Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The gift of digital: How media buyers can still make this a holiday season to remember

By Mark Evans, Senior Director, Buyer Development, Index Exchange

The prevailing mood as we enter the holiday season is certainly very different from the post-lockdown jubilation of 12 months ago. With rising interest rates and the country facing a long recession, consumers will likely save more than spend this holiday season. 

This doesn’t mean that brands can’t have another big year for sales. Marketing Beat predicts UK Christmas ad spend to hit a record high of £9.5 billion this year, showing how media buyers are still looking to use advertising to help reach their preferred consumers. 

Consumers might be more careful, but media buyers that apply best practice to their digital ad campaigns will be able to meet them in ways that capture their attention and ultimately convert.

Make sure you meet the consumer on their terms

As a media buyer, you need to be asking three questions when planning digital ad campaigns this holiday season: who, where, and when?

Who are the consumers you’ll want to target?

McKinsey reports how rising prices are impacting consumer activity, with 81% changing shopping behaviour and plans to do less Christmas shopping in 2022 than past years. It underlines the strong sense of unease and how rapidly UK consumer sentiment has shifted in just twelve months.

But the severity of shocks like inflation, price hikes, and job uncertainty vary across ages and locations, while some industries, particularly travel, have seen significant growth. It’s important to understand exactly how your consumers feel and which purchases they’ll prioritise.

Using the latest addressability tools is an important step in that process. Work closely with media owners and utilise their first party data to give you the depth needed to understand the audience. Meanwhile, Universal IDs will give the breadth to target those harder-to-reach consumers. Not only are these solutions privacy-first, but experimenting with them now will allow you to prepare for Google’s final end to the cookie.  

An added bonus: unlike the cookie, new addressability tools work across different channels, which becomes particularly useful as you plan for the next question.

Where do they access their content?

Consumers in the UK now access media across multiple channels, often at the same time. The IAB UK’s Real Living report found that consumers use an average of five devices daily–with 47% spreading their attention across different devices at once. The smartphone continues to dominate at an average 80% daily usage, but don’t underestimate CTV (66%) or laptop and desktop usage (61%). 

Take note of which devices your consumers use as well as how they use them. If your consumers only use their desktop for work, how effective would campaigns encouraging toys for their children be if they’re running between meetings? In Britain’s busy holiday season, attention is a finite resource.

This is especially true when the holidays start and consumers spend more time in front of the TV. With 50.6 million UK digital viewers in 2022, according to IAB Europe, many will access TV digitally. Don’t miss these highly engaged consumers or the attention-grabbing potential of CTV. 

This also brings us to the last question–when is the best time to target them?

Consumption patterns will change throughout the day, and it’s crucial media buyers have a keen awareness about what those patterns are so they can effectively optimise their campaigns.

At Index, we see that UK consumers’ mobile and CTV use peak around 8 PM on weekdays, while desktop use starts to decline after 1 PM. On the weekend, desktop use stays consistent across the day while CTV and mobile see their highest usage in the morning.

So, what impact will your campaigns have during the busiest days–and could you see better returns if you advertise in the days between those two peaks instead? Test, measure, and be ready to change your strategy if it’s not capturing consumer attention. 

This holiday season, commit to efficiency  

The challenges we’re seeing in 2022 highlights the importance of innovative planning to drive better outcomes.

Be agile and efficient. With so many unknowns about how consumers will respond to economic conditions, pivot quickly as you see what works and what doesn’t in the early days of the season. At the same time, take care to prioritise preferred consumers in order to maximise ad budgets. Keep asking who, where, and when as you work to convert more consumers for less.

Luckily, these are exactly the issues that digital advertising was designed to solve. By applying the best digital strategies across the right mix of channels and formats, this holiday season will be one to remember.