From here, it would seem a downturn in the economy lights a fire in digital audience buying. This is somewhat ironic in that the space seems hot and growing already. But with the accountability noose closing tighter, the clear case for efficiency will need to be made from the CMO's desk.
Among the keys to this audience buying momentum, will be high performing, first-party data - a marketer's best friend, if they have one. Retailers, financial service firms, and travel companies are top of the heap for this powerful targeting data which will inspire continued ad spend investment as a clear connection between spend and conversions is realized - all courtesy of a cookie or reasonable facsimile. Oh and first party data is free - save for the people and data management platform that the marketer needs to get the data churning in the marketplace.
And then there's the attribution "Holy Grail." Better media mix and/or attribution models provide the business rules to more efficient spend in digital. Though attribution has been exhausted lately from an ecosystem marketing perspective, the understanding of cross-channel ad spend and its confluence appears to be something that many companies (ad tech, agencies and marketers) have their eyes on. Publishers should try to get in "the mix" here, too. It only benefits their yield. The march toward a true (automated?) understanding of the pass-off from one stage of the funnel to another - and between channels - will continue to fuel audience buying.
Also, smaller budgets actually could focus more ad dollars in the audience buying space. If it's more efficient to put it all against bottom-of-the-funnel search, why wouldn't you? Same thing goes for a display (or video or mobile) ad, retargeting campaign - another "low hanging fruit" tactic that provides marketers clear access to intent-rich audience and impressive performance sure to bring a smile to any CFO's face.
Traditional Spend For The Traditional Mind
But, it's not going to be "all digital" with a downturn in the economy. In fact, it follows that budget will flow back into the TV channel as risk averse mindsets in the world of media buying are more comfortable staying with the tried-and-true.
For traditional marketers, all those years of research and GRP buying have led to a clear path of proven results on TV. They may not be the best results, but marketers know what they're getting. So do CFOs. And, nobody (or fewer people) gets fired for buying TV.
Also, scale remains a digital challenge. The Digerati have a hard time providing scale competitive to TV for a short burst, for example. "Time shifting is great, but can you pinpoint a moment in time for me in the future where I'll be able to reach millions?" The traditional marketer who needs scale in a recession will be thinking TV.
Brand safety questions linger, too, in digital audience buying for the traditionally-minded marketer. For many, ten or so 30-second TV ads within the known quantity of a single TV program trumps the swirling content of the web except among the most premium content sites with predictable content.
And finally, the "lean back" opportunity of TV remains, in theory, different than the "lean forward" of the PC, mobile, etc. We're in a different state when we watch TV. Some might say we're more willing to watch a commercial as it burbles away on TV as opposed to a PC where the user guides, clicks and scrolls through his or her web experience. And, it's not lost on the marketer that, by and large, only on TV can create an emotional connection with the viewer.
Bad economic times will bring more spend to digital audience buying, but the traditional, TV channel stands to benefit, too. It's the gulf in between which is at risk... you need to prove your ad spend works the old way or the new. No in-between.
By John Ebbert