There is no off switch in an ‘always-on’ world

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By Ramzi Al Atat, Senior Director- Planning, OMD UAE

Take your favorite marketer and ask them what their professional utopia looks like. They’ll most likely depict an environment where they are able to conduct marketing and communication activities all year long.

Yet, like any quantifiable resource in the universe, ad dollars are finite, and budgetary restrictions are what shape marketing reality, not utopic fantasies.


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Our daily struggle is to allocate the budgets towards the right resources at any given time, to allow us to achieve the increasingly stretched targets. What do marketers do to counter this hurdle? Flighting.

And not the cool Superman kind (although, his contribution to marketing male leggings is certainly noteworthy). By definition, ‘flighting’ is the periodic allocation of advertising budget to ensure maximum exposure during optimal periods, only in the form of isolated bursts.

Or, as I recently explained to my mum, who once taught me how to ski: In the case of a ski resort in the Alpes, the campaign announcing the newly renovated slope will most likely be scheduled to run just in time for snow season.

With this in mind, can we generalize that all businesses have clear peaks, which their advertising should mirror? Well, no, it’s not quite as simple as that.

In fact, if we were to classify business model surges for the sake of simplicity, we can cluster the different types into three main buckets:


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– The simplest form would be the completely seasonal businesses, such as the ski resort example.

– A second bucket holds the businesses that are active all year long, but also witness strong peaks around specific dates. Consider a flower shop for example. It operates continuously yet can see demand spike over 5000% on specific dates, such as Mother’s Day or during wedding season.

– What is left is the majority of the businesses that steadily operate all year long. Unlike ski resorts and flower shops, food, clothing, FMCG, and even automobiles are in demand all year long. Yes, it is true that there are different spikes in sales throughout the year, yet such spikes are merely slight increases over the monthly demand averages, and not a candlestick phenomenon.

Looking closely at the third category, we realize that it is purely the nature of these goods which make them ‘in market’ all year long.

So, what does that mean for marketers? How should they allocate their restricted marketing budget and flighting in this case?

The solution only became available post the digital boom in the last 13 years.


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While TV, OOH, radio, and print are too expensive to maintain all year long and remain efficient, digital advertising solutions have provided marketers with the opportunity to be constantly active.

This has allowed a continuous stream of communication with relevant consumers, while at the same time, keeping efficiency levels in check. This has become known in the media industry as the ‘always-on’ approach.

Always-on marketing comes in various forms.

The most popular being the continuous social content plans, which are engineered to maintain top of mind and engage consumers all year long, on the specific social platforms that they spend most of their time on.

Search has also become a necessity to the success of any business.

Being available on Google Search has become the first marketing step when setting up any business, regardless of whether it had a physical presence (retail outlet) or not (online service).

Nevertheless, with the fast-paced evolution of the digital scene, the need to be ‘always-on’ is expanding and will likely continue to expand in the foreseeable future.

Major brands now realize that they must have a continuous video presence if they are to bank on the exponential growth of video consumption online.

Currently, digital video consumption is nearing an average of one full hour per day, as per the latest global online forecast study conducted by Deloitte in November 2017.


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Consequently, brands can no longer afford not to capture a share of these video eyeballs.

On the other hand, e-commerce has shaped the rise of the robust digital business ROI, in the shape of leads, transactions, inquiries, and brochure downloads.

This in turn is also best tackled through a well-targeted and well-executed always-on performance plan; an advertising format with a clear and enticing call to action for consumers to convert.

While efficiency is a key driver for always-on, effectiveness also correlates with this approach.

In 2017, TubeMogul examined 6,000 global video campaigns that ran over the course of a full year, but only 3 per cent of those campaigns could be considered ‘always-on’, running for more than 200 days in a row.

The findings of this survey demonstrated that continuous video ad campaigns resulted in an 87% lower average cost per viewable impression, versus campaigns that ran for 90 days or less. The reason?

Campaign optimization relies on previous results; the longer the campaign runs, the better results that campaign can achieve.

Another finding from the study indicated that brand awareness ranks higher for always-on video campaigns. Clearly, continuity pays off.

Another aspect to consider when contemplating an always-on approach is the fact that consumers never switch off from the internet anymore.

Based on a study released by Statistica earlier this year, by the end of 2017, global average of time spent online had risen from 126 in 2016 to 137 minutes.

That is well over two hours of audiences and prospective customers actively using the internet where brand ads can ultimately be present.

Having established the business need, as well as the opportunity, there are key measures that need to be undertaken by brands when planning an always-on strategy:


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Ensuring the approach is data-led: Without data, ROI is simply not measurable, and consumers are simply not targeted with knowledge and confidence.

– Accounting for production of high quality creative: Content is the fuel that drives the digital marketing beast. With ever-decreasing consumer attention spans, the creative needs to be captivating, while delivering the right business message.

– Planning for the right mix: The messages delivered should be relevant to the specific sub-audience, using the right creative, through the right platform, communicating the relevant product.

– Ongoing Optimizing: This is part of being data-led. Being always-on allows brands to optimize campaigns on the go. Daily reporting that showcases what is working and what needs to change is pivotal to the corrective actions that need to be taken, ensuring  the  utmost efficiency of every dollar spent.

The best-case scenario is one in which you are committed to a long-term content marketing strategy, with key upselling campaigns when needed, depending on targets and budgets.

This way brands will be constantly engaging with their audiences, creating short-term spikes with no lulls, moving towards the ultimate goal of building a strong brand that consumers continue to trust and interact with.