In our fifth episode of our Ask the Experts series titled “Agile Decision Making”, Claudia Sestini, Global CMO of Gain Theory, discusses best practices and advice for being agile in the face of changing priorities with a full panel of industry experts.

With regards to measuring marketing efficacy at speed, Claudia Sestini asks:

“With a greater focus on e-commerce sales channels now, should marketers pivot media strategy to drive digital footfall?”

Panel Guests:

Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group

Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox

Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory

Key Takeaways:

  • Digital is the key destination, so it’s important to ensure brands are there, easy to find, and easy to navigate as customers are searching.
  • Digital is the end destination for sales; however, a customer’s journey doesn’t necessarily start there.
  • Consumers begin to consider purchase decisions before the sale, so when planning media strategy, marketers need to focus on the principles: build awareness, build consideration, and keep your brand top of mind.
  • Give people a reason to talk about your brand by putting the right message in front of the right customers in the right place at the right time and in the right context.
  • Customers are fulfilling purchases digitally, but a brand’s advertising needs to create mental availability and put your message everywhere your customers are consuming the media—whether online or offline—particularly during lockdown.
  • Using 2020 as an example, the same principles for media strategy still apply. Overall, the advice is to find where your customers are consuming their media and place the right messages to them in those places at the right time. This year in particular, we have all spent a lot of time at home, so investment in OOH advertisements has fallen.

Other topics addressed in the “Agile Decision Making” Ask the Experts Session: 

To stream the full video click here.  

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In our fifth episode of our Ask the Experts series titled “Agile Decision Making”, Claudia Sestini, Global CMO of Gain Theory, discusses best practices and advice for being agile in the face of changing priorities with a full panel of industry experts.

With regards to measuring marketing efficacy at speed, Claudia Sestini asks:

“Econometrics will always be the main stable of any marketing effectiveness toolkit for measurement. What other approaches can marketers leverage for increased agile decision-making as they look to course correct?“

Panel Guests:

Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group

Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox

Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory

Key Takeaways:

  • Prior to the pandemic, the variables of marketing measurement and effectiveness were relatively known, allowing optimization and forecasting with confidence. Now, we’re experiencing a world where marketers need to use the existing models and data we have and to embrace scenario planning.
  • 2020 scenario planning has involved new marketing investment parameters to analyze at what point effectiveness begins to decrease with increased spend. This lets marketers know when to reduce advertising to a level of optimal effectiveness per spend, which both requires and enables marketers to increase agility in their planning.
  • The scenario planning tactic is less about methodology and more about how agile marketers can use the data to look forward and make quicker decisions. There is an increased push for utilizing dashboards and platforms that bring results to marketers’ fingertips quickly, without the need for a lengthy econometrics reports.
  • Free tools like the Demand Generator from Thinkbox are useful to gain insight and help marketers make faster, informed decisions.
  • Consultancy backed decision making platforms such as Gain Theory interactive can also bring to life tactical decision making across creative, geography, market and much more.

Other topics addressed in the “Agile Decision Making” Ask the Experts Session: 

To stream the full video click here.  

In our fifth episode of our Ask the Experts series titled “Agile Decision Making”, Claudia Sestini, Global CMO of Gain Theory, discusses best practices and advice for being agile in the face of changing priorities with a full panel of industry experts.

With regards to how TV advertising is changing for more agile decision-making, Claudia Sestini asks:

“Globally, people have watched a tremendous amount of television this year. For marketers, consumer demand has been constantly changing, which requires a flexible media plan. The perception is that TV doesn’t allow for that level of agility…or does it? “

Panel Guests:

Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group

Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox

Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory

Key Takeaways:

  • During global lockdown and stay at home orders, with more time spent at home and fewer daily commutes, people chose to watch more linear television and on-demand programming.
  • Several larger brands have been making the most of advertising during this period where demand (and cost) for television advertising has been low, while viewership has been high.
  • However, because Covid diminished marketers’ guarantee of securing television advertisements with the right quality, timing, and programming, broadcasters removed the penalties for the late-booking deadline to afford marketers more agility.
  • Marketers have appreciated this nimble structure, desiring to continue the reduced booking period beyond the pandemic. With shorter booking windows, more marketers can utilize television advertisements instead of using their funding across other typically agile platforms, like Facebook or Google.
  • The drawback to this ‘new’ booking deadline structure, is that TV advertising is finite with a limited number of spots and programming. Broadcasters are not allowed to increase or decrease the minutes of advertisements; it is regulated by the government in the UK. Due to these limitations, the risk with more agile options is that the preferred programs and spots may ultimately not be available when marketers are ready to book.

