How to make digital part of your brand’s DNA instead of a bolt-on

David Hayes

HBT Agency co-founder and managing director David Hayes. Source: Supplied.

Traditional advertising agencies are snapping up small digital agencies at a rate of knots with a vision to produce a more complete, current service offering — a smart move given the direction of the industry. However, this approach often falls short when agencies continue to treat ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ as separate entities, resulting in the delivery of uncoordinated, ineffective campaigns to clients.

In 2016, 28% of advertisers reduced their traditional advertising budget to fund digital marketing campaigns, and Facebook predicts by 2019, mobile will account for 50.5% of advertising budgets alone.

But, in many cases, agencies are still maintaining a false divide. If agencies continue to treat these two components of advertising separately, they will miss vital opportunities to reach and engage customers. Meanwhile, the two competitive business silos will continue to fight an unproductive battle for budget at the client’s expense.  

Although it can seem overwhelming, making digital part of your brand’s DNA is as simple as going back to the first principle of advertising: start with your consumer.

When you’re advertising a product or a service, the most important question regarding message delivery relates to how your consumer can be reached, and increasingly, how the customer interacts with technology.

A 2018 study by Google found 40% of online transactions now take place on mobile, and 77% of business executives reported they use their smartphone to research a product or service for their business. But if you’re trying to reach a broad audience to bolster brand awareness for, say, life insurance, ask yourself how the consumer is most likely hear your message. It’s likely to be something more straightforward: TV, outdoors, perhaps radio. Do your research.

(We know from our own experience that brands with a presence in the ‘real world’ are much more credible when we encounter them online. Trying to build a brand’s reputation exclusively online is a big ask.)   

You also need to consider how digital technologies can intersect with your brand to create a competitive advantage. And therefore, where the digital opportunities for your brand are.

Effectively, the role of advertising (and remember, it’s all advertising) is to funnel consumers towards a sale. The effects of the various media accumulate and interact regularly, and a relevant digital channel will often take consumers all the way to a purchase. Too many businesses get caught up in trying to squeeze results from one advertising channel or another when in reality, a successful advertising campaign is like a good cake, where all the ingredients matter.

Right now, the digital world has an element of ‘fairy dust’ about it. Resist it! While newer methods often work well, it’s dangerous to let them completely replace more established methods, especially since different media have different functions, each with their own distinct advantages.

For example, we know some media is more effective at (passively) reaching a broad consumer base, communicating campaign message and increasing brand recognition. Newer media provides advertisers with a razor-sharp focus on tracking and measurable results and the ability to interact directly with consumers in a targeted, interactive and relevant way. Plus, these media can be used as a low-cost way to test the waters. The insights this approach can generate are invaluable when designing a larger campaign.

(Notice how I didn’t say ‘digital’ or ‘traditional’?)

An advertising strategy that combines the two will dramatically expand your ability to communicate — improving targeting, enhancing personalisation and increasing conversion. Using the various advertising channels appropriately allows you to hone brand messaging while also reaching your consumers personally and across multiple touchpoints. Powerful stuff.

All of which requires multi-channel media planning skills, performance tracking and data interoperation capabilities.

Practical ways to integrate advertising channels

Pinpointing your audience is even more crucial when deploying an integrated campaign. Identify your audience, understand exactly who they are, and how and what they’re looking for. Research is vital, even if it means testing audience reaction in an online campaign environment and then translating these findings to develop your campaign messaging.

An integrated advertising campaign takes ‘a few balls in the air’ to a whole new level. No brand manager should go into battle without a line-by-line plan detailing what channel is to be used when and how. This level of preparedness will also set you up to track the campaign and modify it as needed.

Make sure you have a suitable SEO strategy in place at all times. If a brand has invested a lot of money in an entertaining/intrusive/memorable billboard on a freeway, but their customers can’t find them online, it’s not really worth much.

On the topic of billboards, banner ads are essentially the internet’s equivalent — and they can work well together. In the case of billboard advertising, consumers often see your message only briefly. Programming a banner ad to complement the billboard’s demographical location can lift brand presence, and drive conversion accordingly.

Running a TV ad to get more brand awareness? While a consumer may only see this a few times for 30 seconds, you can extend the experience by encouraging them to visit your campaign landing page. By adding a call-to-action, you can effectively funnel consumers towards a sale.

At the end of the day, agencies shouldn’t be adding a digital capability just to broaden their offering. Instead, it should add value and impact to what they already do for their clients, and the two should work hand in hand as an integrated resource to support clients’ goals.

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