Advertising: It's only human, after all

Charlie Spargo's picture
by Charlie Spargo
Paul Lowrey, TI Media

In a sea of analytics, the hardest thing to measure is the value of making a meaningful connection between brand and consumer. Paul Lowrey, Head of Strategy & Marketing at TI Media, argues why now, more than ever before, industry players need to benefit from each other’s expertise - the human touch.

“The race to personalise customer experiences has seen brands rely more heavily on analytics and programmatic strategies,” said Philip Duffield, Managing Director of Advertising Cloud, Adobe EMEA at the recent launch of its 2019 'Digital Trends Advertising in Focus' report.

"So what?" we could be expected to read. After all, if detailed analysis and programmatic advertising can be the solution to drive better online experiences and improve cost efficiency, that must surely be a good thing? 

The thing is, we can’t have our cake and eat it. As Rory Sutherland said: “I think that the whole advertising industry has totally lost the plot. It has become obsessed with that part of advertising which is a media targeting and optimisation process.”

This echoes the thoughts of PHD’s Malcolm Devoy, in an article he wrote for Campaign back in May: “The problem is that efficiency is so seductive. It’s easy to measure efficiency metrics (such as price, cost per click, cost per reach point) … hence the complete shift to focusing on efficiency as if it were effectiveness itself.”

Creativity and audience understanding is still largely human

It’s ironic that in a sea of analytics, the hardest thing to measure is the value of making a meaningful connection between brand and consumer - the human reaction and the attention it delivers. That ultimately relies on creativity and audience understanding which, let’s be honest, still largely belongs to the domain of human beings. 

And yet, this trend has come at a time when human resources across our industry have never been so sparse. We’ve had our own efficiency versus effectiveness issues to deal with - and efficiency is coming out on top. 

So how can we improve it? 

Media's always been good at giving itself a comforting group hug, but the truth is the linear relationship between client, agency and owner has become increasingly blurred.

"Award-winning creativity typically brings little or no effectiveness advantage."

Some clients are taking media in-house, more agencies are increasing ownership of the creative and delivery process, and many owners are either stuck as product shops or come under fire for running ‘managed services’ - an increasingly murky term in an automated world. 

This is the time where we need to benefit from each other’s craft and expertise - the attentive human touch. 

The bravest will champion creativity

From media owners, this requires a greater emphasis on servicing to better understand and interpret agency/client business challenges to deliver more personalised outcomes. Behaving more like our customers - particularly agencies - as opposed to operating as ‘transactional-product-shops’ is an obvious start. 

The bravest will put greater ‘human’ emphasis on creativity, audience attention and context - and most media owners have an abundance of knowledge to share. 

The recent IPA 'Crisis in Creative Effectiveness' study painted a damning picture. “We have arrived in an era where award-winning creativity typically brings little or no effectiveness advantage.” 

It’s not too late to change, of course, but when short-termism is rife, the industry should be opening doors, not closing them. Regardless of media channel, the focus should always come back to finding solutions to problems by engaging with others - and consumers.

We all know this though, right? Or maybe we should analyse it...