What We Learned at This Year’s AdWeek Europe

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This year’s AdWeek Europe has come and gone, leaving us inspired (and tired) after four days of interesting panels, valuable workshops as well as abundant socialising and networking opportunities. We are happy to report that Adaptly’s session on ‘Keeping Social Platforms in Perspective’ drew a packed house, eager to listen in on our VP of Strategic Accounts, Ruth Arber’s, conversation with panellists from TV network TLC and media buying agency the7stars.

During the 50 minute session, the group discussed the value consumers derive from the major social platform as well as the approach advertisers should take towards multi-platform campaign planning.

Ruth Arber opened by highlighting how the social landscape has evolved significantly over the past few years, since the launch of Facebook’s Ads API programme in 2011, to Snapchat rolling out a comparable offer to advertisers last autumn. These platforms have evolved to offer advertising products that span the entire purchase funnel, presenting ample opportunities for brands to achieve a wide array of objectives – such as driving brand awareness, shifting product consideration, boosting online and in-store sales, and facilitating customer retention.  

It is no secret that social media usage is on the rise. There are currently over 38 million active social media users in the UK and last year, they spent an average of 1 hours and 29 minutes using social media across all devices daily. Naturally, this allows advertisers to utilise these channels to reach highly targeted audiences at scale; however, users are becoming increasingly fragmented, exhibiting markedly different behaviour on each of the major platforms. While Facebook is all about personal discovery and connecting with peers, Instagram is a much more visual channel where 95 million videos and photos are shared every day. Twitter is where users go to talk about what is happening right now whereas 93% of Pinners turn to Pinterest to plan for future purchases. Lastly, Snapchat is a storytelling platform where over 10 billion video views are recorded each day.

The different mindset displayed by users across the social platforms create significant challenges for marketers. And given consumers’ high expectations, the onus is on brands to customise their cross-channel paid social strategies to appeal to the right audience at the right time.

TV network TLC is well aware of both the challenges and opportunities presented by taking a multi-platform paid social approach. The brand worked with Adaptly and media agency the7stars to craft the strategy for a cross-channel campaign to launch the UK version of US reality TV show, ‘Say Yes to The Dress’. Activity was spread across Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube and was successful in reaching new and existing fans in different modes and situations. Overall, the campaign generated over 4 million combined video views across all social platforms and the show became the network’s third-highest rating since the channel launched.

Adele Burns, Entertainment Director at the7stars explained:

“We understood TLC’s strength as a brand and also knew that their audience tend to consume content cross-media. Therefore, we wanted to find a way to connect with them across various social channels. For example, Facebook enabled us to reach the right users at scale whereas Instagram and Pinterest offered an opportunity to engage with fans in a highly visual way”.

Kirsty Sloan, Digital and Social Producer at TLC, added:

“Overall, it is crucial to think about both user behaviour and the unique capabilities of each channel – not all of them work for every show we want to promote. We made sure to create content that suited each platform’s native environment and by doing so, boosted audience engagement with our campaign across all channels”.

Adaptly’s was not the only session to touch on the rise of social media and the opportunities these platforms present for advertisers.

On the back of the recent launch of ads in Stories, Instagram hosted a panel on ‘In the Moment Storytelling’, featuring speakers from ASOS, W+K London, and VICE. Building on a 150% increase in video consumption on Instagram, the rollout of Stories enables advertisers to be a bit more “experimental, raw, and authentic” by presenting themselves to audiences in “an unbiased way.” And while the panel agreed that ephemeral formats open up an array of opportunities for brands, they agreed on the importance of fine-tuning creative to work with the native look and feel of platforms.

Leila Thabet, Global Director of Content and Engagement at ASOS, said:

“If you’re going to interrupt someone’s newsfeed, you have to add value. It doesn’t work to just take a TV ad and cut it into a vertical format for mobile. As social real-time formats evolve, I think that users’ expectations on the production value for this type of content will grow.”  

Overall, video was a common topic during this year’s AdWeek Europe, as several panels discussed things such as vertical formats, audiences’ tolerance for advertising, the importance of measurement, and challenges of viewability. The majority of speakers agreed on the importance of customising one’s creative to fit with the context in which ads will appear. Several people also suggested that brands are wise to start with identifying their audiences and then move on to mapping out the platforms where these users are the most active.

“Which platforms and formats are going to excite and engage my audience the most?” By asking themselves such questions, advertisers will be able to connect the dots and build out their multi-screen (on- and offline) campaigns.

From a paid social perspective, the topic of video is interesting as it inspires advertisers to use creative assets in formats that drive actions lower down the funnel. Vertical video maximises the impact on a mobile screen —100% share of screen real estate — enabling brands to deliver a fully immersive experience.

Overall, it was encouraging to see how digital in general, and paid social in particular, played such a significant role at this year’s AdWeek Europe. The vast majority of ads on social platforms are viewable, due to the nature of which they are served in carefully targeted users’ feeds. This opens up unprecedented opportunities for advertisers to actually connect with the people they want to reach, using the right message at the right time. It will be interesting to follow paid social’s progress as an imperative part of the digital marketing mix in the years to come.