As agencies and advertisers alike scramble to catch up with the digital ad revolution, it’s all too easy to get seduced by the power of data.
The technology behind digital ad campaigns – from tracking pixels and AI to targeting capabilities – provides unprecedented insights into consumer browsing habits. This data gives advertisers real-time feedback on the performance of their digital campaigns. Brands can pivot quickly, ditching underperforming campaigns and studying what the good ones got right.
But, just like a dieter can go to extremes to drop weight – careening from one unsustainable diet to another – companies that had no digital strategy in place can become overly enamored by the power of data.
And it’s a love that can backfire.
Data isn’t the answer in digital advertising. It’s the price of admission, the foundation to a successful digital strategy – much like purchasing air time during shows your audience watches is the first step to placing a successful TV spot.
Targeting just gets you to the starting line
Congratulations. Thanks to the power of targeting, you’re in front of your target audience online.
For too many digital advertising strategies, that’s where the train of thought ends. The goal was to reach the target audience. According to the tracking metrics, they’ve been reached. Mission accomplished, right?
Not so fast.
Digital ads may have incredible reach, but just because you can reach more people with more precision than ever doesn’t mean you are reaching them. Remember, price of admission. You have the ad space. The data shows it appeared on your audience’s screen.
That doesn’t mean you got your audience’s attention.
Nowadays, snagging attention requires standing out from the growing number of brands that are also paying more attention to data and fine-tuning their targeting. Many of those brands include your competitors.
Data lays the groundwork for reaching your target audience more quickly, accurately and affordably. But once you reach them, good creative is more important than ever.
Good creative is what wins attention nowadays
AirBnB realized early on that looks matter. The same is true of your digital ads. Good creative requires thoughtful design and messaging. (More on that in a minute.)
What does thoughtful design look like? It starts with quality visuals – high-resolution imagery, well-shot videos and complementary color schemes. But thanks to the power of rich media, the design possibilities in digital ads extend far beyond colors and images.
Want to drive engagement with your audience? Consider incorporating interactive elements into the ad – a quiz, a carousel of expandable product details or geo-location features to find nearby stores, without leaving the ad.
Good design includes your choice in ad formats. Choose an ad format that complements the surrounding content. Let your viewer control their experience.
Avoid ad formats blacklisted by the Coalition for Better Ads. Pop-ups, auto-playing music – anything that disrupts the user experience.
Always make sure your ad is optimized to load quickly, otherwise you could miss out on valuable views.
Finally, take a good look at your ad. Will it stand out on a page with 5-7 other ads? Be honest. If the answer is no, it’s not worth launching. If you wouldn’t give it a second look, why should your audience?
Messaging matters more than ever
Your creative efforts and messaging need to be even stronger online because of the unprecedented amount of competition for your audience’s attention.
Think about it: prior to digital advertising, consumers watching TV or listening to the radio were exposed to 5-7 ads over the course of several minutes. One ad played at a time, with no competition.
Nowadays, when browsing online, your target audience will encounter 5-7 competing ads at a time, in the space of several seconds, often amidst various alerts on their devices.
How do most advertisers respond? By ramping up production, aiming to win attention by sheer saturation of cyberspace. Unsurprisingly, quality and creative get lost in the shuffle.
Quantity won’t win attention online. The best way to break through the noise is with effective messaging.
If you have data that enables you to reach a specific audience – say urban mothers between the ages of 31-35 – the final step in building effective digital ads is crafting messaging that speaks directly to them.
It sounds complicated, but consumers’ core desires are still the same. They want to be entertained or discover solutions to their problems. They want to be an insider finding exclusive deals. They want to see things that mean something to them.
That’s where creativity comes in. As an advertiser, you want to grab your reader’s attention with something relevant, something that gets them nodding their head or thinking ‘That’s me.’
Data is part of the answer, not the whole equation
The emergence and evolution of digital advertising is happening so quickly that many brands have been mistakenly convinced what worked in the ‘olden days’ of TV and print media won’t work in cyberspace.
While the medium for reaching audiences is changing, the methods for winning attention haven’t. Our human audiences are more distracted, but their core psychology is the same. They value their security, social standing, time and money. They want to be part of something meaningful, to be important. They want to find solutions to their problems, so they can focus their energy on what matters to them.
As advertisers, it’s our responsibility to find out what matters to our audiences. Then we need to look for the ways our offerings speak to their goals and problems.
Targeting, retargeting and performance data are relevant because they provide unprecedented visibility into how consumers are interacting with digital ads. But data only tells part of the story. It shows the route a consumer took, but it doesn’t lead them down the path.
To drive action, the ‘old ways’ – story, connection, meaning and showing consumers how an offering can improve their lives – still matter. The new digital platforms just provide an exciting new way to implement those tried-and-true creative elements and connect with customers.