Digital ad spend is growing but marketers aren’t sure they’re putting it in the right place. Kantar’s Jane Ostler has some advice on how to get the most out of your media.

It’s an exciting and fast-changing world of media, with new and traditional channels, online and offline. But as the media landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, marketers are struggling to get their media strategies right in the short and long term, with only 51% confident that they have the right balance.

That’s according to Kantar’s sixth annual global Getting Media Right study, which surveyed nearly 500 senior marketers spanning advertiser brands, media publishers and agencies around the world.

The research found that overall confidence in the media mix is weakening, particularly when it comes to digital channels. Forty percent aren’t sure that they have the right combination of media channels, and this rises to 46% when it comes to getting the right balance and synergies between digital and offline media.

Mastering multimedia

Digital is here to stay and it’s starting to dominate: 2020 is set to see a significant rise in digital ad spend, as marketers look to optimise their media mix. Eighty-four percent of marketers plan to increase their investment in online video advertising over the next 12 months, while 70% plan to increase spend on social media networks, and 63% on podcasts. This is in sharp contrast to print media: 70% of marketers say they will reduce their spend in magazines, and 66% will reduce investment in newspaper advertising.

It is well documented that multi-media campaigns are key to delivering return on investment. Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation revealed that when using two media channels, ROI is 19% higher – and this increases to 35% for campaigns that use five media channels or more.

But optimising this return is not straightforward, and brands are at risk if they simply jump on the digital bandwagon. Getting media right is all about choosing channels that truly reflect the habits of your target audience. Even now, TV remains the main channel to drive reach for many campaigns, so marketers need to balance online and offline.

Missing the mark on measurement

So why are marketers struggling to optimise the media mix? Our research suggests that digital measurement and effectiveness remains the primary challenge, with walled gardens reducing the ability to understand cross-channel performance, or at least making it more complicated to do so. This leaves many advertisers in the dark about the performance of their brand across channels.

And although the majority of marketers now recognise the importance of balancing short-term sales with long-term brand building, only 54% are using both short and long-term measurement; 38% still rely solely on short-term sales results. Whether it’s sales, searches or clicks, most of the readily available data tends to focus on what’s happening here and now.

This new research indicates that marketers still have a long way to go to when it comes to cross-channel measurement and proving ROI. Without a more holistic view of media investments, it will be impossible for marketers to optimise their media strategy for the short or long term.

Transforming strategy

Our research has found that underperforming on brand exposure has the biggest negative impact on long-term brand growth. So how can marketers get the most out of their media mix for long-term brand impact?

1. Improve integration: with even more proliferation of channels and touchpoints, it’s more important to make connections between them. One quarter of advertisers (25%) have failed to integrate their marketing organisations, and 27% of advertisers do not have integrated strategies across media and non-media activities.

2. Understand context: context is back with a vengeance. Nearly two thirds of marketers agree that developing custom content is an imperative, but when it comes to understanding how context impacts creative executions, there’s still a gap. More insight is required into how specific content needs to be tailored to specific contexts to improve message receptivity.

3. Future-proof digital measurement: unified ROI measurement frameworks should be an important goal for advertisers to increase performance and create growth in the short and long-term. That also means being ready for a cookie-less world. The majority of the industry – almost three-quarters of advertisers – haven’t begun preparations for their post-cookie strategy, which could leave many in the dark.

Balancing the best of both worlds

The next 12 months will see huge changes for the industry, with the rise of newer channels, such as podcasts and advanced TV, and the move away from cookies set to transform the way advertisers target and measure campaigns. Marketers should aim for the best of both worlds: they need to create a framework to monitor impact on business and brand metrics. That means harmonising measurement tools, building an infrastructure that enables measurement across the diverse marketing mix, and creating meaningful insights to improve performance across all channels.