Opinion: How legacy media can get back into the demand generation business
Coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, legacy media have an opportunity to get back into the demand generation business by stepping into advertising’s deepest breach. Half the advertisers we’ve interviewed in the past month aren’t sure what their messages need to be. Most have no roadmap for getting back to full-on, comprehensive marketing. Social unrest exacerbates the problem.
The pandemic has accelerated media’s race to the bottom on multiple levels, as advertisers have prioritized short-term survival. Fifty-four percent have pulled money from traditional media and 33 percent from direct-digital media to use for programmatic, performance-driven buys that can be instantly reallocated and need only an available-now message. Meanwhile, fewer, smaller RFPs exhaust legacy media’s decimated sales teams.
Advertisers can’t afford to stay boxed in the bottom of the funnel any more than legacy media can afford to keep scrambling in a demand management model with declining returns.
Most advertisers face grow-or-die comebacks. They will need brand messaging and media to refill their marketing funnels in reverse and approach their primary goals. In May, advertisers ranked annual revenue goals (62 percent), customer loyalty (59 percent) and brand sentiment (49 percent) ahead of short-term sales (46 percent). Moreover, two-thirds of client-side marketers—the people who set budgets—view advertising as an investment to be maximized rather than a cost simply to be optimized.
Advertisers need to rebuild the marketing funnel from the bottom up. They can do it by making a few fundamental changes:
Put brand first again and refocus on building real relationships with consumers
Continuing emphasis on transactions will erode the brand affinity and loyalty that drive lifetime value.
Prioritize the right message in the right place over the right person at the right time
As consumer sentiment shifts faster and more continuously, adaptive messaging will be essential. Meaningful brands will serve consumers, not follow and intercept them.
Work with media that have relationships with audiences, not just connections to traffic
This will help define and shape messaging with contextual relevance to consumers with specific content in common. It’s simple for legacy media to use audience panels for real-time message testing, which can be immediately translated into a contextual opportunity.
There’s more engagement to monetize as media consumption escalates, and the creative community has risen to the challenge of speed. For example, TV viewing has increased nearly 50 percent among younger adults; screen time across media has increased substantially. Media need to double their emphasis on insight, foresight and counsel to provide a compass, not just a communications platform.
Treat insight as the new currency
Media can make its greatest contribution to advertisers’ new normal by deciphering consumer sentiment. Three-quarters of advertisers are prioritizing context more since the pandemic started. While we’ve heard a lot about the flexibility advertisers need in moving budgets and ad positions, the seismic opportunity is translating what audiences care about now into relevant, meaningful content that engages them on those terms.
Show advertisers some examples of what’s working where, when, and how, for brands in similar situations
They’re hungry for lessons to build on, and there are no firm best practices yet.
Reinvest in insights pros and salespeople
The counsel that advertisers need most requires person-to-person communication with experienced people who are fluent in the content and audience. There’s nothing automated about it.
The creative community has already overcome principal barriers to adaptive messaging. Creative teams are making ads in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost. Media need to respond with adaptive, brand-tailored avails across their platforms.
By providing a barometer for advertisers, media can help drive recovery rather than just positioning to hopefully benefit from it. Advertisers will rediscover media’s greatest power on a more fundamental, strategic level.