We know what data means to the ad industry – few dispute that it creates huge opportunities for advertisers. But what do consumers think? Does data enable advertisers to deliver better ads for their audiences and – crucially – drive more sales or influence purchase decisions?
Campaign and Xaxis took to the streets near Advertising Week Europe in central London, asking the general public what digital ads they like and dislike – and why.
Advertisers and media agencies speak – in their own dialect largely – about ‘data integration’, ‘DMP’, or 'CRMs’. Consumers are more direct about how ads impact their everyday lives; some said they don’t view themselves as ‘ordinary consumers’ or ‘people advertisers would target’, despite buying and owning purchased goods. They don’t see themselves as targeted audiences or demographics, but as individuals with a unique set of behaviours.
Consumer likes and dislikes
The likes of Nike, Apple, and Beats by Dr Dre are doing something right – they were mentioned as examples of the best digital ads seen recently. Consumers were largely too polite to name bad ads specifically but less forgiving when it came to platforms and ad formats.
A student complained about ads served on social media which she thinks blurs the line into ‘creepy’. She said: ‘The ads that pop up on social media – coming from what you’ve been recently looking at online – really annoy me. It creeps me out that they know what I’m looking at. I know they’re trying to be helpful.’
One tourist visiting London called for ads not to mislead consumers with creative that has nothing to do with the product they're promoting. He said: ‘The thing that bugs me is when you get a 30 second pre-roll and there’s a lot about something that might be attractive to the public – friends in a nightclub or an attractive woman – but then they have two seconds at the end on what the ad is about and it’s a chocolate bar or kitchen appliance. And you wonder what that has to do with what it’s selling?.'
On how advertisers can gain trust, he continued: ‘I think I’d pay attention to an ad, not just if it’s interesting or shot well, but if it’s relevant to the product.’
As for digital ads being seen, it’s good news for the industry. Most of the people we spoke to are seeing mobile ads, being tempted by them and making purchases in some cases.
One man said: ‘I’ve bought things I don’t even need as a result of advertising – a smartwatch’, while a female shopper said: ‘I haven’t acted on a digital ad – to be honest. I’ve thought about it and been tempted though.’
On how to reach consumers, a student said: ‘In my everyday life, I usually see ads on my phone. Usually on YouTube, Instagram - those are the two main things for me’. Another consumer agreed to mobile being the best place to advertise, she said: ‘‘I’m on my phone 100% of the day. It’s either Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, the pre-rolls.’
So how can the industry better use consumer data to deliver more relevant, engaging and user-friendly ads? Can the industry tackle the challenges highlighted in time for AdWeek 2018?
Tips from the experts
Xaxis’ panel session advised on how advertisers can leverage data better. Industry experts from the likes of Sky, IAB, Maxus, AppNexus and GroupM's [m]Platform shared opinions on being more innovative, broadening mindsets and putting people first.
Sandy Ghuman, campaign and planning delivery manager at Sky talked about the importance of joining up data points across all channels to deliver a cohesive customer journey. She said: ‘Customer journey is really important – we’re focusing on creating an omnichannel approach whereby we treat them [consumers] the same no matter what channel they’re on… whether it’s mobile, social, TV… it should be fluid on all the various channels.’
She also urged advertisers to be innovative with data and always link data decisions back to business objectives, using test and learn strategies. ’The key question is: what did it actually drive for the business, how does that link into the business performance metrics? You need the operational metrics too, but link back to how it performed for the business' she said.
Richard Lloyd, EMEA chief digital officer at Maxus believes advertisers should think beyond consumer data: "Think much more broadly about the data access within an organisation – at all the different touchpoints we have, not just with consumers. We’re at an inflection point, not just in the industry, but in society. Machine learning and AI are becoming more viable and will grow in next three years...businesses need to be in a position, as quickly as possible, to take advantage of those developments, which means thinking holistically.’
Paul Rowlinson, managing director at [m]Platform GroupM says: ‘Everything is data. Everything we do is collected and captured as data and that’s something we have to remember. Keep it focused on people and try to think as wide a picture as possible – by bringing as many data sets together.’
For Jon Mew, chief executive at IAB spoke, it’s important for the industry to come together in pursuit of a shared goal: better use of data and delivery on digital. He said: ‘Make sure you really understand what it is you’re doing with your data and how to use it.’
The industry experts and general public we spoke to suggest that consumer data is fuelling better digital ads – but there's still work to be done. Advertisers and media agencies should continue to test ways to best leverage consumer data insights – qualitative and quantative – to increase ad relevancy and improve the consumer journey. As Xaxis' pan-regional managing director Angie French says: ‘The signals we get from consumers are really important…we [the industry] ignore them at our peril.’