Tracking consumer behavior

GroupM’s Rob Norman discusses a ‘philosophical’ advertising shift

Q: What has changed the most since you started in advertising?

A: Clearly, bandwidth is the decisive difference. On the one hand, it’s created huge fragmentation, which has made mass reach more complicated. But it’s also fragmented attention, which means getting engagement from that reach is more difficult. On the flip side, it’s allowed for much more precise target­ing, and will continue to get better and better in that area.

Q: What else is impacted by the growth in bandwidth?

A: Unsaid, the link between size or length of the marketing message and cost of delivering that message is now broken, so it doesn’t cost more money to run five minutes of online video than 30 seconds of online video, unlike [the cost difference between] a 100-page mailer and a one-page mailer.

Q: How has consumer behavior evolved?

A: Consumer behavior has changed radically, because consumers’ expecta­tions have changed. They expect that they get everything they want or need to know pretty much on demand 24/7. They don’t need to mail in coupons or make a phone call to get more informa­tion, they just click.

Q: In what ways did this change the advertising business?

A: The advertising business used to be broadcast-centric. It relied on mass-produced media properties. We lived with things like wastage and constraints of messaging and lived with relatively limited targeting capabilities, response and interaction.

Q: What are the parts of the new marketing landscape?

A: We now know we have three big boxes: broadcast; addressable media, such as Internet; and social media. Word of mouth isn’t new, but now we can activate and measure it. We’re trying to think about what consumers think about brands and what consum­ers think about purchase transactions and then determine what the range of influence is between those. That’s the philosophical shift. When you think about the elements of a marketing mix you have advertising, direct response, promotions and sponsorships. All of this can be done online.

Q: What are the biggest challenges in tracking consumer behavior?

A: One thing that frustrates me a bit is that the online advertising world has been pretty obsessed with getting right down to the bottom of the purchase level and last-click attribution. We need to look at all the things people do online and attribute that sale in a more represen­tative way than just the last click, which still doesn’t recognize the impact of TV, print, in-store or broadcast. There’s a desperate desire and a constant drive in the online advertising community to sell online media as the most accountable. My sense is that maybe sometimes it is. It’s almost always the most measurable, but measurable and accountable aren’t always the same thing.

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