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U.S. Ad Spending: According to Magna Global, the U.S. ad market will rebound in 2021 with ad dollars growing year-over-year by an estimated 25%, totaling $284.3 billion.

What is Data-Driven Advertising?

Data-driven advertising helps brands understand the customer journey and provides insights that allow for a “personalized” experience. It helps brands reach the right audience on the channels they use.

Data-driven advertising isn’t new, but it is increasingly the deciding factor in advertising planning as well as the measurement of a successful campaign.

Does data provide valuable insight into a potential consumer? Sure.

Does data allow an advertiser to follow the consumer across multiple touchpoints, across multiple devices, bordering on creepy? It does.

Does data driven advertising have a place in the strategy of your media campaign? It absolutely does. Should it be the only factor in your media strategy and determining a campaigns success? Not a chance.

One facet of the work we do at A3 Media is constantly vetting new companies. Is every company we vet a perfect fit for our client’s needs? No! However, we have found and established invaluable relationships and implemented many new and unique tools through the process. This process helps enable us to be more versatile and better informed, which, in turn, allows us to provide better service to clients.

Enter Converged TV – the blending of linear, connected and addressable TV.

Converged TV measurement is a blended measurement of the effectiveness of linear and digital TV.

Linear TV

Linear TV has been measured historically by rating points, the percentage of viewers of the total possible audience. More recently there has been a shift to view linear TV by impressions (putting it on a more equal scale to digital properties). Linear TV, ratings or impressions, at best represent an estimate of the audience.  If this isn’t murky enough add to the equation, the leading source of TV ratings is also establishing the statistics for TV households as well as the potential audience size.

Reviewing the intricacies of linear TV measurement could lead to an ongoing series, the topic at hand is converged TV measurement. To make a long story short, an analysis of predictive modeling based on estimated ratings, or impressions, for linear TV should be viewed as marginally accurate. If this isn’t convoluted enough, add the manual steps and time delay necessary to secure the final modeling. These additional steps can require enormous man-hours and can take anywhere from several days to several weeks to complete.

Does this “data” allow for optimization of your linear TV schedule with all these obstacles? Next, add the associated costs for this service – six figures a year.

Connected and Addressable TV

Connected and addressable delivery and engagement truly is much more measurable using household and device data, delivery and conversion measurement capabilities. This, almost, real-time analysis does lend itself to campaign optimization. The fees for this type of data are typically calculated as a percentage of the media cost.

The final blended summation is still at the heart of the issue.

  • Is it data? Yes.
  • Does it contain a substantial amount of inference? Absolutely!
  • Is this the type of data you want to hang your hat on to dictate your media plans? Uhm…..no.
  • Is this a sound foundation to determine the course and success of your media campaign? Not completely.

There may never be an end to the search for more and better data but until something better comes along, this is it. So, in the rush for data always ask for a clear explanation of the source, calculations and accuracy of the information presented – all data is not created equal!

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In April 2021 Apple came out with an update that introduced ATT or App Tracking Transparency. The purpose of which was to return some control back to iPhone users, and give people a choice, to allow or not allow apps to track your activity across other companies’ websites. Apple’s company line is that they are doing this to improve privacy of the iPhone users and give them greater control over what apps were using to market products or services to them.

Built into the Apple operating system was a tracker called IDFA, (Identifier for Advertisers) which tracks your activity between applications. As more companies accessed that data, it became concerning to many about the access the apps had to this personal data.

As consumers became tired of seeing pop up Privacy Agreements at the bottom of the screens, forcing them to accept that the app used cookies to optimize your experience, Apple felt it should be at least a choice for the user and not a decision dictated to them. The ATT was initiated and delivered a choice to either let the App Track user’s activity or ask it not to track their activity. They even went as far as allowing users to go into the privacy settings and opt-out of tracking. This was good news for users, but bad news for advertisers trying to target their ads.

One example of the impact of this change was demonstrated when one store had been spending $27 in advertising on Facebook for every new customer they acquired. Since the elimination of activity tracking, they will be forced to spend $270 for every new customer added. What provides protections for consumers, drives the costs up for businesses to properly reach and add the same types of consumers, they reach before the change.

Apples new approach of ATT is important, when one considers the end to third party cookies in Chrome starts in January 2022. These actions on top of the governmental privacy regulations such as GDPR & CCPA, and as of November 2021 layered with Facebooks changes in ad targeting, will make for a more challenging ask of advertisers and agencies attempting to reach the correct potential consumers.

As part of the rebrand of Facebook with “Metathe company is removing targeting options like health, race, ethnicity, political affiliations, religious or sexual orientation beginning January 19th, 2022. It will take effect on all three platforms they control, Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. In 2018, it removed 5,000 ad-targeting classifications to keep advertisers from excluding certain users. This effort to prevent discrimination, prevent ad targeting abuse and attempt to improve privacy has substantially restricted legitimate ad targeting methods. While the reasons behind the changes may be admirable, this leaves Digital and Mobile advertisers scrambling to find new ways to segment their ad delivery and provide the right ads for the right products and services reaching the right people.

