How to Make Your Media Spend Work Harder in a Down Market

By : Will Post


There is solid research that tells advertisers to spend during a recession. Whether advertisers can take that advice or not, one thing is for certain, if we are entering a down market, there will be extra scrutiny on every media dollar spent.

Advertisers feeling the pressure to squeeze performance out of their media spend have a choice — they can stick to familiar channels and activities and hope that performance somehow improves over the status quo. Or they can place smart bets to help make their dollar work harder. Without being unnecessarily risky, advertisers can lean into untapped data, AI, streaming technology, and a host of other innovations that can give advertisers a boost.

Rethink High Value Channels
Brands are currently in a battle for a small, but valuable pool of premium CTV inventory. With the quality of linear TV but the targeting and measurement capabilities of digital, it’s no surprise that brands are willing to pay big money for this. However, there are other ways of getting the value of CTV with a little less competition.

A recent report from Kantar shows that “virtual product placement” – i.e., digitally inserting product into streaming content can deliver major results. Recent Research shows that product placement in the last season of Stranger Things drove $27 million in value for their advertisers.

Not only that, audiences prefer it seven times over regular spots, and there was a 20 percentage point increase in conversion in a test that compared TV spots alone to a combination of virtual product placement and TV spots. Brands can feel confident with this kind of research that they are hardly making a risky bet. Virtual product placement can also be bought at scale via programmatic channels, which gives brands the ability to reach large audiences without a lot of legwork.

Brands that are willing to move beyond the premium upfront and NewFront CTV inventory from the top tier networks will find a lot of value in the “premium middle.” SSPs like Magnite, PubMatic, and OpenX provide access to a wide variety of CTV content that enables both content targeting and audience targeting for lower prices than the top tier. Now is a good time to test this inventory and potentially swap some of the pricey stuff for some more targeted inventory that comes at a better price.

Boost Performance with New Technology
Across digital advertising, companies are continuing to improve capabilities, even in tried-and-true channels. For example, SeenThis uses streaming technology to enable advertisers to run high quality video advertising in display banner slots. For media buyers with video on the plan, this can be a fantastic way to reduce costs while still ensuring a top-notch experience.

Another important element to consider for today’s media buyer is identity. As advertisers try to leverage their own first party data, they are looking for the most effective approach. One major issue that can make or break performance is match rates. Working with partners that have high match rates can ensure higher addressability and higher scale. This gives brands more flexibility to pick and choose what they buy, so there is more room for some budget management. Brands need to ensure that they have flexible identity capabilities and work with partners that have their own identity spine and enable a wide range of data integration to maximize reach and match rates.

Get Creative with Creative
A recent study from Westwood One shows that advertisers’ perceptions are misaligned with reality. While many advertisers are focused on audience targeting as a performance driver, creative is a much bigger contributor to campaign performance. Marketers underestimate the impact of their creative on sales outcomes by 64 percent. Brands can get much higher campaign outcomes if they focus more on creative. Creative needs to be tailored to specific platforms and gets stale over time, for example. With the right insights and creative data available to brands, teams can make informed changes to ads that can deliver big outcomes.

What’s more, the different creative options available to brands today is mind boggling. From shoppable banners to custom sizes that takeover an entire phone screen, now is the time for brands to test creative types to differentiate themselves while everyone else plays it safe. According to one study, interactive advertising is the most effective format to get audience attention.

Find Internal Goldmines
Every company has hidden treasure that can be leveraged in new ways. For example, a company might have a huge loyalty subscriber base that is being underutilized for campaign targeting. A global brand’s European media team might have created an incredible campaign that can be repurposed in the U.S. A company’s content library might be a perfect catalog for new personalized creative.

Marketers will only find these hidden gems if they go looking for them. Now is a good time to take stock internally. Meet with counterparts in other brands or regions to brainstorm. Connect with marketers on channels like email and search to see if there are ways to borrow data, ideas or work more closely. So often, there are ways to improve without spending a dollar.

Our industry recently survived the wild swings of the pandemic and came out stronger for it. While a recession may be looming, we now have the tools we need to make the best of the situation. The brands that make smart moves will not only see increased performance, but they’ll also have the unique ability to capture market share against competitors that took a more timid path.

For more on creative effectiveness and how it can impact performance for the better, check out our Creative Drives Business series.