The Days Of Mad Men Are Over: Welcome To The New World Of Growth Agencies

There’s this idea that advertising is dead.

Granted, it’s somewhat of a silly notion, especially considering that advertising will never die, only evolve. While it’s true that the days of Madison Avenue have shifted to Silicon Valley, the principles remain the same. This game is about connecting with audiences in meaningful ways, and whether that be through social media, paid advertising, or even the traditional channels of print, the message stays the same. However, the problem advertisers have isn’t that they aren’t acknowledging these new platforms, but in trying to use old tricks in a new era where audiences are much smarter and demanding an intimate experience.

People don’t think about brands as authoritative figures but rather in the same light you’d look at your next door neighbor. There’s just so much more choice now. To some, this is a scary phenomenon, fearing that the creatives and marketers of the world will one day become obsolete. And while yes, certain jobs in this industry might become automated, as long as someone has a passion for their product, that’s the biggest-selling point there is.

If it seems like the two worlds of traditional advertising and digital advertising are conflicting viewpoints, then you’re probably not seeing the full picture. In fact, these mediums have never been more complimentary to one another than ever before, with digital providing a means for more meaningful connections than ever before. Yet, a lot of brands don’t get the science to this, focusing too heavily on either one or the other. However, that’s exactly why we’re going to walk you through where these practices can live in perfect harmony, having your efforts compile a following that will stick with you for a lifetime.

Let’s Get Social

Perhaps one of the core elements that are changing the way advertising is done has to be social media. According to Pew Research, over 79% of internet users are on Facebook, with numerous other platforms quickly catching up. The reason for Facebook’s meteoric rise falls on a few factors. It was the first social network that was inviting to a wide audience, older generations found it useful to connect with those they’ve previously known, and their product offerings continued to expand based on their user feedback.

Beyond the rise of Facebook, the platforms that smartphones brought along changed the way we looked at social as well. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram have rapidly been gaining their own base as well, with 88% of those in high school and college stating they use them over Facebook. For these younger generations, they’ve started to gravitate more towards peer-to-peer interactions rather than be lumped into massive platforms. And if advertisers are looking to connect with them, they’re going to have start thinking about how the behaviors on these specific platforms vary dramatically.

When it comes to traditional advertising, there’s a large disconnect in trust. Quite simply, people don’t trust advertising as much as they used to, as noted by AdAge, 42% of people don’t trust advertising as much as they did 20 years ago. Honestly, this phenomenon shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. With the access to the internet always at our fingertips, we tend to view advertisers and brands less as authority figures in educating us and more as sources of entertainment. However, this change has actually been a good thing.

If advertisers want to be successful on social, they’re going to have to work with consumers rather than just trying to pitch to them. Remember, it’s called social media, which means they’re going to have to start a conversation before anything else. Yes, this game is a lot less about making the ‘hard sell’ but rather creating a following that will last a lifetime. But how exactly do we fit in?

Snapchat

Snapchat has taken the advertising world by storm, creating a platform that’s completely organic to the interactions at hand. Users are given much more choice in terms of how they behave with brands, with the two biggest features being Snapchat Stories (a collection of short videos from one source added over a timeline) and GeoTag filters (location-based graphic overlays representing an event or place).

With stories, brands have been directly advertising in people’s story feeds, basically showing up as a “story” in between their friends. The trick here is to make something that looks organic to an experience or event, with a call-to-action that makes them want to learn more. Quite simply, you don’t want to give away the whole thing. Additionally, brands have been sponsoring events via GeoTags (I.E., Allstate Sugar Bowl or American Express presents Justin Bieber at Red Rock),  as well as paying to have campaigns show up on filters regardless (I.E., A movie with the main characters at the bottom of the filter).

One of the brilliant things about these tags and stories is that it breaks down growth advertising to its core success rate: How many people are advertising for you and how much of a reach has that consumed? A filter people actually want to use not only adds a highlight to someone’s feed but additionally should tie into a central theme or story. It’s your brand’s responsibility to create a common bond between you and the user, generally by creating something that fits both entities. This can be accomplished on a local level (I.E., Sponsoring a 10k run) or on a national level (I.E., Something central to it being the first day of football or school or something). Whatever the case may be, make it a story that you and your audience can build together.

