Adviso CEO Elizabeth Henry on the end of short-termism

‘Good advertisers are building their own ecosystem, they have their own data in-house…and they work on the value exchange,’ the agency head says

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Like their partners in the Canadian news industry, the country’s media agencies are undergoing unprecedented transformation. The National Post is holding conversations with leaders of Canada’s largest agencies on the fast-changing fundamentals. This week, Elizabeth Henry, CEO of Montreal-based Adviso, speaks to writer Rebecca Harris.

How have the fundamentals of media planning and buying changed in recent years?

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(One shift) is data-driven decisions and granular targeting. We used to work with mass media and mass marketing, which is good, too, but advanced data analytics allows advertisers to segment audiences more finely than ever before. Personalization is based on data-driven decisions and ads can be tailored to individual preferences, behaviours and interactions.

(Another shift) is platform diversification and the rise of social commerce. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok have integrated shopping features. (Social commerce), which blurs the lines between social media and e-commerce, is a big thing. The emergence of new platforms like TiKTok has risen rapidly, requiring advertisers to adapt their strategies.

(There are growing) consumer privacy concerns… Law 25 (previously Bill 64 in Quebec), GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe, CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) in California, and other similar regulations globally have put a spotlight on user data privacy. So, privacy-centric marketing is an amazing and important trend that we have to embrace… The other trend we’ve seen in the last three or four years is the cookie-less future, or the disappearance of third-party cookies. Major browsers are phasing out third-party cookies, forcing advertisers to rethink targeting strategies.

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How is your agency advising brands on how to adapt their strategies?

We always teach the importance of (balancing) paid, owned and earned media. I have to quote The New York Times on that. In 2022, The New York Times announced the era of cheap and plenty may be ending. That’s the same thing for media. It’s been easy for the business, especially in the last decade, to invest in paid (media). We invest a lot because we have short-termism syndrome. We need to create value – for us, for our clients, for the market – really quickly… We have to make numbers, we have aggressive objectives, and media can be mathematics. You spend $1 or $2 on AdWords or Google, and then you have a return on investment of $3. It was easy to plan that, and a lot of businesses took advantage… But with the disappearance of third-party cookies, now it’s not easy. And that’s OK.

Now, we have to be more strategic and work (on balancing) paid, owned, earned. We have to work on our first-party data. Good advertisers are building their own ecosystem, they have their own data in-house… and they work on the value exchange. So, you give me your data and we have something good in exchange to give you… Good brands use data strategically in respect of the consumer and they have a privacy-centric market strategy.

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Does it take some convincing for clients to move away from short-termism?

Yes… Our industry is not easy, but I’m kind of happy (about) the new (privacy) laws and the disappearance of cookies… It’s hard because (these are) new problems for us and for marketers, but it’s a good thing for consumers. And it’s a good thing for our talents. They need a purpose; they need to change what they’re doing. It forces us to create something new… We need to create our own first party-data and use the reach of media to give the right message. It’s hard, but (clients) don’t have a choice. We have to work a little bit harder and be more creative.

With the proliferation of platforms, how are brands capturing consumers’ attention?

What they’re doing right is they understand their audience. They know who they’re speaking to and what resonates with them. (They) have a good value proposition, create authentic content, (and their) campaigns don’t feel forced. We can’t do that anymore. It’s the end of easy, it’s the end of cheap, that’s for sure. (Brands that get it right) come across as genuine. They innovate constantly. They’re not afraid to try new formats because the formats change. And as I said, they use data wisely… not just to target (but also) to understand their audience, (create) tailor-made content and maintain consistency.

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Can you share some predictions on where the industry is headed?

As concerns about user privacy grow, regulations will likely tighten, especially around data collection and usage. Media planners will need to rely on first-party data more and explore alternative targeting strategies in a world without third-party cookies.

The rise of decentralized media platforms is another (trend). In the next four or five years, with increasing adoption of blockchain and decentralized technologies, we might see the growth of decentralized social media platforms. Users go to smaller, niche social media (and) these platforms might offer more direct compensation models for creators, thereby altering media-buying strategies.

We will see evolving ad formats with AR and VR, and augmented reality and virtual reality technologies will become more mainstream. So, we will have to adapt with new formats. AI-driven decision making is another thing. Artificial intelligence will play a more substantial role in automating and optimizing media-buying decisions. The automation of our process, automation of our ad copy and creative – we see it now, but it will be a lot more intense in the next three to five years…

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Retail media is a big trend, and the blending of e-commerce and social media will intensify. With platforms offering more integrated shopping experiences, media plans will need to consider the entire purchase funnel within social platforms.

Read the rest of the series of conversations with leaders of Canada’s largest media agencies on where the business is going next:

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