So How Will Advertisers and Agencies Find the Right Path to Potential Consumers?

Apple’s introduction of ATT will make ads substantially less relevant for consumers, except ads delivered through Apple’s own personalized ad system. Apple Search Ads has displaced Facebook as the best ad network for mobile marketers on iPhone and iPad. Apple is introducing a measurement solution called SKAdNetwork (SKAN), which makes performance data available at the campaign level. SKAN is considered “differential privacy” which is the approach of using statistical methods for marketing measurement which make it impossible to infer and individual user’s behavior.

What can Advertisers and Agencies Do to Persevere Through These Challenges?
  • Deepen your understanding of your audience. Products that suffer most due to these identifier-based targeting methods are those with niche products. By building a broader appeal for your product or service, the more people that will be receptive to it and less targeted you must be in your ad segmentation.
  • Get more creative. The focus to develop new, engaging, and attractive ads can help minimize efficiency loss due to removal of the identifiers. As your ads reach the most important members of your audience, your products will break through the generic and non-descript advertising from competitors.
  • Increase Opt-In retargeting. Not all digital ads reach the right potential consumers, but by utilizing the reduced targeting categories of FB, Instagram or Messenger for your initial digital ad campaigns, while increasing the frequency of retargeting to those that have engaged or opted in with emails, you have limited your ad waste, and increased your chances of success since retargeting can lift ad engagement rates up to 400%. The average click-through rate (CTR) for display ads is 0.07%, while the average CTR for retargeted ads is about 0.7%. Those that engage with your re-targeted ads have a far greater likelihood of becoming future customers.

It’s imperative that every agency and company who uses digital ads understands the changes coming and the ways to succeed despite the changes.

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If you’re in our industry, you have probably read countless articles and varying reports on reconciliations and media transparency. We talk about it frequently in our office and constantly try to keep up with changes in advertising, including the best ways to track our campaigns and make sure our clients receive everything promised or more. The industry is changing as quickly as our newest and next buy. From what we have seen, it would take multiple programs to check every aspect of what we now monitor daily, if they even exist.

Several years ago, we had purchased some new media software that would help do some of our heavy lifting, starting with the buying team and ending with the reconciliation team. While being trained on this software regarding reconciliations, our trainer seemed to like the “bottom line” feature for reconciliations very much. The purpose of using this was only to count spots. My first thought honestly was that I would be fired if I used that button. It’s only checking spot totals! But what happens when all spots are not created equal?

When our accounting team is questioned about delivery and ask, “did we get exactly what our client paid for or better?” we better have concrete answers and those answers better not be, “yes, we received the same number of spots that were booked.” We hear all kinds of things, but one of my personal favorite responses we received when asking about delivery was, “I don’t know exactly how many impressions you’ll get, but it’s a lot!”

Let me give you a quick example. Let’s say we purchased a spot in the last episode of the Big Bang Theory, which typically ran from 8 – 8:30 p.m., but it did not run during that time. Instead, they shifted the show to 9 p.m. for a larger audience and ran a rerun of Mike and Molly in that slot. Our software would approve the spot slot because it occurred during the time frame window, but the ratings were only 30% that we expected. Now imagine if that happened hundreds of times on a single buy!

So, you might ask, “if you post what’s the problem?” You’re guaranteed 90% delivery. The problem is that all CPMs or CPPs are not the same cost, quality, or value, so if you only post points to points then why are the costs different? Obviously, the networks think there is a different value to their spots, so then why do you proof them like there isn’t any? Our president always equates it to a butcher shop.

They have ground beef, sirloin, and filet mignon. While they are all beef, they are not the same quality or price, so why would we except 5 pounds of ground beef when we paid for five pounds of filet mignon?

At A3 media, we’re encouraged and mandated to spend a significant amount of time vetting new companies to help us find the newest and best tracking features and we have yet to find any one software that we could run an invoice through and would check all the details that we are looking for to clear an invoice.  

With large amounts of TV, radio, out of home, digital and social media, we in the accounting team have to come up with some “out of the box” ways to track some of the more non-traditional buys. Yes, this means we roll up our sleeves and manually verify what the software approves, looking for discrepancies. And yes, it does take longer to reconcile our buys when we do not use or cannot use a program to reconcile.

This might sound a little old school but when it comes to verifying our client’s media spend, it is worth it. In some cases, we will hold off final payment to our vendors until every contracted spot is accounted for, makegoods are run, and even missing added value is supplied as promised. All this extra effort is valuable to our clients and important to our company’s mission here at A3 media. We hold every aspect of the campaign with the same importance.

The importance of vetting a new agency should be as important to you and your company as it is to us when we are vetting these new softwares/programs to track your media spends. When asking your media agency about putting a campaign together, you might also want to ask them how they will monitor and track those details after the buy is placed. These back-end details on reconciliations are as important as the planning that goes into your next campaign.