School Reports 2019: Trend-aware brands can future-proof their ad strategies

Airbnb: experimenting with six-second ads
Airbnb: experimenting with six-second ads

Over the past two decades, the number of advertisers has dropped steadily while the amount of creative executions has increased. With more ads out there, brands need to work harder and smarter to stand out.

A lot has changed in the past 20 years. In the year that Shakespeare in Love won best picture at the Oscars, Britney Spears topped the charts and the prospect of the Y2K bug terrified computer users everywhere, there were 186,270 advertisers. Whether due to high levels of consolidation, M&A, companies disappearing over the years, or a shift away from traditional classified advertising towards an increased use of endorsements or sponsorships, the number of advertisers has steadily dropped to less than half the number there were 20 years ago to a mere 85,630 advertisers (as of 2018).

Nielsen Ad Intel data shows that over the past five years, there has been a significant reduction in the number of advertisers in the top five advertising categories. In entertainment and leisure, advertisers have dropped from 28,000 to 18,000; in finance from 6,000 to 5,000; in food from 2,000 to 1,000; in automotive down from 7,000 to 6,000; and in travel and transport they have declined from 9,000 to 6,000.

Despite this, and thanks to the evolution of digital media, the total number of creative executions has actually increased across most of the top five advertising categories. The more ads there are, the more difficult it becomes for brands to cut through the noise and reach their intended audience.

The brands that will successfully future-proof their advertising strategies will be the ones that follow best practice for advertising within their sector. Here are a few things for marketers to consider.

That’s entertainment: great advertising in the leisure sector

Entertainment is a sector ripe for experimentation with exciting new formats made available by burgeoning augmented/mixed-reality technology. Entertainment marketers can also get creative with formats such as six-second ads. Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience found that compressed ads were perfect for dwindling attention spans because they require less cognitive effort to process. A recent study found that 96% of compressed ads performed as well or better than their original versions, just one of the reasons why we’re seeing greater adoption of this format. Airbnb has used six-second ads for its "Live there with your family campaign" (pictured) and Universal used the format to tease the release of Jason Bourne.

Banking on a bright future for finance

The number of finance ads has grown steadily over the past five years, potentially owing to financial brands wishing to improve trust following the financial crash of 2008, and the rise of new disruptors such as Monzo, many of which exist only online and are looking to make their mark.

Nielsen’s Connected Commerce report showed that 63 million Britons are online and 84% of UK consumers are using mobile internet. One thing is certain: advertisers should be thinking mobile first. Finance brands that want to engage successfully with new and existing customers should focus on engaging social content and personalised, best-in-class mobile ad experiences. Banking is no longer just selling a service, it’s selling a lifestyle.

The road to success for automotive

It’s a generally acknowledged truth that automotive ads struggle to cut through. As the trend towards buying fewer cars continues, auto brands should focus on reinforcing their messaging with memorable creative so customers can accurately associate a given campaign to the right brand. As driverless cars edge ever closer to becoming a reality and people become passengers rather than drivers, auto brands should think about the potential role their out-of-home advertising could now play, as well as the additional advertising possibilities and formats that this new technology will bring.

Smooth sailing for travel brands

The number of travel and transport ads peaked in 2017 at 9 million and has been declining since then (to 8 million in 2018). Travel marketers looking to give potential and existing customers a great advertising experience should focus on the visuals in the creative. Consumers now shop with their eyes as the effect of social media, notably Instagram, influences everything from purchasing decisions to which products get manufactured in the first place. The travel industry is capitalising on this – easyJet recently launched an app that allows travellers to buy a flight just by looking at a photo of the destination. Looks aren’t everything but they count for a lot in this sector.

Recipes for winning campaigns for food brands

Older households account for a huge proportion of the shopping demographic and have an enormous impact on the consumer market. Older people (aged 45+) represent 62% of households and they control almost 70% of total FMCG spend.

Quality is the main factor for older shoppers and 60% look for locally made products. Another key concern is plastic: two-thirds are very concerned about the amount of packaging used for grocery products. With such a huge amount of buying power, it is clear that food brands should be engaging older shoppers with advertising focused on these trends to increase awareness, loyalty and to drive sales.

Here’s to the next 20 years of great advertising.

Fal Patel is head of agencies at Nielsen

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