Originally published in Marketing Week.
This article features Rhian Feather, OMD UK Head of Media Planning.
Rhian Feather was awarded ‘Practitioner of the Year’ at Google’s recent YouTube HomeShows Awards. Industry-leading judges were impressed with her contributions to OMD’s proprietary planning tools as well as the key role she plays within OMG’s central digital and AV team, focused on driving YouTube best practice.
Agencies have talked about breaking down silos for years, yet that intent has historically been hampered by common technologies, platforms and systems used through the journey that were unable to speak to each other.
That lack of connection has encouraged all-too frequent disconnect between teams at the top and bottom of the funnel: brand teams, using their own tools and techniques, were pushed away from their performance colleagues who encourage conversions at the bottom. The journey starts with awareness, through campaigns that are measured by reach and recall, before moving on to consideration and purchase, where clickthrough rates (CTRs) and cost per acquisition (CPA) will usually measure success.
There is potential for teams to lose sight of the customer during this handover. But by joining brand and performance teams, it’s possible for planning and measurement to span the entire funnel within a single agency team, ensuring campaigns are made more effective by empowering learnings to flow more easily throughout the whole process.
It’s important campaign insights are not lost as a consumer moves from awareness to transaction, OMD UK head of media planning Rhian Feather explains, which is why the agency has created its new ‘connected performance’ team. “We’re thinking far more holistically about how people move through the funnel, making sure campaigns are meticulously planned towards audiences, so we keep on learning and improving as we help nurture consumers towards conversion,” she says.
“Ultimately, all campaigns are about performance in different guises, so it makes no sense to think of performance as a final stage, separate from brand. It makes far more sense for branding and performance to be together so you don’t lose sight of the customer or campaigns; it’s a smoother and far more effective process.”
Connected TV Offers New Opportunities
This holistic and nimble full-funnel approach means campaigns are interwoven across multiple online and offline channels, such as television, cinema, connected TV, digital out-of-home, digital video and display, among others.
YouTube is a particular area of focus, as it represents a full-funnel option to reach both mass and niche audiences that are proving harder to find through campaigns on TV alone.
YouTube’s research suggests campaigns from OMG, OMD UK’s parent company, have achieved an average incremental audience boost of 9.7% by utilising YouTube alongside TV, while IPA analysis has shown the general benefits of using TV and online video together. According to its seminal ‘Media in Focus’ research, combining online video with TV in a campaign offers a 54% boost in ‘very large business effects’ such as increased profits or market share.
This is increasingly prompting brands and agencies to buy YouTube alongside TV in campaigns, particularly as more YouTube content is being viewed in the YouTube app via TV screens, according to YouTube agency lead Jehan Shah.
“What we are now seeing is a huge rise in the number of people streaming YouTube on their television – this reached 25 million people in May 2021. It’s a real game-changer for advertisers because it allows them to reach large and difficult-to-reach audiences, not only on laptops and smartphones, but also bigger screens.”
Full-Funnel Digital Advertising
Feather agrees that the constantly changing YouTube viewing behaviours have added to the role of YouTube in a media plan, with YouTube now being used alongside TV, in quality content, as well as shorter formats targeting more niche audiences.
A good example, Feather suggests, is OMD’s client, McDonald’s. It leaned heavily into digital when lockdown meant its restaurants were restricted to deliveries and a drive-through service. The advantage of connected performance was that the brand and OMD, based on consumer signals, could establish where the consumer sat within the funnel and then deliver the right ad to address that particular stage of the consumer journey.
“With a full-funnel approach, we can start to segment audiences so we know where to focus further spend and what format and messaging will help them convert,” she says.
Feather adds that there has been a fundamental shift in the approach to digital video advertising. Brands are likely to use the channel earlier on in campaigns more frequently than before, she believes. “There are no hard-set rules, but in the past we would probably have seen YouTube activations as coming in at the narrower end of the funnel.
“In the past, it would vary greatly depending on the brand and the intended audience, but a typical campaign might start off with a TV advert to gain reach and awareness, before moving on to YouTube with repurposed creative and messaging, with a call to action to drive a conversion. Nowadays we consider YouTube part of the mix throughout the entire funnel. And with YouTube being streamed on household TV screens, that could help us drive efficiencies as well as effectiveness.
“At the top of the funnel, for example, you might have a group of people who watched a full YouTube brand awareness ad for, say, a mortgage. Using Google affinity audiences we might know who is more likely to be in market for the product, and so putting them in a segment for a follow-up call-to-action video advert makes a lot of sense. Others may not have interacted, so they could perhaps be in a segment that might be in market in the future.”
Critically, OMD can use its first-party client data to build a model of what a customer looks like and target those people on the video platform. This can be augmented by YouTube privacy-safe user insights that can separately build a picture of similar audiences who are showing the signs they are in market for the product or service a campaign is promoting.
Better Decisions, Faster
This move to data-led decision-making fits in with the findings of research from Forrester. When commissioned by Google to establish how agencies can continue to add value to their relationships with clients, three key attributes were identified. Agencies need to be great at creating customer-led brand strategies, and experts at turning data into insight. Additionally, they need to offer the expertise to drive effectiveness and efficiencies in digital advertising, while keeping pace with changing consumer habits.
Making best use of full-funnel data flowing through a campaign requires the ability to act on it in real time and learn from the insights, and for this, machine learning is key. It needs to constantly interrogate which channel, which ad format and which type of creative and messaging would have the greatest impact the next time the brand wants to be in front of a particular viewer – and then use the outcome to learn and improve in the future. This is what OMD’s Media Decision Engine has been designed to do, developed to aid its work with with many clients including Daimler and Channel 4.
But the technology can only be effective in the hands of the right brand and agency teams. By combining the areas of customer insight, data and expertise throughout the funnel as a single area responsibility, brands and agencies can keep up with changing consumer habits and drive up effectiveness. It is an effort that requires new technology, a revised strategy and a new connected team – and ultimately it is a fundamentally new approach.