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TODD SMITH: Top advertisers are spending smarter – here’s how

Ad Age’s annual report on the nation’s top advertisers shows how blue-chip marketers are getting more bang for their billions of bucks. Ten key points from the 60th annual Leading National Advertisers report:

1. Total U.S. ad spending – measured media plus unmeasured spending – rose a slim 2 percent in 2014 for the 200 Leading National Advertisers, but the story is not that marketers are pulling back. They are spending smarter, doubling down on digital and taking unnecessary costs out of marketing.

2. The 200 LNA reduced measured-media spending by 1.8 percent in 2014, with cuts in every major medium except broadcast network TV and cable TV networks, according to Ad Age’s analysis of data from WPP’s Kantar Media. The top 200 boosted unmeasured spending by a strong 6.5 percent in 2014. Unmeasured spending includes various digital plays (mobile, online video, search marketing, unmeasured forms of social media), promotion, experiential marketing and direct marketing.

3. The top 200 boosted unmeasured spending by a strong 6.5 percent in 2014. Unmeasured spending includes various digital plays (mobile, online video, search marketing, unmeasured forms of social media), promotion, experiential marketing and direct marketing.

4. Unmeasured spending continues to take a bigger slice of budgets, capturing 47.8 percent of 200 LNA ad and promotion spending last year. That’s up from 45.8 percent in 2013. Measured media accounts for the rest.

5. While total U.S. ad spending for the top 200 advertisers reached a record $137.8 billion in 2014, the growth rate was lowest since the ad-market recovery took hold in 2010.

6. Among the 200 LNA, 119 marketers boosted U.S. spending in 2014 while 79 reduced their outlays. Spending was flat at two marketers.

7. Thirty-eight marketers spent more than $1 billion on U.S. advertising in 2014.

8. Three brands – AT&T, Verizon, Geico – had 2014 U.S. measured-media spending above $1 billion.

9. This year’s LNA report ranks and analyzes the top 200 U.S. advertisers, up from previous reports that focused on the 100 LNA. Average (mean) 2014 U.S. ad spending for the 200 LNA: $689 million. Average is $1.1 billion for the top 100 and $279 million for Nos. 101-200.

10. Total 2014 U.S. ad spending for the 200 LNA rose for marketers in 12 of the 15 largest categories. Marketers with the biggest gains: travel (up 14.5 percent), apparel (9.8 percent), entertainment/media (5.2 percent) and pharmaceuticals (5 percent). Spending fell in food (down 4.1 percent), technology (-3.5 percent) and personal care (-2.2 percent).

Tips for successful user-generated content campaigns
Organic reach for brands was recently dealt another blow, making the already shrinking impact of organic Facebook posts even smaller. This time, Facebook is directly targeting the likes and comments that friends make on a Facebook page’s posts, pushing those stories further down their friends’ News Feeds.

Reports by Ogilvy and Forrester found that Facebook posts from brand pages reach just 2 percent of their fans and only 0.73 percent of top brand fans engage with each of their posts. It’s time for brands to rethink social media engagement so that consumers — not brands — are the active sharers.

Brands, once wary of putting their messaging in the hands of customers, are learning to embrace user-generated content. And they should. User-generated content makes a brand more approachable. This results in brand campaigns being more authentic while building greater loyalty. User-generated content allows brands to cash in on the eagerness of their customers to participate in new social campaigns on their own time. Here are three tips for a successful campaign:

1. Make it mutually beneficial
Mutually beneficial advertising provides a value for both the brand and the consumer. By incentivizing consumers with rewards, brands can encourage participation in social or digital activities and significantly increase advocacy in core market segments.
Brands should pay it forward to consumers who post pictures on Facebook and Instagram or tweet recommendations. Content rewards can be another benefit, from bragging rights on a leadership board to points redeemable for free gifts – anything that makes the consumer feel valued or recognized by the brand. The end result is awareness for the brand and prizes for the consumer. Win-win.

2. Gamify your campaign
Another way to reward and recognize consumers for sharing and creating content is through gamification. By recreating activities into a game that would ordinarily be considered a burden, marketers can engage consumers with the brand and motivate consumers to accept a call to action. The goal is to encourage deeper engagement through tasks that require more effort from the consumer than traditional marketing can accomplish.

Marketers can use typical game elements like points, levels and badges to appeal to the competitive nature of humans and provide an incentive for action.

Consider the Nike+ campaign. The brand enticed consumers with the perfect mix of competition and social recognition to create brand engagement and awareness. As users participate in sports and other fitness-related activities, the NikeFuel app tracks that activity and turns it into points. Users are encouraged to compete against each other and share their results on social media. When results are shared, users unlock special trophies and users earn badges by reaching higher levels. It’s all about making content sharing entertaining and rewarding.

3. Know Your Audience
Today, social media use spans across all generations, meaning marketers can reach users of all ages via this medium. But research has found that there are some important demographic skews at the top networks, which is important to keep in mind when executing user-generated content campaigns for target audiences.

Marketers should ask themselves if there is a particular audience that would align well with their brand’s mission before kick starting their user-generated content campaign. Identify the ideal brand advocate, and determine a target audience. Then, find out what social networks are most important to them.

More than half of the U.S. population uses social networks regularly and Facebook continues to lead the pack, but let it be known – the world’s largest social networking service is turning grayer. Facebook users ages 65 and older are expected to see the largest increase in 2016 of all demographics, while users age 18-24 are expected to decrease. Instagram, however, has been deemed the most prestigious social networking site among U.S. teens, an area where Facebook and Twitter have lost ground. Additionally, marketers with an eye on millennials would do well to tap into Snapchat, the fastest growing social app in 2014 among 13-25 year olds.

With the decline of organic reach, user-generated content is becoming the reigning component within a strong social media marketing strategy. Marketers that develop entertaining campaigns on the right platforms should be well equipped to reach their target audience and be a part of those mutually beneficial conversations – and most importantly, reap the rewards.

Golden Mic | Former TWT colleague Major Garrett calls Obama on carpet
Journalists are supposed to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Except when the comfortable guy is President Barack Obama and the afflicted are four Americans trapped in Iranian jails.

Then when you ask that question, all hell breaks loose.

That’s the bizarre disconnect encountered by my former colleague at The Washington Times and current CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett when he interrupted the Obama Iran deal press conference with, well, journalism. Garrett stood up and asked Obama, “why you are content” to leave those four people behind in Iran, unaided by American diplomacy?

Thankfully, Garrett didn’t back down. In fact, he summed it up quite nicely. “Clearly it struck a nerve,” he told CBS anchor Contessa Brewer, according to The Hill. Garrett is one of the few with nerve to do so – and a great ambassador for the kind of solid, honest, unabashed journalism that keeps presidents in line. This is the kind of accountable reporting that powers today’s

Fourth Branch of Government. For that, he gets a Golden Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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