Most marketers will have 21 June marked in bold capitals on their calendar, eager to shake off the shackles of pandemic restrictions and re-embrace the creativity and opportunity that, a year ago, they had no idea they’d be missing today.
They will, of course, be looking to capitalise on the pent-up consumer desires that can be unleashed, as people up and down the country look forward to celebrating the freedoms that over the past 12 months have been restricted.
But, as we’ve all heard time and again, we still can’t bank on what this ‘new normal’ will look like exactly. What we do know is that marketers will have to adopt a supersonic level of agility to make an impact on consumers, whose behaviour will continue changing at a moment’s notice as uncertainty prevails and new patterns are established.
Shifting message, medium and activation
We’re talking about the flexibility to switch both budgets and messages between platforms, screens and locations – a true omnichannel strategy that, despite all the talk about its importance and the advancement towards it, is still being hampered by siloed disciplines across both the client and agency landscapes.
Marketers now need to reconsider the changing balance of power when it comes to channel choice, and be able to adapt their strategy on the fly in line with the pillars of message, medium and activation – breaking down the silos between different media to plan with a truly audience-first mindset.
For example, as we’ve seen local restrictions differ hugely in line with varying Covid-19 infection rates, messaging and channels will need to vary across national campaigns that may require last-minute adaptation.
So how do you flex your regional media muscle? How do you switch tactics? How do you upweight and downweight budgets, mid-campaign? That’s what agility means right now, and we’re primed to support marketers to make those snap shifts in an informed, strategic way. Thanks to the demand-side platform in the Verizon Media network, marketers are able to adapt quickly across all channels.
Marketers will need to continue to balance recovery and growth with advertising budgets that are likely still to be under pressure.
A good example of this was a campaign we ran in partnership with Doritos to celebrate the launch of the new Playstation 5. Using geolocation-based augmented reality, we challenged users to find a number of virtual objects in real-life locations in order to win gaming prizes across five European markets. As lockdown hit in the different markets, we had to rethink the campaign and user experience.
Keeping with government guidelines we ran a location-based game across Belgium and the Netherlands, but as lockdown hit Spain, the UK and Ireland, we had to completely shift the technology to allow participants to find the virtual objects within their own homes.
We were able to pivot the campaign, still staying true to the original client objectives and the creative idea, but adapting our execution to suit the new circumstances almost in real time. We also had to convey the right messages on social and digital, to deliver both awareness and engagement, which resulted in 165,000 registered players across Europe and 550,000 game plays.
Acting on insights in real time
Fast-forward a year, and we’re sure the majority of people will want to be running out of their houses as fast as they can as restrictions ease, but that might not be the case for everyone. By utilising real-time first-party data, we can make the connection between what kind of content is most popular and what products are seeing a surge in purchase, to better understand consumer context and mindset.
Are people searching for and buying things for going out with friends and meeting up in big gatherings? Or, actually, are they researching and buying things that indicate they are still planning for home-based activities? There might be those who are treading hesitantly and cautiously, and we need to be highly sensitive to that.
We can use our data to ensure we’re getting the right message in front of the right person and not just assume the whole population is going to be thinking, acting or spending a certain way – there’s going to be a broad spectrum of consumer psychology marketers have to consider. Taking this approach, we can help marketers best shape campaigns around the products and messages they should be talking about, while offering unparalleled intelligence as to the kind of messages that advertisers need to adopt in order to have the most success in front of certain audiences. The classic principles of mindset, context and moment haven’t changed – it’s just that the mindset and context may need to be re-evaluated continually.
There have been numerous instances over the past year where brands were live with campaigns where they were unable to change their messaging due to lead times, meaning the final product in the market was out of kilter with the real-time sentiment. Take travel as an example. To ensure messaging aligns exactly with what’s really happening, we have a wealth of data from airlines, hotels and other players across the sector, through which we can paint a highly accurate picture of consumer demand to optimise brand campaigns. By tracking demand, we will be able to see the key moment for travel brands to start delivering their messages as the industry opens up again.
As travel brands clamour to be heard and make up for the losses of the past year, we know there’s going to be a tonne of noise to cut through. We can use our data to indicate to marketers when the best time will be to get in front of that noise and ensure their message is heard above everyone else’s. We’ll be able to see a research and booking spike as it’s happening, and issue a call to get a campaign out immediately.
As 2021 rolls on, marketers will need to continue to balance recovery and growth with advertising budgets that are likely still to be under pressure. Taking ownership of a heightened level of agility and flexibility through an omnichannel demand-side platform provides the opportunity to integrate all channels combining campaign planning, set up, buying and reporting under one roof.
Efficiencies in being able to quickly adapt display and video assets for digital out-of-home, and the ability to extend target audiences into areas such as digital audio, will arm marketers with the confidence to to drive ROI from performance- and outcomes-based results. This will also de-risk test-and-learn approaches as we return to business-as-usual behaviour, and reshape the narrative from the past year.
Carina Moran is senior UK communications planning strategist and Lindsay Wiles is UK head of programmatic at Verizon Media.