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(a revised version of this article originally ran on MediaPost’s Engage Hispanic blog on 12/2/2010)
As digital continues to turn the advertising world on i
ts head, you’ve no doubt heard digital marketing evangelists talk about the need to “lead with digital.” What they are typically referring to is 180 degree change away from the common marketing approach of starting with traditional marketing programs and then extending them to digital channels. The argument being that as digital media (including Web, social and mobile) takes a larger piece of consumers’ media consumption pie and fundamentally changes how they interact with advertising that advertisers must fundamentally change their marketing strategies to align with new digital realities.
There are countless and growing examples of marketers embracing this philosophy – including extreme cases where marketers have completely forgone traditional channels in favor of digital or brands have hired digital agencies as their lead (or only) agency of record. Less extreme examples can be seen in trend towards traditional creative (TV and out-of-home for example) that looks and feels increasingly like online banner / rich media ads or the trend towards driving to the Web or mobile as the primary call-to-action on direct response offline campaigns.
What if a rebellious brand led their Hispanic marketing efforts with digital? The prevailing wisdom in the Hispanic marketing world has always been that digital is important, but not that important, what with a majority of Hispanics still digitally divided or lacking tech sophistication. What would be the fate of such an anti-establishment brand? What would “leading with digital” even look like in the Hispanic market? Let’s deconstruct a Hispanic ad campaign and see some examples of what a digital-driven approach might look like:
Campaign Objectives – During the “Mad Men” era of advertising (which I would argue continues to this day in Hispanic advertising), campaign objectives were always a “one-way street” – with objectives like increasing awareness or same-store sales. Digital made advertising a two-way game, and as such, effective advertising has to do so much more. Yet most Hispanic advertising objectives are still about being the loudest megaphone. If a Hispanic campaign started with digital, objectives such as interactivity, engagement, utility and word of mouth would inevitably take center stage (this is not the case for most Hispanic advertising today.) This new set of digitally-relevant marketing objectives lends themselves well to marketing frameworks, such as marketing funnels or consumer journeys, with corresponding metrics and the ability to establish pre-launch campaign projections.
Research – Every good ad campaign, regardless of target audience, starts with sound research. Yet most Hispanic ad campaigns start with analog research (traditional focus groups, consumer research panels, etc). Are their purely digital alternatives? I would argue that there is an incredibly powerful insight “fountain” currently available using social monitoring tools like Radian6 to listen to Hispanic consumers online. Think of it as the world’s largest focus group, except completely organic. With Hispanics heavily engaging in social media, there is a real opportunity to uncover powerful and actionable Hispanic insights. Unfortunately, it’s more work that just hiring a research firm to recruit participants for 4 focus groups or subscribing to a research tool. Taking it one step further, if you can build an online community of Hispanics tied to your brand that you nurture over time, you have the potential to continually tap into a new kind of focus group indefinitely (at a much lower cost)
Concept & Copy Testing – One of the biggest benefits of leading with digital is the ability to make quick and inexpensive mistakes. This is particularly important for brands or companies that are new to or have been out of the Hispanic market for some time (and will need to fine-tune their initial Hispanic programs). While copy testing is anything but new, utilizing text-based ads targeted to Hispanics (by market if appropriate) on Google, Bing and Facebook can provide quick and cheap feedback on concepts, copy and keywords that will resonate with Hispanics. Taking this approach further, creative testing using multiple iterations of banners can provide art direction feedback from a real-life “lab” of online Hispanics. If focus groups are a must, online versions provide valuable qualitative results at a fraction of the time and expense.
Content Development – A sound digitally-driven Hispanic marketing campaign with objectives such as engagement, utility or word of mouth activity requires a different approach to creative development. A perfectly executed .30 second TV spot combined with a series of radio, print, and out-of-home ads will not be enough to achieve such interactive goals. Instead, creative production must be replaced with content development – a different approach that emphasizes multi-form creative that can live in various formats and lengths that tells a longer story. The content development approach emphasizes producing all forms of content (video, imagery, textual) that can deepen Website experiences, drive social engagements and spur viral communication – all while still providing for TV, radio and print ads. This nuanced, by significant change in approach, is akin to brands thinking like publishers and media companies.
Changes in how brands and companies launch and manage Hispanic ad campaigns represent the biggest opportunities in this digitally-led approach.
Digital Pre-launches – Most Hispanic advertising starts offline and then migrates online. Why not do the opposite? Digital creative typically takes less time to produce and digital media can be quickly planned, bought and trafficked, so why not launch pilot campaigns online before extending offline to more expensive, time-consuming and inflexible channels like TV, radio and out-of-home?
Digital pre-launching not only provides an opportunity to test concepts and copy as noted above (including all important questions of language – Spanish, English or both?), but can also provide invaluable data that can inform Hispanic campaign objectives, market selection, and media plans, both offline and online! Pre-launches can be run from a few weeks to a few months, but the benefits can be significant.
Digital Measurement – Most Hispanic marketing programs are evaluated post-mortem: “that network TV buy performed well in Phoenix” or “that print ad failed to drive call-center activity.” Taking a digital-driven approach means prioritizing real-time measurement tools such as third-party ad serving, Web analytics, and social media tracking tools to impact and influence campaign decisions mid-stream. This approach yields info on which top performing digital creative that can influence creative placements and rotations. Web analytics data
on campaign microsites and landing pages can provide important geo-market results that can impact media weighting offline.
Hopefully you can see from this quick analysis that leading with digital in the Hispanic market is not about irrationally abandoning traditional media channels. Instead, it’s about drastically changing how Hispanic campaigns are planned, developed and managed. Keeping in mind that a large number of Hispanics are still not online, a thoughtfully executed digitally-driven approach to Hispanic advertising can bear significant fruit and take our industry to the next level.