Originally published in Adweek on May 17, 2021.
As people emerge from the isolation of the pandemic, tired of yet another Netflix binge night from their couch, the allure of going to a cinema will be quite attractive. As cinemas reopen, it’s important to get timing right.
I was recently talking to a prospect in the film industry. This company releases movies. A lot of them. Marketing for them is all about timing—when will the movie be released, when will the creative assets be ready and how can they time the advertising in each geographic to coincide with the “release window” when the films will be in the cinemas?
That got me thinking: What happens when a campaign is launched late—quite a common occurrence for many marketers. Often chalked up as “that’s just how it is,” there is a real opportunity cost to being late. One less day promoting a movie means less revenue at the box office. Depending on the return on investment on your advertising and the lifetime value of the product, it’s easy to calculate the business value of agility in real dollars. The ability to move quickly from ideation to campaign launch means more days for the campaign in the market and more ticket sales.
How do brands decide what and when to promote in the first place, especially for prospecting campaigns? In the case of movie studios, the number of movies you produce a year is relatively low, and the window of success is very well defined. But what about when you sell 500 different products? How do you make sure your campaign portfolio promotes the right products? Do you only promote new and seasonal products? What about ones where you have excess inventory?
Movies are not the only category where days in-market are limited. The same holds true for retailers in the lead-up to Mother’s Day and travel companies in the run-up to big school holidays.
In the past, you had to pick what you would promote in a given time period based not only on budget and priority but also on ad production capacity. In digital, aided with technology, it is now possible to launch 10 different campaigns with almost the same effort and the same combined reach as one single campaign. Doing so has far better results because the 10 smaller campaigns provide more opportunities to tailor your messaging to be relevant to each fragmented digital audience and provides a greater opportunity to test and learn.
What we also see among many of our customers is a move from highly planned seasonal campaigns to “always-on” campaigns that run all yearlong, where the content and message get refreshed and updated based on the business need. This mindset of always being in-market increases the need for agility even further, i.e., “If I’m already spending media, how quickly can I tweak my communication to capitalize on some current event to give my promotions a relevancy boost?”
Agility in digital advertising is no longer about efficiency. It is a crucial strategy to boost effectiveness and drive sales, especially now. To improve agility, marketers should look not just at tools but also at processes and workflows, collaboration between stakeholders and, indeed, how marketing organizations are incented to operate.
In today’s world, the status quo of yesterday is not “just the way it is.” We need to champion better ways of advertising because it is possible—and it is our responsibility.
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