Procter & Gamble Co. recently revealed that it was shifting some of its massive targeted ad budget away from the social media platform after concluding that the spots had “limited effectiveness.” If the largest advertiser in the world is rethinking its Facebook advertising strategy, is it time for campaigns to do the same?
Now P&G, which spends some $7.2 billion on advertising globally, isn’t cutting its Facebook budget. It’s simply shifting away from targeted ads. “We targeted too much, and we went too narrow,” the company’s marketing chief told the Wall Street Journal, “and now we’re looking at: What is the best way to get the most reach but also the right precision?”
P&G’s move, which is considered a bellwether of major corporate advertisers, comes as many local and national political campaigns are devoting more and more of their advertising budgets to online and social media spending. According to a widely-cited report from Borrell Associates, political campaigns will spend over $1 billion on digital advertising compared to just a relative trickle in 2012.
Now, campaigns have become very adept at tailoring specific messages to specific targeted voting segments. For instance, heralding a candidate’s position on the environment to self-described environmentalists. Yet, just doing targeted messages to targeted segments misses some of the larger point of social media branding.
The old marketing adage called "The Rule of Seven" says that a prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they take action and buy from you. Brand awareness building, in the larger sense, is a key part to building name ID especially in races where the candidate and issue is not well known or where name ID will be a big factor in deciding the outcome. Rather than craft detailed individual messages to targeted segments, a campaign would be wise to intermingle broader ads that introduce and reinforce a campaign’s larger presence and themes.
A company like Tide has invested billions of dollars in branding their logo and colors to a huge segment of our country. Only once this brand awareness has been created can marketers then reach out to specific potential users and consumers.
The lesson to be drawn from these corporate moves, and from ad making history, is don’t forget to go large with your messaging and targeting to build your campaign’s brand and online presence. Only when you have a toe hold in the public’s mind, can you start pinpointing the pleasure centers that will, hopefully, turn into votes.
Because online marketing and social media advertising provides the ad maker with real time analytics and feedback, I would encourage campaigns to create a healthy mix of targeted ads and broad awareness ads (70 percent broad and 30 percent targeted to start) and evaluate the effectiveness of the ads on a weekly basis.
If one of the targeted messages begins to pop, then try utilizing it in your broad marketing campaign to see if it carries resonance beyond the targeted group. Similarly, use the highest performing broad messaging ads as templates for your targeted ones, inserting relevant text and imagery to make it unique.
The key to social media marketing is the ability to listen to your audience and be nimble in your adjustments.
P&G is making a smart and strategic move for their brand. While their decision may carry a lesson for other companies and brands, it’s by no means a sole reason to shift a campaign's ad budgets.
Brian Ross Adams is a Los Angeles-based digital consultant to Democratic campaigns and advocacy groups.