By Jeff White
The old advertising rule is often boiled down to two words: reach and frequency. This was the mantra during the era of advertising mass media. First, reach as many people as possible with your advertising message through television, radio and print media. By reaching many people, your target customer demographic was bound to be exposed to your ad or so the thinking went. Second, deliver the ad multiple times so your target customer demographic remembers it.
Digital has changed this equation. There are still mass media marketing strategies, but it looks like 2015 was the last year that television ad spending exceeded digital. eMarketer reports that digital represented $72 billion in 2016 U.S. ad spending while television came in at $71 billion. By 2020, the disparity is expected to grow significantly with digital at $113 billion to $78 billion for television. Mobile advertising alone will match or exceed television spend that year as well. The trend line is clear.
The Two Factors Driving Digital Advertising Growth: Time and Targeting
The shift to digital advertising can be understood by two factors: time spent with media and targeting. Between 2012-16, average consumer time spent with television has declined 12%. Time spent with digital media has climbed 37% during that same period, and mobile time usage has grown 111%. Advertising follows consumer attention. There is more time spent with digital media, particularly on mobile, and the ad dollars have migrated accordingly.
The second factor is targeting. Mass media advertising is at best a blunt instrument. By using mass media you may well be reaching your target audience, but you are also wasting impressions on a lot of consumers outside of it. By wasting, I mean paying for advertising that reaches people who are unlikely to become customers and that you know are not good prospects.
When there were only blunt instruments available to advertisers, they were more accepting of the chaff because it was the only way to reach the wheat. Retailing mogul John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Today, targeting enables you to make the most of every advertising dollar and focus your spending on high likelihood buyers. The better your targeting, the better the return.
Applying Targeting to Both Reach and Insight
Mobile is particularly effective for advertising because it has unmatched consumer reach and the travel patterns of devices provide insight into behaviors that can significantly improve your targeting. At Gravy, we have discovered a particularly telling set of data combinations that reveal behavioral characters. From this we created segmented audience insights indicating who people are, what they care about, where they go and their level of commitment to these interests and intents.
Along the way, we found that location is often not enough to really understand what motivates a consumer. How do you identify a wine aficionado if wine festivals are held in open fields? How do you know if someone is an avid runner and participating in races every weekend? They don’t do that at Target. How do you know that the person attending Madison Square Garden is there for a concert or a game or Disney on Ice? How do you know if someone is in the market to buy a new home? You do all of this by matching events to locations visited by devices – a lot of devices.
Gravy has built the largest event tracking database in the industry. We monitor one million events across the U.S. each day and match them to 15 billion mobile device location signals. We can distinguish between people that participate in events, those that attend events as spectator and those that simply visit places and points of interest. These factors help reveal the intensity behind interest and intent which results in more refined targeting for advertisers. It also enables them to learn more about their target customers and how best to motivate them.
Reach at Scale and Convenience
The other thing we learned was that marketers need reach at scale. The consumer insight provided a lot of value and advertisers wanted to then turn that into immediate reach for their campaigns. Over the past year, Gravy has added 240 million devices to our audiences in order to provide that reach. We also developed partnerships with the leading DSPs and DMPs to make the audiences easily accessible to advertisers and agencies.
Gravy has set out to address the age old marketing problem best expressed by John Wanamaker. Through robust behavioral targeting we help ensure that marketing impressions aren’t wasted, but instead reach the highest value consumers. That insight helps both in ad serving and deciding whom to target in the first place. We also provide the reach that advertisers need to execute their campaigns.