Why COVID-19 spells the end of blind advertising for good

Vihan Sharma, European MD at LiveRamp, believes we are seeing a shift away from the traditional blind advertising model and a move towards outcome-based strategies.

person looking at adverts on buildings

The marketing industry has felt the impact of Covid-19 acutely. From the very beginning of the lockdown, as businesses began to scale back in the face of economic uncertainty, marketing budgets were one of the first areas to be cut, with 81% of large multinational companies deferring marketing campaigns in March as the lockdown was announced in the UK. 

As the crisis continues, it is clear COVID-19 is driving real change in the industry, and true, people-based advertising is being solidified as the standard.  

Marketing budgets and ad spend remain under close scrutiny, and marketers have had to adapt their strategies rapidly. Under pressure to demonstrate that money is being spent wisely, brands are seeking measurable outcomes and clear evidence of success more than ever, as well as a deeper understanding of how to engage their customer base. 

Traditional advertising channels have long struggled to precisely measure the impact of an advert or campaign – but the rapid digitalisation of the last decade, together with effective use of data, now gives brands the ability to quickly measure, adapt, and optimise messages to suit particular demographics and customers.

This is nothing new – in fact, online technology giants have been honing their data skills for decades, and the success of this model has only been demonstrated by how these companies have adapted to the pandemic. In the years leading up to the pandemic, we have already seen a decline in ‘blind advertising’ among many brands, as the benefits of people-based advertising have become clear, allowing for improved targeting and enhanced measurement, among others. Now we are seeing more brands than ever begin to understand how this will transform their strategies and find new ways to level the playing field.

Data connectivity will be central to this movement. One key advantage of this is that it allows like-minded brands to collaborate in a neutral and secure environment without sharing their customer data, enabling each brand to gain a better view of their customer and level the playing field when it comes to competing with dominant online giants. 

These partnerships between brands can drive new insights and deliver innovative ways to reach their audiences. For example, a haircare brand can work together with a brick-and-mortar supermarket to measure the impact of its shampoo campaign, through performing incrementality tests and looking for measurable differences in shopping behaviours between media-exposed and media-unexposed consumers.

This approach generates a whole new level of insight, allowing the haircare brand in this scenario to better understand the efficacy of their ad campaign, while also considering other factors that ultimately helped their customers to convert. 

At the core of using data creatively and effectively is this drive towards measurable outcomes – being able to tie views or engagements back to a desired outcome – such as actual sales – and target customers on a much more granular level. The sophistication of the digital marketing industry will only improve as we begin to phase out of lockdown, and the billboard, one-size-fits-all approach – without the statistics to prove success – will become even more outdated. 

COVID-19 has heavily impacted every aspect of the marketing landscape, but it has also driven innovations and much-needed progress in the industry at large. The shift towards measurable outcomes which we were already starting to see before the pandemic has now been accelerated, and the industry will never be the same. 

If we are going to truly learn from the current situation and forge a better industry for the future, we need to embrace the vast potential of the effective and privacy-first use of data, be open to collaborating with new and existing partners and keep measurable outcomes at the front of our minds. 

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