Social-media marketing update: it's complicated

We all love social media - but is it an effective spend? Senior brand and agency marketers wrestled with the most 21st century of marketing conundrums...

Social-media marketing update: it's complicated

Social works.

Everyone loves social media.

A quick trip around the table at Campaign’s social-media dinner-debate with Neustar revealed that assembled marketers, agency folk and martech experts find social great for everything from planning weekends away to tracking their teenage children.

With social ads accounting for more than half the UK’s £11.6 billion online ad market, it is also critical at a business level. But here the relationship gets a bit more complicated. With many brands now past the stick-it-on-social bit of the learning curve, questions around visibility and accountability are getting louder.

Brands are at very different places on their social journeys. High net worth bank Investec has a potential pool of about 90,000 customers but sees social as a way to personalise financial service. Meanwhile, fashion retailer Zalando has 28 million shoppers who are looking for advice on the hottest looks, and Jaguar Land Rover sees social as an opportunity to let people engage with the brand.

Despite different requirements of social, there is a unifying factor – it has to be demonstrably effective.

Delphine Varenne, global creative content director, HMD (Nokia), says its content now has to be shoppable. "For two years we’ve been pushing a lot of content through to raise awareness. But when it comes to driving conversion, there needs to be a clear call to action."

A lack of accountability will lead to brands pressing pause on social, as Eve Sleep has done, says Cheryl Calverley, chief marketing officer. "We were spending a lot of money very ineffectively in social media. Everybody I met said we were pissing them off, which is pretty powerful consumer feedback."

The result was that direct traffic, organic traffic and AdWords traffic grew rapidly. "I realised that Facebook and social was actually a very expensive search engine," she says.

For Melissa Weston, marketing lead, UK & Ireland at Zalando, the bottom line is the ultimate measure of success. "We use swipe up to link to a ‘get the look’ page where you shop the entire outfit, which provides a direct measure of sales."

Make the case
We Are Social’s clients want evidence that social channels are delivering, says Mobbie Nazir, chief strategy officer. The agency demonstrated the correlation between social and net promoter score based on four years of data to prove to a client’s board that this was a valuable channel. "We are trying to elevate the conversation to another level," she says.

For DuBose Cole, director of strategy, Vayner Media London, every placement is an opportunity to learn. "As long as you approach it as constant learning, there’s a value above and beyond whether it moved any one metric."

The cookieless future creates fresh challenges and will affect different brands in different ways. It will put value exchange front and centre of the debate, says Tom Roberts, CEO Tribal Worldwide London. "It works when you believe that the value exchange offered is transparent and authentic."

With a growing segment resorting to ad blocking and other techniques to frustrate ‘unwelcome friends’, advertising is only going to get harder and brands have to become part of the solution, Cole explains.

Mark Gooding, head of growth EMEA & APAC, Neustar says that the walled gardens approach of social channels means there is a need for an independent arbiter to provide a more dispassionate picture of performance.

While the major platforms have been reluctant to provide integrated data, change is afoot, he says. They are more open to building trust going forward and the IAB initiative to develop a shared ID system, in conjunction with partners like Neustar, could hasten the process.

"The privacy conversation has helped with that because trust in their brands has been diminished amongst consumers," says Gooding. "I know that because we’re having conversations with Twitter, Snapchat, Hulu, Facebook and Google and they are realising that unless they open up some form of measurement, brands and agencies are not going to invest."

He added: "The future of our industry is more collaboration between walled gardens and brands – and external partners. You can only measure return on investment if things are transparent."

Bringing creative and media closer together to speed up the process of optimising advertising will also improve effectiveness. WAS is just one example of an agency taking this approach, bringing paid media, creative and influencer marketing into a team it calls media and distribution.

Alice Driscoll, managing partner, Leagas Delaney agrees that the industry needs to think of new ways to organise itself for social, prioritising this over more measurement indices. "Frankly, the last thing we need right now is a bunch more data when we’re not really utilising what we’ve already go."

It is clear that there are few easy answers to be found on optimising social. But it is here to stay and brands, despite some reservations, like it that way.

The Social Network

  • Campaign Gideon Spanier, global head of media (host)
  • Digitas Leila Hassan, head of data and analytics
  • Eve Sleep Cheryl Calverley, CMO
  • HMD (Nokia) Delphine Varenne, global creative content director
  • Investec Private Banking Emma Haefeli, head of brand
  • Jaguar Land Rover Andy Hunt Cooke, global brand director, Jaguar
  • Leagas Delaney Alice Driscoll, managing partner
  • Neustar Mark Gooding, head of growth EMEA & APAC, marketing solutions
  • Neustar Chris McArdle, SVP marketing solutions
  • Tribal Worldwide London Tom Roberts, CEO
  • Vayner Media London DuBose Cole, director of strategy
  • We Are Social Mobbie Nazir, chief strategy officer
  • Zalando Melissa Weston, marketing lead, UK & Ire

You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now


Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Become a member of Campaign

Get the latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now