Brands want to be in spaces where large audiences gather, the assumption being that it will be easier to get their attention. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen that way. In the early days of digital marketing, brands would wonder why their advertising wasn’t performing when it was exposed to large and growing online audiences. In fact, those who were around back then (can I get a show of hands?) remember the always-present debate that went something like this: “If all these people are online and the advertising is so highly interactive, why don’t our ads perform for us as well as our TV spots?” In fact, I hear remnants of this argument in certain industries to this day – just replace “TV spots” with some other kind of traditional advertising. For me, this debate would set my hair on fire (who am I kidding, I was bald back then too). Different platforms, different media, different user experiences, etc. Still, the debate raged on. It was never an apple to apple comparison.
The debate about efficacy of digital media channels, intensified.
You’d think that as the Internet took hold, this sentiment would dissipate. You would be wrong. It’s moved from the Internet to specific channels. For years, I would listen to brand leaders complain that search advertising doesn’t work for them. The same was said about email, banners, display advertising, and so on. Once the formats become validated (though it was hard to argue that search and email are not effective marketing channels), the discourse shifted to specific platforms; Facebook advertising doesn’t work, YouTube is not as effective as TV, etc. In the past, my general feedback to marketers was always the same: “[insert specific/popular platform name here] works great for advertising, you’re just not advertising effectively on this platform.” Brands would obviously rather blame the channel and platform over their strategy, creative and execution. That’s just human, and it’s probably true in most cases. Brands struggle with understanding these channels and platforms. It’s hard for them to figure out how to best connect and communicate with audiences that are no longer passively consuming a form of media and are okay with ads interrupting their experience.
Digital is a very different beast.
It should be no surprise that these types of complaints still make headlines. Bloomberg Technology recently posted an article titled “Facebook, Snapchat Deals Produce Meager Results for News Outlets.” Some key quotes from that article:
“Media companies are frustrated that Facebook restricts the number and type of ads in Instant Articles, making it harder for them to make as much money as they can selling ads on their own websites, where they can better target readers…Some publishers have also started to put less emphasis on Facebook Live, in which media companies create live video that’s hosted on the social media platform…While some outlets have started testing ads in Facebook Live videos, others express concern over Facebook’s ‘lack of success in creating large-scale audiences around live events,’ according to Digital Content Next. The group concluded that for many publishers, Facebook Live ‘has yet to scale or prove a revenue model.’… Several media companies have dedicated staff to create content for Snapchat, hoping to reach younger audiences that use it. Yet so far, Snapchat ‘holds little to no short-term financial interest’ for publishers.”
The same old song and dance.
Whether it’s a publisher trying to monetize content or a brand trying to sell more by advertising or creating content on their own, one thing is clear: the ads and the content are not resonating with the intended audience. That said, it could also mean that this is still early days. While there are lots of users on these channels, this branded content (publisher content, brand content and advertising) is simply not ready for the channel, as the channel tries to figure out what, exactly, it is. Billions of snaps flapping through Snapchat doesn’t automatically mean that a publisher has mastered the right content or ad for the flow, and the same should be said about advertisers.
Size of audience and growth does not guarantee brand success.
It may, in fact, simply be “too soon” for brands and publishers to try and inject themselves into these developing, emerging and growing channels. And let’s face it, if you own the channel (or you’re the publisher or brand), this is not what you want to hear, because it means that the money has not found a clear, reliable and effective stream – yet. Disagree? Read this article from Adweek “Snapchat Is Now Selling Ads Against Nielsen’s TV-Like Ratings System.” Yes, it’s new and exciting and everyone is talking about it and using it. But it may be too soon for ads, and your brand won’t get the same results that it would get in another channel or platform.
Review your strategy, creative and analytics, and appreciate that you may simply be just a little too early.
-Mitch Joel is President, Mirum Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @mitchjoel.
This article originally appeared on Medium.