4 best practices to move the needle on digital advertising

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Depending on whose statistics you believe, the average American sees between 3,000 and 5,000 branding messages every single day. And yet, if you asked most of us, we’d be hard-pressed to recall more than one or two, if we’re even able to remember the ads we’ve seen at all. This problem is especially bad in the digital space, where many consumers have learned to completely shut out the banners, pop-ups, and autoplay video ads that interrupt the content they set out to enjoy.

It’s for these reasons that I’ve spent the past several years as one of the advertising technology industry’s most vocal proponents of developing user-first ad experiences that people actually want to spend time with. The only problem is that creating an exciting, engaging campaign is easier said than done. Doing so requires hard work, planning, and a willingness to really put yourself in your customer’s shoes. But if you’re able to be strategic and disciplined in executing your game plan, achieving this goal is far from impossible. Here are four keys to delivering a truly memorable ad experience:

1. Bring your entire team into the planning process

Last month, I had the pleasure of participating in an informative webinar with Carla Meyer, a veteran marketer who serves as the global digital advertising and social media manager for Garmin International. According to her, one of the biggest reasons the GPS brand has been so successful in the digital sphere has been its decision to break down the silos that have historically existed between a company’s data science, planning, buying, creative, and technology teams.

Instead of this unwieldy division of labor, Garmin keeps everyone on the same page by developing a campaign’s media and creative strategies simultaneously. By bringing each department to the table at the very beginning, the brand can plan coordinated, cross-screen campaigns where every touchpoint is matched to an appropriate creative unit.

2. Don’t worry about clicks — focus on emotion

Because digital gives us so much data to look at, we often forget to ask ourselves a simple, important question: “How did my ad make the consumer feel?” After all, research has shown that the vast majority of purchase decisions are based on emotion and intuition rather than reason.

Generally speaking, the more people feel, the more they buy. More specifically, visceral reactions like surprise, sadness, and fear can spike short-term activation behaviors like engagement and conversions. Meanwhile, long-term branding is best achieved by making the consumer feel good by the end of the ad experience. What’s great about digital is that a single campaign can help you accomplish both of these goals at the same time.

3. Measure how your ads make people feel

Contrary to what you may believe, it is possible to measure the emotional responses people have to your ads. For a campaign we executed with Garmin, we worked with the advertising research firm BrainJuicer to find out what consumers were feeling as they watched a dynamic, interactive ad for the Vivosmart fitness tracker.

The measurement process surveyed 150 consumers who were interested in fitness trackers, asking them to comment on their emotions as they watched the ad. Inspired by sleek visuals and a captivating tagline (“Beat yesterday.”), the viewers registered happiness and surprise as the ad demonstrated all the different activities the device could be used for. By running these studies during the testing phase, marketers can predict the success of their ads and tweak their creative units to prompt the right emotions.

4. Be mobile-first and device-specific

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in digital is trying to retrofit their television branding assets into digital channels. As Carla pointed during the webinar, the attention spans of today’s consumers are much shorter than they used to be, and a 30-second commercial just isn’t going to hold someone’s attention when they can simply X out of the window and do something else. In order to be successful, marketers must develop experiences tailored to the environments where people will see them.

For instance, a video experience designed specifically for mobile could be shot vertically to account for the ways people naturally hold their phones. In addition, brands can make their ads even stickier by taking advantage of the interactive features consumers can only enjoy on their mobile devices. When Gatorade rolled out a sponsored Snapchat filter that allowed users to drench themselves in a bucket of virtual electrolytes during last year’s Super Bowl, the ad didn’t just take off because it was a clever idea. Rather, a large part of the filter’s appeal was that it was completely different from the ads people see when they consume traditional media.

Moving forward, marketers need to devote additional resources to developing this kind of outside-the-box, mobile-first ad experience. As more and more people adopt their smartphones as their number one media consumption hub, it’s no longer feasible for brands to spend all their time and money making TV commercials.

All that’s left for them to do now is to get to work.

Eric Franchi is co-founder and SVP Business Development at Undertone.

Published on VentureBeat

Eric Franchi

Eric Franchi is co-founder of Undertone and serves as senior vice president of business development, leading the company’s relationships with its most important partners. A respected industry leader, Eric has been featured in publications including Ad Age, Adweek and The Wall Street Journal, and on stages worldwide including IAB MIXX, Advertising Week and Cannes. He has held a place on the board of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) for several years, helping guide the digital advertising industry through a period of rapid growth and change.

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