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Leveraging digital advertising


Marketing has changed more in the past three years than in the previous thirty as new media channels, including social, have proliferated. Bank marketers know they need to move an increasing portion of their ad budget to digital. The questions are: how much and to what?

The first thing to do is clearly understand who you are targeting with your advertising campaigns. Once you know this, conduct research into your target consumers’ media journey. What media outlets do they use and trust? Tools such as Comscore, MRI, Scarborough, Forrester and eMarketer can help you build a consumer insights profile. This is a good first step to obtain solid directional evidence of whether your investment in digital media channels mirrors your audience’s habits.

Another useful insight is to discover everything you can about your competition, including who they are targeting, what media they are using and how much they are spending. Tools such as SpyFu, Borrell, Moat and Kantar that can help you understand what creative your competitors are running, which media they are using and how much they are spending.

Combining these insights should provide directional guidance on where you should be investing your digital media dollars. Now, let’s take a review of the various media alternatives and what they are best at achieving:

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Paid Search. This involves the purchase of key words on search engines. You use this tactic to drive online inquiries and sales for people who are searching for a specific topic or product. It is effective for both consumers and businesses. Traditionally, SEM is thought of as the most efficient online investment, since marketers only pay for clicks. But, as we’ll discuss shortly, very often the quality and value of those clicks are only as good as the branding efforts that precede them. SEM is relatively easy to measure and link to sales, which can also inflate its value to the bank.

Online Display. Banner ads that convey an advertising message can be in standard sizes or involve rich media, be expandable and interactive. They can build brand or sell a specific product. Again, these ads are effective for both consumers and businesses. However, a word of caution here: when many marketers compare search-engine marketing and display side by side, they find themselves discouraged with display’s return on investment (ROI). But if they use algorithmic attribution, marketers will discover that banner ads are often driving SEM, website, or branch purchases.

Online Video. With consumers viewing content across multiple devices, on-demand and in varying lengths, many marketers are hedging linear TV budgets with online video, to touch light viewers and increase market reach. Again, SEM will take credit for many consumers who start with online video, so it’s critical to understand how your target customer uses video and utilize attribution metrics to determine whether it is driving SEM, web and branch sales. Online video is more commonly used for consumers, unless it is instructional video on YouTube or SlideShare. It is typically used for brand building rather than product sales.

Streaming Radio. In most major markets, streaming radio like Pandora, Spotify, and Rhapsody, taken together, constitutes the largest radio “station” in terms of listeners. It’s imperative for you to view streaming radio as an audio solution, to complement your traditional radio plan. For both online video and streaming radio, your media agency can provide an analysis of declining reach returns against your traditional broadcast buy. Once the reach curve begins its downward trajectory, take the remaining funds and invest in streaming radio. In most markets, that is going to translate into a bare minimum of 10% of your TV and radio spend. Some urban markets are approaching 30% and growing!

Native Content. Informational content that is designed to educate the consumer and often resembles news can either be placed adjacent to contextually relevant publisher content, can stand alone on your website or be found via search. Content is used for both consumers and businesses, but can be particularly effective with business-to-business (B2B) lead generation for small businesses and commercial clients, as evidenced by Rockland Trust’s content partnership with The Boston Globe.

Mobile. Although many of the above-mentioned ad units – display, search, video and audio – can be used on mobile, this channel is treated as a category of its own, due to its unique consumer use and marketing measurement. Mobile can be used for very tight geo-targeting, which allows banks to be very efficient in advertising around their bank branches. Most mobile campaigns are consumer-oriented, and can be both promotional or brand-oriented. There are several mobile vendors who are able to tie a consumer’s internet IP address to that same consumer’s mobile device, creating a “liquid media” scenario where messaging can follow the consumer from device to device.

Social. A few years ago, social was thought of as an “earned media” area, meaning a marketer’s investment in this channel involved managing communities and generating content to engage. While that is still the case, most social outlets have changed algorithms, requiring marketers to pay-to-play. Due to social media’s ubiquity for both consumers and business buyers, banks can see a positive response from investing in this channel and results can be measured like other tag-able digital media solutions. It is generally used for brand building, but can be used for direct response sales for certain bank products.

So, How Much Is Enough? We’ve talked about getting a broad idea of how much of your budget to allocate to digital – look at your target customer’s behavior and what percent of their time is spent with digital media. We’ve also suggested looking at your competition’s spend. But how do you know whether your assumptions are right or not? Fortunately, several ad measurement techniques have emerged recently to help you. Most are affordable for all but the smallest institutions.

A good place to start is to ask your ad or media agency if they use performance-based planning tools. These allow learning from past campaigns to model performance of future campaigns, which is key to planning and improving your campaign’s performance over time. What changed in your most recent campaign, and what results were generated as a result? What are the best platforms (mobile versus desktop) and the investment required? Most media agencies use a media mix tool to estimate how the digital media plan and traditional plan work synergistically to deliver an appropriate market reach and frequency. This will add precision to the previously mentioned customer behavior allocation.

Earlier, we talked about SEM getting credit for other more brand oriented media that are “further up the sales funnel.” There are four approaches you can use to pull apart each digital medium to determine which is actually responsible for customer sales.

First, work with your media agency to deploy a third-party ad server for both your display and SEM campaigns to build and understand the customer’s path to purchase. The reporting this provides will give insights as to how search and display work synergistically.

Next, deploy a Media Mix Model that uses regression to correlate your past marketing efforts (traditional and digital media as well as direct mail and e-mail programs) to actual sales. Until recently, this was the domain of large advertisers like Proctor & Gamble, but several firms now offer mix modeling suitable for larger community banks and credit unions.

Third, use an algorithmic attribution tool that can provide appropriate weight to each digital channel, and even publishers within the channels, to better understand the contribution of upper funnel tactics on a near real-time basis. In the past 12 to 24 months, several new entrants in the attribution space have made this type of sophisticated modeling affordable for mid-level marketers.

Finally, leverage your media agency partner to help you navigate the various solutions out there.

Bank executives expect marketing to be moving in the digital direction, and to be measuring the effectiveness of their efforts. Fortunately, there has never been a better time to reach consumers how and where they want to be reached, and to quantify the return on your marketing investment.

Mr. Gibson is a senior consulting associate with Washington, D.C.-based Capital Performance Group, LLC. He can be reached at [email protected].