By Rishi Saxena
Measuring impact is the big challenge.
An average person in the Middle East is served over 1,500 online impressions a month and can see up to 600 marketing messages across different media channels within a day according to the results of a 2018 Nielsen benchmark study on MENA media trends. This does not come as a surprise as according to Zenith, in 2019 people are expected to spend an average of 170.6 minutes online each day vs watching TV for 170.3 minutes.
It’s a great time to be a consumer, as media consumption continues to evolve at lightning speed. Proliferation of media touchpoints, especially with the shift to mobile is enabling new content, ideas, brands and much more to be discovered with ease and speed. This is especially true for the Middle East, with a young, connected and mobile-first population constantly engaging with new channels, apps and digital mediums.
But life as a marketer is not as simple. The same changes in media consumption are making the path to purchase more complex and harder to follow. Consequently, the ability for traditional measurement systems to track performance and measure advertising effectiveness has become one of the biggest challenges for the new age marketer. In absence of strong cross-channel measurement, marketing investments continue to be based on past experiences and gut feelings. This is obvious in our region, with the disparity in current investments vis-à-vis the time spent across different media.
The right Measurement can help make informed decisions.
There is a global movement for marketers to adopt and drive stronger media measurement that is focused on assessing the impact on real business performance and sales. ‘Marketing Mix Modeling’ (MMM) has been used extensively by advertisers in the past and is now being tailored to tease out the impact of digital media channels.
Lots of digital-heavy advertisers are also using ‘Multi-Touch Attribution’ (MTA) studies to run deeper analysis of their digital investments, while some are running ‘Sales Lift’ tests for individual media channels. All of these are steps in the right direction, and usher a new wave of knowledge to our new marketing context.
There are some important lessons to be learned from a recent meta-analysis published by Nielsen in February 2018, analyzing the results of more than 250 MMM studies conducted across the Middle East and Africa. The Nielsen meta-analysis found that different media vary in levels of return on investments (ROI) that need to be considered to improve overall sales performance.
Digital accounted for less than seven percent of the total media spend for the campaigns analyzed, outpacing most other traditional mediums by quite a margin.
This does not mean we should move all investments to digital, but we also need to look at other factors like reach saturation levels and efficiency of media at different reach levels to make realistic decisions. Getting the right media mix is a test-and-learn exercise. According to Nielsen, the trick is to find the “investment sweet spot” that makes marketers’ spend work the hardest for different media tactics.
Build for the platform.
Just investing in the highest ROI medium does not guarantee success. What you put into play in any medium makes a big difference; strategy and creativity are still king. According to the same Nielsen meta-analysis, weak digital campaigns have a similar ROI to weak TV campaigns; but tailored digital campaigns can outperform strong TV by over 50 percent. Putting effort to build your creative campaigns is definitely worth the effort.
Marketers need to rethink the creative development process right from the brief, creating versions of an idea that can perform across different mediums and screens, and deliver the best outcome within that medium. Creative strategists need to leverage tools, data and insights across different platforms to develop a repository of knowledge to fuel their next round of creativity.
We see this happening on platforms like Facebook and Instagram with much success, as consumers spend an increasing amount of time on hand-held devices and mobile-adapted content continues to get significant engagement and delivers stronger brand impact.
We saw that applying mobile creative best practices (like upfront branding/messaging, faster cuts and snappy storytelling) to a regular TV copy used on Facebook has a 1.6x higher chance of delivering a significant lift in ad recall and 3x higher chance of delivering a significant lift message association, compared to the original TV copy based on a meta-analysis of 18 studies done across Middle East & Africa.
All about testing and learning.
A great example of building for the Facebook platform is UAE-based conglomerate Al Tayer Group. The company used curated Facebook and Instagram ads to spread the word about its fashion ecommerce store, Nisnass, to make it a destination for men and women buying mid to high-end products during Ramadan last year. The creative was built for the mobile screen delivering a simple message.
Al Tayer’s digital efforts on Facebook not only led to strong improvement in brand metrics, but also delivered a strong lift in sales attributed to a 5X and 7X return on ad spend in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, respectively. Like Al Tayer, we are working with more advertisers who are testing and learning how to best build for a digital world.
Technology will continue to drive better experiences for consumers, while marketers will need to be quick on their feet or play catch up. The ones who are agile, focus on business impact, test and learn and are ready to adapt to a changing landscape will reap the benefits. The time to take action is now!
RISHI SAXENA is the Emerging Markets Measurement Lead at Facebook MENA. A copy of this OP-ED has appeared in the print edition.