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07 May

How S4 Came Together to Own the Stage at Ad World 2021

WRITTEN BY MediaMonks

This week at Ad World, our experts across S4Capital owned the virtual stage during its ‘21 edition. Combining their knowledge with hyper-focused speeches, actionable strategies and in-depth workshops, they showed up in the same way we approach our work as the marketing world converges: together. Here’s your cheat sheet in case you skipped class.

From the secret sauce behind the TikTok algorithm to new ways to foster diversity, equity and inclusion internally, this virtual conference left no subject out of the curriculum. Our marketers and leadership alike were there to shine a light on the most relevant aspects of a sustainable strategy, all through a common thread: the importance of truly knowing your consumers.

What Makes Audiences Tick on TikTok

Our very own Claudia Cameron, Head of Marketing and Insights at IMA, inaugurated Stage 1 on Monday for a 20-minute session on all things TikTok. She started with a very simple rule: don’t make ads, make TikToks. While many brands overanalyze and overproduce what they post, keeping it simple and focusing on storytelling is the real key to an entertainment experience that doesn’t feel forced.

Moreover, your focus should not be on what a platform can give you. Instead, you may want to stop and consider what you can give its audience. “Keep low-key branding, look for native TikTok creators and maintain the collaborative environment,” she said. One way to do this? Join an existing challenge and sponsor influencer content to post on your brand account.

Although different brands go for different solutions, it’s important to have a long-term strategy and not just post once in a blue moon. Some additional tips include: make the first three seconds memorable, pick a trending sound and encourage users to leave comments. TikTok is a great environment for brands to experiment and build closer digital connections with consumers, as long as they are able to speak their language. 

Mitigate Flaws in Your Attribution

Regardless of the platform you’re using, one thing is true for all: you have to follow the metrics. However, it’s important to remember that even though attribution models are useful, they are never completely accurate. That was the main concept of VP of Account Services Brittany Blanchard’s talk on Tuesday, titled “How to Break Your Reliance on ROAS for Paid Search Campaigns.” 

“Don’t overthink it. Use lots of metrics to tell your performance story and let common sense reign.”

Brittany Blanchard

VP, Account Services at Metric Theory

With more users making cross-device purchases, return on ad spend (ROAS) becomes a flawed representation of each channel’s real effectiveness. Basing your decisions on this metric alone can be misleading—and while advertisers may be scared to put leads at risk for testing, it’s a necessary step toward growth. “Don’t overthink it. Use lots of metrics to tell your performance story and let common sense reign,” says Blanchard.

Her in-depth talk unveiled the foundations for a better testing and experimentation approach to digital marketing, focusing on how to set up your paid search and social performance measurement in a foolproof way. “To answer the questions you may have, it’s important to run a test,” she explained. How? “Choose a control audience and a test audience. Agree to what you’re going to measure, how, and give it enough time.” That last point is the key: “Things don’t happen instantly. Consumers think before they buy.” 

Marketers, the Modern-Age Investors

Even after all this measuring, cross-checking and strategic thinking, marketers are seldom thought of as investors. However, that’s exactly what they are. On his panel “An Economist Approach to Marketing That Drives Accelerated Long-Term Growth,” Decoded Advertising’s Head of Media Strategy, James Donner, talked about maximizing profit—and how the lack of investment discipline can create both massive risk and opportunity for brands.

“Advertisers and media buyers are less trained in economics, but they should be,” Donner explained. To truly maximize profit, marketers need to get rid of bad habits like short-term thinking, having a narrow view of return on investment (ROI) and relying on flawed data. These mistakes may lead them toward sales activations to boost ROI—and although these scale faster, so do they decay. Instead, focus on brand-building campaigns, which are the main drivers of growth. 

According to Donner, another tip is to track incrementality. “Measure brand’s impact on the bottom line over an extended period of time. Give it 12 or 14 months before drawing any conclusions.” And while you do so, make the most of your strategy by creating benchmarks for channels and audiences at various levels of spend over time. 

A Recipe for Continued Growth

Although proper measurement takes time, the timeline for content creation has shortened. As S4Capital Executive Chairman Sir Martin Sorrell said during the conference, “In today’s world, activation and implementation became more important. You can’t spend three to six months producing a TVC when the market is moving at lightning speed.”

In his eye-opening session about the future of advertising, Sorrell broke down the pillars he stands by—faster, better, cheaper—and how the death of the cookie will enhance the power of first-party data. As a first step, brands should reclaim their data and build an ecosystem that can inform the development of content and its distribution through digital media. This includes adapting the content to different needs, regions and languages. To do so, regional structures are no longer necessary. As Sorrell puts it: “In a digital world, we can centralize the production hub and create, produce and distribute digital content in all different regions. Our BMW Mini win from last year is a good example of that.”

As the world evolves and moves beyond the pandemic, efficiency will continue to be key. “Digital is where growth was, is and will be,” Sorrell noted. “By 2024, 70% of the market is going to be digital, which is why we are digital first in our constitution.” Circling back to the S4’s foundational pillars, he explained how agility and a better understanding of the ecosystem protect the value of the delivered products.

It all boils down to one concept: to get consistent growth, you have to understand consumers. However, it’s important for marketers to know that there’s no single source of truth to get there. Every attribution model will kill your strategy if it’s the only thing you follow—but by analyzing multiple data points to see what your audience is engaging with and through a more efficient, adaptive production process, you can better apply learnings to deliver effective content at record speed.

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