Addressing Consumers Across a New Customer Journey

How three verticals are reimagining media with an audience-first approach

By WarnerMedia Ad Sales | Ad Age | March 24, 2021

If 2020 taught us one thing as marketers, it was how the power of personal connection can create authentic experiences that connect brands to consumers in contextually—and culturally—relevant ways.

We’ve long known that one of the most impactful ways to reach an audience is through the power of story. Over time, technology and data became enablers that delivered premium content and brand messages to consumers in a way that didn’t feel mass-manufactured for the many. Addressability emerged as a technology and tactic enabling brands to reach key audiences in a one-to-one or one-to-few manner—and in the right “moment.”

Now, after an unprecedented year that disrupted every category of business, brands are leaning in to reimagine the way they engage at every point in a consumer’s journey.

It’s a move that’s perfectly timed: According to a recent Harris Poll, 73% of Americans are planning a major purchase “when things return to normal” post-pandemic.

Amid new optimism with phased reopenings, progress on vaccine distribution and renewed economic stimulus efforts, here’s how three different verticals are rethinking their audience approach.

Auto: An addressable incumbent goes full funnel

The auto category was an early adopter of addressable advertising, leveraging the technology to reach people in-market for a vehicle in a linear environment while driving measurable sales lift. But with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains and production, category advertisers craved flexibility.

“The pandemic really shifted how the auto category conducts new car reveals, where we’re seeing more companies do virtual sales events while leaning into media partners to make a splash,” said Alanna Benway, an auto category lead at WarnerMedia Ad Sales. “We’ve seen auto manufacturers really take a full-funnel approach to addressable buying across all screens, from branding at the top level down the purchase funnel to where they’re reaching consumers with the highest propensity to purchase a vehicle.”

Although car buyers often used digital to research before they visited a dealership for a test drive, the pandemic really shifted gears on purchase patterns. Automakers have reimagined the way “digital first” can complement the offline, in-dealer experience by leveraging tactics such as QR codes for lead generation to drive more traffic to digital or by using addressable to make more of an impact with audiences in-market for a car, with the right attributes—such as those with a stronger propensity to buy an eco-friendly vehicle or someone whose lease is about to expire. More than ever, auto category advertisers are reinforcing brand messages to drive awareness while servicing those with intent closer to the point of purchase, proven out by metrics such as brand health for upper-funnel investments—and outcomes for their precision buys.

Travel: An emphasis on contextual creative and flexibility

The travel category bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic impact due to universal border restrictions and stay-at-home orders. However, with increased vaccine distribution and an economic stimulus package rolling out in the U.S., consumer demand for leisure travel is anticipated to boost activity across all travel segments, including hotel, cruise, rental car, theme parks, airlines and online travel agencies. More than one in three Americans plan to book a vacation when “things return to normal,” while 53% are currently planning a vacation, according to the Harris Poll

The travel category is foundationally data-driven, backed by robust, first-party insights  stemming from loyalty programs. As the travel industry rebounds, there is an emphasis on re-engaging loyal customers or past guests who may have postponed travel due to the pandemic using first-party CRM data. According to Elyssa Kramer, travel category lead for WarnerMedia Ad Sales, marketers are “leaning into addressable, merging audience insights with contextual messaging, such as ‘We’re here when you’re ready,’ to reinforce flexibility for their most loyal customers,” or mitigating travelers’ concerns by affirming contactless technology and enhanced safety measures.

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With timelines still up in the air for easing international border restrictions, advertisers are taking a regional approach, seeking to connect with audiences who are, for instance, road tripping to a theme park in Florida or who are within a 500-mile radius of these venues. Addressability enables travel brands to only reach consumers in specific geographic regions while driving demand to their owned-and-operated properties through timely offers as more consumers book closer to their actual travel date.

CPG: Moving from in-aisle to online to move items off the shelf

While consumer packaged goods brands have long invested in national strategies in linear TV, increasingly they are tapping into addressable, digital and direct-to-consumer touch points to retain customers and build connections with Millennial and Gen Z consumers at a time when buying behaviors are less than predictable.

With U.S. households increasing their CPG spending by 19% year-over-year in 2020 vs. 2019 and nearly half of 2,000 consumers surveyed sampling new category products or brands for the first time, according to NCSolutions, CPG advertisers are analyzing purchase data to convert samplers to loyalists while retaining longtime purchasers.

Like most businesses adjusting to a new normal on the pathway to recovery, CPG advertisers are minimizing waste wherever they can, and that means making linear dollars work harder and ensuring impressions aren’t served to the same audience repetitively.

Historically, the CPG category didn’t have turnkey access to first-party data, but an evolution in shopper marketing has put data-driven insights and buying at the center of many CPG marketers’ purviews and priorities.

“Antiquated buying and measurement typically associated with traditional mediums have been deprioritized in favor of reaching impactful audiences in relevant ways across all channels,” said Chris Luna, global media manager for 3M. “Consumers are seeking more relevant messaging while advertisers like us … strive to place data at the center of our decision-making. Addressable allows us to go beyond demo-based targets to align with our core and high-growth audiences.”

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CPG advertisers are innovating around new ways to harness first-party data through owned sites, branded content, partnerships with media partners and attribution techniques to close the loop between online and offline shopping.

Read the full story at Ad Age.