see channels; they see convenience or inconvenience, friction or fluidity. The advertising industry must conduct business with this approach in mind. 

In short – what an opportunity! The world was turned upside down, and as an advertising industry we responded by reaching audiences sheltering in place during ‘unprecedented’ times. Now we have another unique opportunity — to connect with an eager consumer population outside, untethered to devices, with an energy and spirit we’ve never seen. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be innovative, and successful brands are going to take full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime great re-opening.

Craig Benner is Founder and CEO of Accretive Media.

Craig is the Founder and CEO of Accretive Media, a programmatic digital out-of-home advertising platform that empowers brands to become a part of consumers’ everyday lives. He has worked relentlessly to help brands achieve their objectives through addressable and accountable digital media.