As brands recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rakuten’s Stuart McLennan says they must find new ways to overcome the effects of tightened ad budgets by reducing wasted spend. Advertisers can maximise impact by seeing audiences as more than just a series of data points and work to understand the mindset, mood and situation they are experiencing, otherwise known as a “Moment”.

It goes without saying that 2020 was a tough year for most, if not all, industries and the advertising industry certainly was no exception. Research from MAGNA Global found that the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an 8.5% fall in advertising spending in the APAC region. In fact, advertising spending fell in almost every region globally.

However, COVID-19 has also brought about some unexpected changes to the way popular media is streamed and consumed, creating new spaces for advertisers.

Take video streaming as an example – Rakuten Advertising’s “The Road to Recovery: 2020 e-commerce in Asia Pacific” report found that 62% of APAC consumers used “ad-based video on demand” (AVOD) more frequently during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is surely a result of lockdowns worldwide but the trend is here to stay – 63% of first-time consumers indicated an interest in continuing to utilise AVOD.

How can brands navigate the complex landscape of the future after the most challenging year on record? Although reaching consumers in the right context is not new to advertising, with the fall in budgets, it is absolutely crucial that every dollar is spent purposefully.

In order to reduce wasted adspend, using demographic data to reach a target audience is essential to success but alone it is not enough.

The Moments approach

Enter “Moments”, the focus of Rakuten Advertising’s recent resource, “Connecting in the Moment”, which sets out a new way to understand audiences.

Moments are what people experience while engaging with screens throughout the day, such as scanning through social media, watching shows on the go, messaging friends, contributing to discussions on the latest pop culture trend or browsing shopping sites online.

Currently, many advertisers view audiences as a set of data points centred around demographics (such as age, sex, race, occupation and income levels) and orient advertising to what these groups like the best.

For example, if a streetwear brand knew that its target audience is young people privy to the latest pop culture trends, they could launch aggressive marketing campaigns centred around capturing the sentiments of the demographic.

Yet, the moods and preferences of audiences change depending on what they’re doing throughout the day, more specifically the Moment they are in.

Returning to the previous streetwear brand example, youths do not have uniform mindsets, moods and impulses when they are engaging in different activities such as watching breaking news videos, shopping for a Mother’s Day gift or messaging their parents while on vacation. Creating ads with the same messaging that try to capture youths in three very different states of mind is setting up for failure.

Reorienting our understanding of audiences around Moments and understanding how they think throughout the day and week is absolutely essential. It tells advertisers when they need to smartly spend their resources to resonate with audiences. An advertising approach needs to identify and address this understanding of context, bringing us to the fundamental principle of marketing and advertising: right place, right message, right time.

Putting it into practice

So how can advertisers begin harnessing Moments to their advantage? A good start would be to think about what audiences feel in different Moments.

Any data that can help align advertising to the context the audience is in will help elevate the impact of an ad campaign. For CTV, this could be knowing what the most popular content is at certain times of the day.

Consider the experience of watching an evening TV drama. Audiences are likely in a Moment of indulgence and comfort, many relaxing after a long day of work or school, perhaps watching drama over dinner.

Advertisers such as those in the home or luxury verticals can leverage this Moment to engage with audiences in a more relaxed mindset. The Moment is experienced within a brand safe environment which keeps the advertiser confident that their strategies aren’t being misplaced.

Subsequently, brands need to identify the Moments in which their audiences would be most likely to desire their products. Then, they need to think about launching their ads on appropriate platforms where their audiences experience the desired moods.

For instance, on Viki, Rakuten’s streaming platform, the Moment for users is defined by a moment of individual indulgence, often followed by a sense of community as viewers contribute to the content directly, be it by adding subtitles, giving background information or commenting about the video content in real-time. Such a platform would be suitable for brands that want to capitalise on these community-centric Moments.

With brands tightening belts, the need to avoid advertising wastage is more important than ever. This powerful combination of demographic data and, more importantly, demographic understanding, ensures that messaging is tailored not just to the demographic of their target audiences but also to the Moment in which they are experiencing the brand.

Gradually, brands can earn audiences’ trust as they are bombarded less and less by ads not fit for context and, instead, find themselves enjoying a seamless viewing experience. For brands, spending less but being remembered more is the new benchmark.