Stop treating your social ads like TV ads

Ángel Pino

15 October 2018

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Time of death


Television is dying, and we’re not the only ones that think so. Spend some time on the Internet and you’ll find yourself stumbling over hundreds of think pieces declaring that television is a dead medium, and the painful decline of the advertising industry in general is something we’ve already discussed at length. Some broadcasters are taking steps to protect themselves in the face of changing trends in media consumption, but many aren’t.

Big companies are reacting, but with caution. Global investment in TV advertising has decreased but not drastically. So, what’s changed?


A digital duopoly


If there has been no significant decrease in the amount of money businesses are willing to invest in TV, then where did the money they’ve invested into digital media come from? Well, from press media; more traditional mediums like magazines and newspapers. When press media flatlined, TV was rewarded with a new lease on life.

People are investing in digital media advertising mainly through big players like Facebook and Google. Year after year, these two organisations demonstrate their dominance over the digital advertising market. Of course, they’ve both taken steps to try and maintain their duopoly. They’ve published studies with the aim of embarrassing the television industry by highlighting the reduction in the number of TVs being bought. At the same time, they preach the benefits of combined investment in TV and digital, something which relies heavily on digital video to bring in videos.

Of course, investment growth has its consequences. In early 2018, Facebook announced that they would be making changes to their algorithm in order to place more emphasis on content over advertisements – to the detriment of brands. The thing is, while costs have increased, the reality was that brand presence did not noticeably suffer for it. Engagement with different campaigns is only increasing, and the reason for this increase is not the change to the algorithm, but rather the increase in the number of advertisers present on the site.

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Data from Good Rebels, Facebook placements only.

This graph demonstrates the increase in CPM over the last year. Of course, as this graph is based on Good Rebels data you could argue that the data has been influenced by the objectives and formats we used for our campaigns on social. However, even for other campaign objectives – like video campaigns or link clicks – we see the same trends; CPM for linkclick campaigns has doubled, while for video campaigns it’s tripled.


Here’s where things get tricky


So far this should all be making sense. Demand has increased due to an increase in advertisers, but more emphasis has been placed on content and so costs have increased. That’s obvious enough, but ‘obvious’ isn’t interesting.

What is interesting is that while CPM has increased – which means brands have to pay more to reach users – CTR has remained the same.

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The data is telling us that even though the cost of reaching users has increased, user interest has remained stagnant. It’s pretty frustrating. External research has even shown a decrease in CTR and an increase in CPC.

This scenario is a bit frustrating because the data is telling us that, even if it’s getting more expensive to reach users, the interest of users is not increasing. External research even shows a decrease of the CTR and the increase of the CPC.


Why Facebook, Why


So why did Facebook change their algorithm in the first place? To make more money? Actually, they did it so that they could keep making money.

If CTR has remained stagnant that means that even though users are being bombarded with ads daily, they’re less and less engaged by them. And if users have already reached the est with online ads (in the US, they almost certainly have) then we have reached the beginning of the decline of active and engaged users on social. Inevitably this will be followed by a decrease in the number of ad placements and subsequently a drop in investment due to the unsustainable growth of costs.

We’re taking a somewhat simplistic approach here by only talking about CTR and CPM, and not including other KPIs like CPA or ROI but the point is, businesses need to invest in social more effectively and more efficiently.

If all you do is take budget away from traditional mass media and give it to digital, while sticking with the same, stale strategies, you’re wasting your money. Unfortunately, according to a recent study by Hootsuite of 750,000 Facebook ads, the second most used call-to-action button is ‘Shop Now’ – so it would seem that not much has actually changed.

It’s not just Facebook either. Social media in general – in fact the web itself – is drowning in irrelevant, irritating ads with a clearly commercialised message. Advertisers are targeting broad audiences with high bids and the wrong people are seeing their ads. In the past, we’ve talked about the importance of targeting – here we’re going to focus instead on analysis and personalisation.


Analysis and personalisation


One thing that every brand always seems to get wrong is retargeting. If your understanding of retargeting is targeting the same users again and again until they do what you want them to do – well then that’s your problem.

Let’s say you visit the website of a travel agent or flight comparison website. Wait a couple minutes after you leave the site and the odyssey begins. Weeks and weeks of exactly the same ad for the same destination all over every other page you visit.

Some brands will even send you an ad for a hotel you’ve stayed in just the week before. Seriously, what are the chances of someone rebooking the same hotel or destination a week after they’ve returned from it? Perhaps if your reason for travel was business not pleasure – but still, without the lead and customer data to back it up, it’s a bit of a shot in the dark.

Logically, pestering already engaged customers with ads is unlikely to make them more interested in your product or service. It might just turn them off from you completely. Even if you’re targeting the right users, there are a few things you need to remember when retargeting them – in order to make the most of your investment. Personalisation and analysis of relevant data is key:

  • Frequency and timing: Tell a kid to tidy their room, and they probably won’t do it. Tell them to do it over and over again and they’ll start to ignore you. Bribe them with sweets or a new video game and you might find more success. The lesson here is that in order to engage your audience you need to adapt your message based on how many times they interacted with your content and how long they stayed on your site. If they only visited your site once, they were probably just bored at work and dreaming of escape. Targeting them with an ad for that exact destination is unlikely to work, but a less commercial message, one more focused on the idea of ‘escape’ in general, might just capture their attention.
  • Navigation behaviour: Let’s stick with this travel agent example. If a potential customer checks on the same flight over and over again, don’t target them with that exact flight. Analyse their behaviour; what type of flights were they checking? Were they national or international flights? Maybe they were checking if they could guarantee a seat with their child? In this case you could create a message tailored to suit their needs – not just a flight but a holiday perfect for all the family. Were they trying to book a single seat? Don’t just sell them a holiday, sell them a single traveller’s dream – the chance to explore the world and discover themselves along the way. Did they go from a more expensive flight to one that was cheaper? Promote offers, discounts or flights to similar destinations at a lower cost.

At Good Rebels, we’re not only interested in Smart Social, but Smart Social Ads. If your pixels are set up correctly then Facebook web custom audiences give you the freedom to create more advanced audience groups based on a myriad of different factors. If you start to think outside the Facebook-box then there’s even more you can do – thinking about Social Ads as separate from the rest of your media plan is a mistake. Facebook is just another touch point with the consumer; that’s why it’s so important to define a good attribution model in order to increase your understanding of the importance of each channel.

All of this requires a detailed strategy and a lot of time and effort, but standard retargeting is not an option. All you’re doing is annoying the users who’ve actually, already expressed an interest in your brand.