Instagram

Instagram follows a pretty similar formula to Snapchat in terms of their “stories” but differs significantly for sponsored posts. As users look through their feed, posts will be embedded based on who they like, follow, etc. It’s much more curated than the offerings you’d see from Facebook, and the content is genuinely geared towards the categories people are already after (I.E., Lifestyle, health, productivity, etc.). Furthermore, the video content follows this formula as well, with ads mainly being designed to look like something you would already follow or show interest in. And as noted by YotPo, Instagram advertising is highly successful, with users being 58x more likely to engage with a post on there over Facebook and 120x more likely in comparison to Twitter.

Facebook

While most of us are pretty familiar with how growth advertising on Facebook work, here’s a brief overview. Facebook has seen a lot of benefit with embedded videos, as well as other forms of paid or promoted content. As one of the first ones to be successful with establishing a model for targeted advertising on social, they remain a strong choice in expanding their audience. However, the most impressive feature that people have picked up on as of recent isn’t necessarily the advertising efforts directly, but how chatbots have started to play a role.

Even though chatbots are used on a variety of platforms, their biggest success in connecting with an audience has been with Facebook’s Messenger. These Artificial Intelligence driven products have been noted to improve customer service, help sales teams with the grunt work (providing more quality leads), and engage with users in a surprisingly personal way. And although it’s early, expect AI to start playing a more significant role in growth agencies within the next couple of years.

The Rise of AI and Big Data

Believe it or not, Artificial Intelligence has been playing a significant role in advertising for some years now, with its most recent advancements coming in the form of smarter insights on consumers and their behaviors. As AdWeek notes, a lot of major agencies have been teaming up with IBM Watson’s project to dig into how to target consumer bases more accurately, as well as organize them into more specific groups. This allows marketers to depict a picture that holds more predictability than traditional market research, with the end goal of engagement. However, while groundbreaking, this practice has definitely been met with some criticism.

In a recent piece by AdAge, Jason Jercinovic dives deep into the ethical debates behind using AI in advertising, and if the collection and usage of big data should be in the hands of robots. The reason why this is such a highly-contested debate is that people’s financial, location and personal information are being utilized to make marketing decisions, which while isn’t anything new, the idea of that data being in the hands of something we can’t hold accountable in the event of a breach. Not saying that those who are designing these systems can’t be blamed, but it certainly brings up a good point: How much sensitive information should we put in the hands of robots and at what risk? One thing Jercinovic points out on this subject is that if advertisers are going to utilize these tools, then there has to be an ethical standard set to hold everyone to the same barometer.

As we mentioned above, the main contributor to this progression has been Big Data, an estimated $50 billion-dollar industry. Big Data has been something that advertisers both love and hate. On the one hand, it has been able to help them accurately target certain customer segments and increase engagement with them, but on the other side, it’s considered a big contributor as to why people don’t trust advertising or brands. No one likes the idea of their personal information being used to sell them products, but that’s privacy we sacrifice to use products like Google, Facebook, and Instagram. Furthermore, the ethical dilemma goes far beyond just the collection of data, but how exactly it’s used in targeting.

An excellent example of this is with Facebook. A couple of years ago Facebook’s algorithm was accused of being used to influence and manipulate emotion via someone’s newsfeed. The issue here is that while we’re aware that our information is being used to target ads to us, the idea of scientifically manipulating our feelings via content we’d otherwise consider unrelated was found unethical by some. And even though advertising’s goal much of the time is to create an emotional response, where they crossed the line here was by shifting our attention in a manner we weren’t made aware of, even in the fine print.

Overall, the industry of big data has been incredibly beneficial to advertisers and marketers, especially in being able to reach audiences in a cost-efficient manner. While it’s ultimately up to you the sacrifice you’re willing to make regarding how targeted you want your data versus how much trust you’re trying to gain with your user base; remember, the goal here is to genuinely connect with them in a meaningful way.

Paid-Per-Click

Chances are if you’ve done any sort of digital marketing, then you’ve probably been exposed to PPC or paid-per-click advertising. PPC essentially is programs like AdWords, Facebook Ads, and Instagram Ads where advertisers pay publishers for each click they receive. The godfather of this has been AdWords, with over 4 million businesses advertising on the platform. PPC has been successful because it takes a targeted approach with the words that are being used, pulling from other areas we mentioned above including big data, AI, and social media.

For example, let’s say I’m looking for a burger place that’s open late. Searching for something like “burgers near me” might not pull the most accurate results, but let’s say I tried “food open near me,” which would limit my search to restaurants based on the time they’re open. If I was to advertise my late night food, I might purchase search terms related to being open late like “open late,” “late night food,” or “food open.”

