Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Performance marketing will keep performing

The past year has been rocky for most industries, and advertising and marketing hasn’t had an easy ride either – though things look like they’re heading in the right direction in that respect.

One section of the marketing world that hasn’t particularly been affected by the pandemic is the performance marketing space, which benefitted greatly from the huge growth experienced across ecommerce, social media, video, and other digital media.

“It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for everyone. But, as a performance arm, we’ve seen double digit growth over the last two years consistently, and we’re seeing the same this year. We’ve seen a rise in client billings and a surge to ecommerce, which I feel quite bad about because other areas of the business have probably suffered like out-of-home, as you can imagine,” says Paul Kasamias, Managing Partner for Publicis Media’s Performics/Starcom.

“As a performance arm, we’ve seen an acceleration in growth because clients have put their money in more ecommerce or digital media, which is great, but we need to be sensitive about that given the current context and environment.”

TikTok on the clock

Over the course of the pandemic, one area of digital media that has exploded in growth is social media and, in particular, TikTok. The growth of user base and app usage has also translated into an increased interest for brands to advertise on the platform, especially those looking to target Gen Z audiences.

“I think clients will need more advice around social platforms specifically,” says Kasamias. “The growth we’ve seen in TikTok has been massive – going from clients not understanding what TikTok is to actually wanting to run campaigns on it. I think we’ll have to work with clients on a way in which they can make their creative output on TikTok more accountable.”

Many social platforms are now also very much focused on social commerce and the idea of enabling their users to more easily purchase the products and services they see advertised.

As such, brands are becoming increasingly interested in developing a social commerce strategy, according to Kasamias.

This desire to get more involved with the creation of commerce experiences on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat also extends out to the wider scope of shoppable media in general, with brands now wanting to know more about the specifics around campaigns.

“There’s a trend we’re seeing where advertisers are wanting to unpick shoppable media more. Not just Google Shopping and activity on Amazon, but how they’re partnering with retailers,” says Kasamias. “For brands that sell through retailers, the way it used to work is that they would have a fixed tenancy with the retailer but not have much transparency around how their products were being advertised with those particular retailers. Now, we’re seeing that the whole model is becoming transparent.”

Cookie won’t crumble

Of course, one of the biggest trends in the current climate is everybody trying to figure out ways to make sure the ‘death of the cookie’ doesn’t do too much damage to their business. However, like the impact of COVID, Kasamias sees performance marketing being less affected than other areas.

“I think we’ll see the rise of more closed ecosystems, where you’re able to run and measure results if you’re embedded into that ecosystem,” he says. “It’s not necessarily a bad trend, it’s just something that we feel clients will start to consolidate around and simplify that ecosystem, because it’s becoming overly complex at the moment.

“Performance marketing as a function is less affected, because the two big players – Google and Facebook – are working on their own solutions within their own ecosystems,” Kasamias continues.

“There is a lot of scaremongering around the whole space and I think there will be tweaks in approach as opposed to massive, radical changes for performance marketing clients.”

This shift is set to also bring about the return to more contextual advertising, “going back to more traditional means where context is king,” according to Kasamias.

Alongside this, Performics and Starcom are seeing clients increasingly focus on user experience, with brands keener to invest in making their websites optimal and making sure they are delivering the right sort of content to the right user.

We’re all searching for something

Looking ahead, Kasamias believes that performance marketing will continue to grow from strength to strength, particularly when it comes to search and the data search brings along with it.

“In the next few years, I think performance marketing will be elevated even more,” he explains. “A lot of the data that we utilise today sits in search. Search is a great proxy for demand. Search intent tells us what people are looking for, what they’re not comfortable with, and what brands need to change about their current offering.

“If you couple that data along with social listening data, there’s a wealth of data available. And I think a lot of that data will become more upstream in the planning process. We are seeing clients utilise that data more at board level to make decisions.”

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