The big five: digital media questions for government communicators in 2016

Here are the five questions that public sector advertisers should ask themselves in 2016

1. Can we trust the digital media supply chain?

2. How can we respond to the rise of ad blocking?
3. Will messenger apps kill SMS?

4. Does TV advertising have a future?

5. What does the ‘stream’ mean for content and creativity?
The big five: digital media questions for government communicators in 2016

The Practice team shares the five questions that public sector advertisers should be asking themselves in 2016.

This digest is based on Interaction 2016, an annual report on the digital media industry produced by GroupM. GroupM is WPP’s global media investment management business. It buys media (advertising space) on behalf of its clients. As the global leader, GroupM is responsible for 1 in 3 ads in the world.

Each year, GroupM uses this unique market position to publish data and to present the trends that will shape digital media for advertisers.

1.    Can we trust the digital media supply chain?
Fraud, weak metrics and lack of transparency are undermining trust in the digital media supply chain. In 2016, advertisers will demand stronger evidence that the media they are buying is really being seen, by humans, for longer than the blink of an eye. What can governments do?

  • Avoid wasting taxpayers’ money on unseen ads by only working with trusted media partners.
  • Ask the difficult questions: How are you verifying that impressions and clicks are from humans not bots? How are you measuring viewability, particularly of in-stream video?
  • Set measurable outcomes to check that online advertising is achieving your goals.

2. How can we respond to the rise of ad blocking?

More people than ever are using software to block ads when they are online. On average, 22% of devices in developed markets have adblockers installed, though this varies significantly between countries. People are choosing ad blockers to avoid irritating ads, to protect their privacy, to avoid paying for data for downloading ads and to increase their internet speeds. Ad blocking is a challenge for governments because it makes it more difficult to reach audiences, and reduces the data available for targeting. What can governments do?

  • Be sensitive to the potential irritation that citizens feel when presented with irrelevant ads online, particularly repetitive irrelevant ads. Use data and design to avoid this.
  • Get your content into sites’ main sections, rather than ad sections. This approach is known as ‘native advertising’ or ‘content marketing.’ By partnering with publishers and telling authentic and relevant stories, we can win space in the editorial sections of sites and thus avoid the ad blockers.

3. Will messenger apps kill SMS?

90% of the time people spend on their phones is spent in an app. Messenger apps dominate, whether Facebook, SnapChat, WeChat, WhatsApp or Line. Like SMS, messaging is instant, intimate and doesn’t need much data or an expensive phone. Unlike SMS, you can now shop, pay and consume rich content within messenger apps. In addition, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has improved significantly. We are close to messenger-bots being able to hold sophisticated automated conversations with people in messenger apps. Messengers threaten SMS wherever data penetration exists – even low bandwidth data, like the kind provided by in developing countries. This will disrupt business models from banking to customer service. How can governments benefit?

  • Think about where you are using SMS – is this still relevant for your audience and offering value for money?
  • Think about citizen interactions that may work better as a conversation. Can you move them into an AI-driven messenger channel?

4. Does TV advertising have a future?

People have been predicting the end of traditional television advertising for decades. This has not happened and we don’t expect it soon, but TV advertising is changing. More people (especially affluent young people) are subscribing to content services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, which don’t run ads. This can make it more difficult to reach these audiences as there is less supply of advertising. What can governments do about it?

  • Make good use of Video On Demand (VOD), such as catch-up TV services. With the right technology, VOD can be carefully targeted and therefore more cost effective than standard TV for some audiences. YouTube and Facebook video can help too.
  • Consider content partnerships with Netflix, Amazon Prime and the content producers who supply them. These services are particularly influential with younger audiences.  
  • In some countries, addressable TV is becoming widespread. Addressable TV means the broadcaster can insert ads in standard ad breaks which will be seen only in households with certain characteristics. This can be a cost-effective approach because it is highly targeted. But every targeted characteristic adds to the cost and reduces the potential audience. This creates a risk of over-targeting and under-delivery. (All engineering is a compromise).

5. What does the ‘stream’ mean for content and creativity?

Most content on mobiles is viewed in a ‘stream’ or ‘feed’ environment, scrolling constantly across the screen. The stream is a challenge for content creators: content is often only on screen for a fleeting moment, video often ‘autoplays’ without the viewer choosing to watch it, and people often consume their feed with the sound switched off. How should government communicators respond?

  • Test whether your video delivers your message in the first three seconds, with the sound switched off. If it doesn’t, you should question whether it will work in a stream environment.
  • Challenge the notion that the creative starting point is a 30 second TV ad, with cut-down versions for YouTube and social feeds. We may now need to start with three seconds as standard, and 30 seconds the exception.
  • Ask questions about your in-stream video advertising: How much is viewable? How many seconds are being watched? How much is autoplay? How many views played with the sound on?
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