PPC has been an incredibly useful tool in growth marketing as it gives people the option of reaching a mass audience using a blend of data and specificity. When done right, this can increase outbound efforts tremendously, saving you the headache of needing to toy around with numerous ineffective campaigns. Yes, PPC is one element that’s been at the forefront of digital marketing for outbound, but if you really want to be successful, you’re going to have to consider a rock star inbound strategy as well.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is arguably one of the most successful forms of marketing to date for the simple reason that it gives brands a chance to be both educators and entertainers. This is noted as an incredibly useful strategy, as pointed out in a survey by The Content Marketing Institute, 92% of marketers viewing it as a valuable asset. Which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone as content leaves an open door for your brand to express itself.

When it comes to strategy, content marketing can vary in its approach. This umbrella term includes pieces like thought leadership (insights on the industry), helpful guides, interviews, and just plain what your company is up to on a day-to-day. Additionally, a lot of firms have been implementing these executions via video or written pieces, which in figuring out which one your brand should go with, boils down to fit and resources. While videos are easier to share, they can come with a high cost and take more time for a turnaround, making it difficult for some to invest in. The overarching goal, however, is to find something you can execute consistently with a high-level of quality.

In establishing your content marketing plan, start out with a calendar of the posts you’re looking to produce. This can be daily, weekly, or even monthly, ranging in a variety of subjects. I’d suggest that you start out with writing about what you know, getting really good at pieces that offer key insight or advice, with larger pieces saved for a weekly to bi-weekly basis. Remember, you want certain pieces to be promoted more often, which investing too much time into one article could render being a waste. The name of the game is how your audience responds, which will dictate the style of content you’re going to produce.

How To Use This Stuff

In compiling a comprehensive plan for your advertising efforts, you first have to look at the channels you’ve already established and your approach for each. Are you on social media? If so, which platforms? Where have you seen success? Why do you think that’s been the case? Granted, you might not have the metrics or tracking setup to fully analyze with confidence, in which case it’s important to review what others in your industry are doing and why it’s worked for them.

All of these mechanisms need to work together in a way that’s like a finely-tuned machine. For example, if you write a blog post, then figuring out where and when to post on your social feeds is vital. Luckily, there are some excellent tools to assist with this such as Buffer, which do the dirty work of looking over where your efforts have been successful and on what channels. This ties into the content calendar mentioned above, providing you with a systematic way of strategizing your campaigns.

Another important note about campaigns is where and when to use paid methods. A lot of folks assume that if they pay for advertising, then it’s going to provide results. However, that’s not always the case. Your paid efforts should not only be a part of your current campaigns but additionally have a specific Call-To-Action or quantifiable goal (I.E., acquisition). Whether it be someone signing up for your mailing list, visiting your store, making a purchase, or following you on social media, the result should always have a simple “yes, it was successful” or “no, they abandoned at this point.”

Let’s say for example you’re running a campaign on a new product you’ve just launched. First, you need to look at how your brand is perceived, and what type of style, copy, and design that are going to fit within your aesthetic. This is crucial as it creates consistency throughout all of your marketing materials. Next, look at the product and ask what about it that’s unique, why is your audience going to gravitate towards this? Once you’ve established your pitch and materials; it’s time to start promoting.

With the elementary knowledge we have, I’d suggest putting up a blog post that announces the product, including any additional testimonials or endorsements. These are going to be used in social posts (I.E., Steven thinks our new thing is great and you should too), as well as can be utilized as a voice of authority in other channels. Promoting these on social is going to be contingent upon what the actual product is, and how it fits into someone’s lifestyle. You might want to run some A/B tests to accurately see the timing, style, and usage of posts, with the end-goal being judged by the acquisition goals you’ve put in place.

As you explore different growth strategies, remember the goal is to use technology not to categorize and analyze your audience but to connect with them in a meaningful way. Creating an authentic approach in a digital world can be tough, but the less artificial it feels, the higher chance of success you’re going to see. And while the days of madmen are long gone, the principles they’ve instilled will last forever. Advertising is an art and one that helps make people’s lives even just a little bit better.

The relationship between tech and advertising is only going to grow stronger over the years, and if you’re looking to expand your efforts, it’s best if you start studying up now. While no one knows what exactly is in-store as these new technologies become more widespread, we do know one thing, which is that storytelling will never die. The question is: What story are you looking to tell and how do you want to say it?

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