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Please mind the gap - and definitely avoid falling down the hole!

28 Feb 2020  |  Ian Edwards 
Please mind the gap -  and definitely avoid falling down the hole!

Ebiquity's Mind the Gap report shows how strategic media planning is a craft we need to double down on, writes Facebook's Ian Edwards

We are in the heart of a media revolution and are witnessing the epic fragmentation and digitalisation of the UK media landscape. The changing “attention economy” needs to be navigated with a renewed focus on media planning, but it's not enough any longer just to follow shifts in audience attention.

Brands and advertisers need to understand how the “new” media channels are fundamentally different to “traditional” media. You need to understand the mechanics of how these new channels work - objective first and not audience first and then measure them against the desired marketing outcome.

Blunt comparisons that strip away how platforms like Facebook work do not help advertisers; it is the equivalent of investing in building a Formula 1 car and then removing the engine and seeing how fast it goes. Brands are in danger of minding the gap, but instead falling down a very deep hole.

Based on the first two months, 2020 is shaping up to be not just a new decade, but also a defining moment for the media industry. There appears to be some rather large gaps appearing on the horizon and they are opening faster than any of us had thought.

First up in January, the IPA published their 'Making Sense Report', which showed a generational gap rapidly growing between the media consumption of the young and the old. Never have the two cohorts been further apart. The report also highlighted a changing of the guard as Facebook overtook ITV as the single media property with the largest weekly reach of adults in the UK.

This was just a starter, nothing highlights the rapid and real shift in media more than the latest report from Ebiquity, 'Mind the Gap'. It highlights how the dramatic shift from TV is worse than their worst-case scenarios last year. The same TV spot shown on linear TV in 2018 will impact 60% fewer teenagers, 48% fewer 18 - 24 year-olds and a 36% fewer 35 - 44 year-olds by the year 2022.

How can advertisers Mind the Gap?

Stepping back from the graphs and analysis, the report underlines that advertisers need to develop two critical muscles to be successful. Firstly, it highlights the need to refocus on the craft of media planning, which a growing number of industry heavyweights (like Nick Ashley at Tesco) feel is being lost.

Understanding where your audience is spending time and how to reach them in the right context remains the foundation of any effective media plan. If you don’t reach them, you have no chance of influencing their behaviour full stop.

Audiences moving away from TV are creating a rather substantial gap for advertisers and this is a problem, particularly for those brand building advertisers who have relied on the vast reach and unrivalled viewing times that TV offers. Strategic media planning is a craft we need to double down on and one that can help close this particular gap.

The second is not a muscle we need to grow, but rather the building of an entirely new set of muscles. The report, albeit unintentionally highlights how Facebook works in a fundamentally different way to broadcast TV and that the industry continues to miss this.

The people making the channel choices need to understand at a much deeper level how platforms like Facebook and their complex ad-delivery systems based on algorithms and advanced machine learning are very different in some fundamental ways to traditional channels like TV.

TV is the first line on the plan for brand advertisers in 2020 and quite rightly so. Indeed, Facebook invested in the global pinnacle of TV advertising this year and we brought our first ever Superbowl ad, because we believe it is an excellent place to build your brand.

But, what is clear is that after a certain level of reach is achieved with TV a second, a third and indeed often a fourth and a fifth channel is required to achieve the levels of weekly reach that keep Professor Byron Sharp happy and lead to sustained and profitable brand growth.

The reason I bring this up is that advertisers need to understand the detail of the second, third and fourth channels or they risk not getting the best return. Planning is about tradeoffs between channels and the industry craves an “apples with apples” comparison, but this cannot be at the expense of removing the critical details of how a channel works.

The Ebiquity analysis does not include spend by channel and it also does not “take into account differences in how brands may be targeted or which buy-type they may have chosen and the consequences of different buy-type strategies (e.g. brand vs response as an objective). Because of the myriad of ways in which digital can be bought, bringing everything back to the most common denominator gave us the clearest read of the data”.

This removes all the things that Facebook has been built to deliver for our advertiser around specific objectives. It is the equivalent of investing in building a formula 1 car and then removing the engine and seeing how fast it goes. You need to understand the strength of a channel, the mechanics of how its ad-delivery system works and then measure it against the desired marketing outcome.

