As digital ad spend rises and options expand, advertisers and agencies need to bring analytical rigour to matching their media strategies with their brand’s personalities.

When it comes to ad effectiveness, both context and content matter. Kantar has been asking about receptivity to different advertising environments for 20 years. We know that placing your ads in the media outlets your audience is most receptive to will deliver stronger advertising impact.

In Kantar’s Media Reactions study, released this month, we uncover the ad equity ranking of media channels and media brands. Our ad equity metric identifies the places where users most appreciate advertising and are least likely to view ads negatively. The study gives a comprehensive understanding of how ads are viewed, along with a detailed diagnosis of the strengths and weaknesses of different media channels and brands.

As well as giving detailed insights about the evolving media landscape, the report addresses the dilemmas and tensions the industry faces as a result. One of these is how to maximise consumer engagement in an increasingly digital world? Another is the question of how media brands can strike the right balance between perceptions of trust and innovation, and maintain their appeal to both marketers and consumers?

The digital dilemma

The pandemic accelerated the growth of digital in every aspect of life, including the media landscape. The marketers’ dilemma is that consumers are generally much less positive about ads in online channels. As digital media consumption and digital media spend increase, so does the challenge of engaging audiences without irritation.

We have observed the difference between online and offline advertising attitudes since our first ad receptivity study in 2001, and this gap has stubbornly refused to close over two decades. Global consumers in 2021 are most receptive to cinema ads, sponsored events, and print and POS ads. 

However, there are some digital media channels and brands which are able to rise above the general resistance to digital media formats.

Within the global digital media brands, as in 2020, TikTok has the highest overall global ad equity, mainly because it is seen as the platform with the most “fun and entertaining” ads. This position has been maintained despite the number of TikTok users almost doubling and the number of ads on the platform increasingly significantly. TikTok’s ad equity may be helped in-part by the platform’s strong associations with influencer marketing, which is one of the most popular online ad formats (along with podcasts). Of course, not all marketing on TikTok is ads, and hashtag challenges have proven very popular with consumers alongside ads on the TikTok platform.

The inclusion of commerce platforms in this year’s ranking illustrates their increasing importance across the digital advertising landscape. Amazon ranks second globally among consumers, topping the list in four markets and performing remarkably consistently in many more.

Together with regional e-commerce giant Mercado Libre, which leads in Argentina, Amazon’s success showcases why e-commerce has entered the online media channel ad equity rankings in third place. These ads are all considered especially “relevant and useful”. They are also considered less intrusive than many other online formats, presumably because consumers are more open to advertising messages when they are in a shopping mindset.

The innovator’s dilemma

For marketers, there is an element of trade-off between embracing newer, innovative platforms and formats and sticking with tried and trusted media partners.

Globally, Instagram is currently best managing this balancing act – gaining the trust of marketers while retaining a reputation for innovation. YouTube, Google and Facebook are trusted platforms but are considered slightly less innovative. TikTok, the most favoured platform by consumers for the second year running, also has the strongest reputation for innovation, but is not yet trusted by marketers as much as the more established platforms.

Given the pressure on marketing budgets and therefore inherent risk in trying out an innovative platform over a trusty old favourite, it’s surprising how little analytical rigour is usually applied to the process of determining which outlets are a good fit for the brand.

A key element is personality alignment. Brands that are more extroverted are likely to want to align more with innovative media brands which tend to have similar archetypal personalities. More cautious, introverted brands will place greater importance on trustworthy advertising environments, and may prefer to be associated with media brands that have ‘Expert’, ‘Sage’, ‘Innocent’ or ‘Care-giver’ archetypes.

Kantar’s brand personality archetypes [below] are a great way of understanding which platforms align with your brand. The archetypes allow marketers to match advertiser brands to media brands based on their core personality traits. Categorising media brands into personalities like ‘Joker’, ‘Sage’, ‘Expert’, ‘Networker’, ‘Joker’, ‘Enchanter’ and so on. This allows advertisers to better align their brand with the platforms their ads appear on.

Another consideration is the strength of personality traits. Some media brands have very strong personality archetypes, which mean it’s difficult to separate the medium from the message. This means advertisers can “borrow equity” by choosing these environments.

TikTok and Snapchat are clearly defined fun and playful Jokers in the pack, while Google is seen as a knowledgeable and wise Sage. Other brands such as Twitter and YouTube are more of a blank canvas. While they do have some mild personality traits, brands can advertise here without necessarily expecting the context to influence their own messaging.

The outlook for 2022

Our spending outlook illustrates that marketers plan to increase spend on online video, influencer content and social media ads, and reduce spend on print ads. YouTube, Instagram and TikTok are the platforms set to benefit most.

However, as marketers think about how they shift about their budgets through the rest of 2021 and into 2022, Kantar advises they first understand their own brand personality archetype. They can then decide how progressive they want to be in their adoption of more innovative new channels and platform partners.

We firmly believe that media plans should constantly evolve over time, trying newer formats to ensure brands are ready for the mainstream media of tomorrow.