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Wake-Up Call: How Media Brands Can Thrive with Better Advertising

The changing state of advertising has received a tremendous amount of attention in recent years. With issues such as attribution, viewability, bots, and fraud leading to much uncertainty, brands and advertisers have had to take a cautious approach to long-term planning and investment. Media organizations, sitting at the intersection of consumer experience and advertising, are especially feeling the impact of these challenges, and therefore keen to solve them.

Still, perhaps the biggest obstacle facing media organizations, advertisers, and brands is the growth of ad-blocking technology. According to analytics firm Optimal, up to $12 billion in digital advertising revenue could be lost by 2020 if ad-blocking continues its current adoption rate. This has left some calling it the beginning of the end for advertising, while other, more optimistic stakeholders view it as the market’s way of demanding more impactful marketing experiences. At Olapic, we tend to agree with this latter segment, and believe that the shifting media model is an enormous opportunity for all players to engage and convert consumers with better experiences.

Certainly, there’s quite a bit of work to do. But if we’re honest with ourselves, advertising (and marketing in general) is overdue for a significant update. The pace of change in consumer behavior, driven by social media, mobile, and other technologies, has made it difficult for advertising and media to keep up. So even though ad-blocking is a scary reality for many, it could ultimately represent a watershed moment leading to a positive new era in marketing.

The New Media Model

“Content” has been a popular buzzword for a long time. More and more, brands are realizing it as a unique opportunity to sidestep the anti-advertising sentiment. Native ads, for example, have become more popular as a response to the call for more utility-driven advertising options. Still, brands are struggling to create enough high-quality content to fill consumers’ voracious appetite across all relevant channels.

Consumers want to rid themselves of advertising. At least, that is the narrative playing out in the marketplace. Yet while that may be the case for a subset of the population, most are simply looking for more personalization and utility in their brand experiences. In fact, according to a Pew Research study, Americans often are willing to give up some level of privacy if there is a perceived tangible benefit.

The new media model is defined by a number of characteristics, including:

  • Shorter attention spans
  • Consumers’ desire to be part of something bigger
  • Demand for integrated marketing experiences instead of disparate ones

Adrian J. Hopkins, a Content Strategist for The New York Times’ T Brand Studio, sees increasingly shorter attention spans as driving the greatest adjustment in media planning. “With so many options, content creators not only have to try harder to be relevant and garner meaningful attention from an audience, but also must be extremely effective with their messaging in the limited time that they have,” he told us.

Effective messaging in this landscape means messaging embedded with relevance and utility. At Olapic, we’ve focused on engaging people in unique and authentic ways, creating communities for consumers and brands through user-generated, or “earned,” content. We hone in on loyalty. When we’re talking about consumer experience, in stores, online, etc. you have endless options. It is about making people believe they are part of something larger, not just choosing where to make a purchase.

This leads to another important distinction. While the media landscape is changing, it doesn’t mean that traditional channels are falling out of favor. Instead, consumers are looking for cohesive experiences across all channels where they are engaging with brands. Print has been “dying” forever, as an example, but the reality is that many media brands that have invested in digital and social are seeing success across all channels. Hopkins notes that even with digital, his favorite form of advertising is still subway ads. “A brand has an audience captive for a few minutes with no internet, and your content really has to make an impression that’s strong enough for people to remember you when they get service again. Sometimes, there isn’t even a website to visit.”

He cites Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist ads as a strong example. “The whole vibe is people in the act of discovery, and you see Twitter conversations, so it feels like something familiar and that’s why it’s so effective. Olapic does a good job of this too, using real photos to connect with real people who already have an affinity towards a brand – it’s relatable.” Many brands, like Tiffany & Co., are turning to offline channels given the overwhelming amount of digital media. Offline channels, in a way, are experiencing a renaissance.

Keeping the Consumer at the Forefront

Relatability is key. Content, and advertising, must fit into consumers’ lives organically and add value. For our clients, we’ve realized tremendous results from curating, activating, and measuring the wealth of user-generated, or “earned,” content being shared on social networks on behalf of brands. Across all verticals, consumers prefer earned content to brand-owned creative because it is more relatable, authentic, and honest. Additionally, it leads to greater utility because consumers can see how a product would actually integrate into his or her life.

Ultimately, while we are in a period of enormous upheaval for advertising, the goal has remained unchanged. Brands, advertisers, and media organizations must engage consumers in emotional and impactful ways if they want to realize success. Smart brands will adapt, quickly.