There are four critical differences that brand advertisers need to understand to win in a post “TV at the tipping point” world and close the gap left behind:

  1. Objective lead buying Vs Audience lead buying:

TV is traded on an audience; you buy one of 14 audiences and then optimize to that audience. You pay for that audience and then have a huge “over-hearing” audience, which also sees the advertising and that you don’t pay for. This is unquestionably one of the superpowers of TV, particularly for big brand advertisers.

Facebook on the other hand, starts with an objective, you pick one of 12 primary objectives (ranging from “reach” through to “conversion”). Behind these objectives, there are over 2000 of the best engineers in the world continuously working on an ad-delivery system powered by advanced machine learning (AML) to optimize and deliver that specific objective. The advertiser has a much greater level of control on how the advertising is delivered, but it is very specific and there is no “overhearing” audience like TV.

This is one of the superpowers of Facebook, but it makes a broad reach comparison with TV meaningless. For example you can specify “reach” as the primary objective against 35-54yr olds and set a target reach of 60% with an average frequency of 2 times over a campaign period (120GRPs) or you could buy 20% of an audience and reach them 6 times (120 GRRs). By stripping out the objective and buying audience and then measuring it against incremental cover across all adults removes all the precision that you have brought the channel for in the first place.

  1. Video cannot be compared as one unified entity and there are at least two types covered in the report:

Video is one of those terms that has become so generalized as to lose its meaning in media. The industry needs to tighten up what it means by video and create a new taxonomy to understand the nuance of different placements. TV “video” is obviously fundamentally different to Facebook “video” and yet we still see a large percentage of advertisers running video on our platforms that are optimized to TV and not a social media platform.

Video on Facebook is changing and there are now two types of video for paid advertising. There is the short form, generally sound off, viewed vertically “video” that appears in your Newsfeed and Stories. This is more akin to digital out of home and advertisers need to build accordingly.

Judging this video on a 30 second completed view misses the point and would be like measuring completed views of your digital out of home. It's just not a useful metric, because it is not how real people consume the media channel.

The second form of video on Facebook is in-stream. This is where videos appear within longer form video content and is generally consumed sound on (93%) and has a 75% completion rate. Advertisers can buy an objective that maximizes the video view duration if this matters to them.

This is similar to what the industry generally refers to as “video”, but not breaking this out and understanding the difference between the “snackable” Newsfeed and Stories format and “sustained” in-stream video leads to a meaningless comparison.

  1.             Targeting is like salt:

The Ehrenberg Bass Institute have repeatedly demonstrated that effective targeting is like salt - a little bit can improve things, but too much is bad for your health. TV and other broadcast media essentially have a salt ration built in, no matter how hard you try and target it will end up being fairly broad (addressable TV aside).

Facebook on the other hand is incredibly precise even compared to other digital platforms. The logged in nature of the platform means that according to Nielsen data 90%+ of advertising is delivered to the audience defined. If you buy 35-54 yr old’s that is what you get. Not breaking out the buying audience and building reach curves against any audience outside this is utterly pointless.

  1.             Measure the impact on brand equity:

I think the elephant sitting somewhere in the “Mind the Gap” report is the question of whether you can actually build a brand on Facebook. There is no doubt that Facebook and Instagram are game changing places for performance marketing, but with short durations in a predominately sound off environment can you build a brand?

Clearly, we believe you can, but data wins arguments and that data needs to be third party. In 2017 the Said Business School at Oxford University analysed a data set provided by Milward Brown that included 235 brand campaigns from 110 different advertisers and they concluded that you could build a brand on Facebook and Instagram.

They found that in 47% of cases advertising on Facebook delivered a significantly positive lift. This clearly demonstrates if you set the right strategy and understand how the platform works you can have a significant and positive impact on your brand scores. It also demonstrates that half the advertisers are missing the opportunity.

Your audiences have unquestionably moved at scale. The “Mind the Gap” report shows that this is set to accelerate and ripple through older audiences. The good news is that the media day is not a zero-sum game, people are spending more time-consuming commercial media than ever before.

But it’s more fragmented and more complex and nuanced. Better media planning can help close the gap, but it is essential that as our audiences move into new channels we build the muscles that enables us to build brands in these channels by understanding some of the fundamental differences from what's gone before.

We need experts and not generalists here. Brands simply don’t have a choice if they want to survive and thrive in the next decade and be here to have the debate on what’s at a tipping in 2030.


Ian Edwards is Planning Director, Facebook EMEA.

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