The marketing landscape is changing fast. With that rapid change comes a greater challenge for brand owners to react in an informed way to what’s going on right now. And for those brands engaging with digital marketing measuring the effectiveness of these approaches is a new and unfamiliar process. Tracking over 250 campaigns a year and over two billion impressions per month—impressions refers to a visitor’s encounter with a web-page ad—is Decision Lab’s digital marketing team. They are focused on delivering two messages to brand owners—seek validation through transparency and remember the importance of brand lift—the increased perception of the brand measured by more than just the click-through of ads.
With the help of Decision Lab’s digital marketing team, composed of Vienna Le and Aske Ostergard, here we share some of the trends that are heating up the global digital media space, and why effective modern-age advertising is seeing a return to its Mad Men-era philosophies.
What’s the best way for brands to filter out the noise and find their true consumer base?
Vienna: The best answer to that question is to validate the value of each fan. It starts with surveying fans and comparing them with non-fans to create an accurate, segmented comparison. For example, one big company that segments beyond just basic metrics is Samsung. Rather than being gender or age specific, they’re more interested in segmenting around interests and lifestyle. For example, their Samsung Note phone is geared toward those with business needs, while their Samsung Galaxy S phone is built for the selfie generation. You’ll also notice that their marketing campaigns are segmented for each phone. Finding the value of true fans helps target the right audience, hence validating campaigns.
Vietnam is seeing a transformation from traditional to digital media. What are some trends and metrics worth sharing?
Aske: The most visible shift we’re seeing is the amount of money spent on digital advertising rather than advertising through traditional platforms. A 2016 report from advertising media company GroupM suggests that digital ad spend in Vietnam was close to US $100 million in 2014 rising roughly to US $350 million in 2016. The 2016 figure accounts for something like 15% of all media spend in Vietnam.
Another noteworthy trend we’re observing is the demand for increased tracking of digital advertising results. For example, brands are more conscious of the need for transparency—recently a lack of transparency had advertisers fleeing YouTube in the wake of news that tens of thousands of content creators were displaying inappropriate ads and fake content on supposedly family-friendly channels. Many advertisers froze all advertising on YouTube soon after. Added to this, I think more brands also have a greater awareness of the importance of brand lift versus click-through rates.
There’s a duopoly in digital media today with Facebook and Google earning the lion’s share of the global market. How are local publishers able to compete?
Vienna: Local publishers can strongly impact a brand by leveraging their ability to bring the brand closer to its target consumers. Of course, any local channel needs to be a competitive one. By creating content specific to its niche target audience, a local publisher is more likely to serve relevant ads to the right audience. It’s all about moving the brand closer to the customer and through the most effective publishing channels. With that said, by some estimates, Facebook and Google account for more than 70% of digital advertising spend in Vietnam. It’ll be an uphill battle for local publishers.
For example, most physical brands like soft drinks don’t have an ecommerce platform and the vast majority of physical products in Vietnam are sold offline. For them, it’s important that digital advertising is capable of motivating a fan to choose one soft drink brand over another the next time the make an offline purchasing decision. For them, brand lift makes all the difference. And sometimes, local publishers are the best option for that.
Publishers also need to understand how they stack up against other digital advertising options. For example, how do brands see digital media versus traditional TV ads? Most of Vietnam’s largest brands have huge audiences, but they need help bringing their brand and communications into the digital world. TV isn’t getting the same eyes-on-screen as it used to. These companies need support from a branding perspective in the digital space. Are they putting their best foot forward with these new channels? That is the big question companies should be asking themselves.
So in this evolving digital landscape, what is Decision Lab focused on right now?
Aske: The Decision Lab team is focused on two things we already touched upon—communicating transparency and brand lift. The digital landscape is moving toward programmatic advertising, which makes it even more difficult for brand owners to validate ad buying. It’s easy for publishers and media platforms to serve impressions to the wrong audience. For example, video views on Facebook and YouTube are measured differently. Views across platforms are not made equal. However, through the development of our AudienceReport product, our audience measurement and validation platform that makes platforms and metrics comparable, we’re making it consistent and possible for brand owners to analyze data across all of these platforms. Transparency is key to building trust with our clients.
We’re also hoping to educate the market about the pros and cons of brand lift versus click-through rate. In a way, we’re going back to the old days. Big brands were paying top dollar to associate their brands with the best content. Think about the TV series Mad Men. This is a good example of how advertising and media were founded. In the heyday of the 1950s, the philosophy was very much about owning prime TV spots and pairing brands with the best shows. This was the primary method adopted by many bigshot ad planners at the time. And in a way, this is what many digital marketers are doing today as they search for the most popular social media channels and publishers to associate their brands with.
With the evolution of digital media, advertisers shifted from this to a more metric-focused mentality. But it’s easy to get caught up with impressions. And what does it really mean when publishers like YouTube aren’t controlling their own ad placement? Fortunately, we’re seeing more marketers moving away from uncontrolled automated advertising and shifting advertising dollars into specific videos or websites, allowing them to know exactly what they are associated with. This is perhaps the primary function of ad relevancy today.
How can brand owners and publishers build a better community around sustainable, transparent digital marketing?
Vienna: Vietnam is not far away from using the same tools and methodology as the US and other more developed markets. From a brand perspective, Decision Lab is hoping to build more community by establishing more collaborations with companies like FrieslandCampina Vietnam and Pervorm, and increasing our participation in industry events like the Digital Minds conference.
Aske: It starts with education and training for our clients. More than 50% of our time is dedicated to creating assets, cases, and business practices for clients about how digital should be added to their marketing mix. Luckily, Vietnam is home to many advanced marketers now.
Globally, we’re starting to see marketers and publishers forming associations that are able to compete with Facebook and Google. Unfortunately, there are still no well-organized associations here yet in Vietnam. There’s a need for publishers to start sharing information across platforms to build data management platforms capable of targeting audiences outside of the control of Facebook and Google.