“How has the TV industry pivoted to accommodate these new agile decision-making needs? How are TV networks dealing with unpredictable programming, where some shows may not be greenlit for production to continue filming and making new episodes?”

  • TV production was hit hard due to Covid, limiting some options for programming. However, some shows were able to create production ‘bubbles’, with cast and crew leaving their friends and family for a few months to film safely. This was a step beyond what most broadcasters were willing to take.
  • For broadcasters, the loss of revenue due to drop of demand for advertising in certain sectors leveled out because there were not as many shows or programs to spend on this season. Broadcasters were able to save up and reallocate those budgets for new programming in 2021.
  • Broadcasters have been forced to be as agile as marketers, coming up with new formats and new programs to keep their schedules as strong as possible in lieu of new show content. There may ultimately be new formats that spring out of this time of ingenuity and creativity due to Covid.

Other topics addressed in the “Agile Decision Making” Ask the Experts Session: 

To stream the full video click here.  

In our fifth episode of our Ask the Experts series titled “Agile Decision Making”, Claudia Sestini, Global CMO of Gain Theory, discusses best practices and advice for being agile in the face of changing priorities with a full panel of industry experts.

With regards to pivoting marketing strategy at the right pace and place, Claudia Sestini asks:

“What examples of agility have you seen this year and what advice do you have for marketers to become more agile in the coming months?”

Panel Guests:

Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group

Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox

Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory

Key Takeaways:

Know your fundamentals: know your goals, know your strategy, and know when/how to say, “no” to ensure you stay on the correct path and are able to move nimbly in the right direction.

“Covid” advertising examples:

  • The best Covid-related advertising examples this year were created by brands that have clear brand structures, brand identities, and distinctive assets during “normal” times – and have managed to mold their Covid communications around those brand basics to reflect the new reality in our evolving “new normal”.
  • Some brands were already well-poised and well-spoken about caring for their communities prior to the pandemic, which allowed them to perform even better and more authentically during these times where CSR and a brand focus on giving back to support communities is important to consumers.

Other topics addressed in the “Agile Decision Making” Ask the Experts Session: 

To stream the full video click here.  

Exec summary:

Privacy updates made by Google and Apple will have implications on how media is delivered, what information can be captured, and how media performance can be measured.  These actions won’t kill major sectors of digital media and media measurement, but they will create significant challenges.  New processes will need to be built to account for these privacy restrictions.  These new processes will likely favor larger media partners which will continue to fuel media consolidation.  We expect that these updates will drive adoption of more privacy-compliant Multi Touch Attribution alternatives such as Gain Theory’s Sensor.

Key implications:

  • How legislation (GDPR, CCPA) and business decisions by the major internet browsers (Safari, Firefox, Chrome) have limited data capture, media delivery, and measurement over the past few years
  • How Google’s decision to block third-party cookies/tags will impact Chrome
  • How Apple’s release of iOS14 will impact user opt-in requirements on apps
  • The difference between “first-party” tags and “third-party” tags and the implications on consumer data capture and media delivery standpoint
  • The implications of third-party tag and cross-app restrictions on AdTech, i.e. the challenges of server-to-server integrations to audience pool sizes, retargeting, and implementation bottlenecks
  • The impact on Multi-Touch Attribution and potential alternatives such as Gain Theory’s Sensor
  • Media consolidation and how it plays to advertiser’s ability to create contextual audience targeting

Legislation and business decisions have limited data capture, media delivery, and measurement

Over the past few years, a combination of legislation (GDPR, CCPA) and business decisions by the major internet browsers (Safari, Firefox, Chrome) have made data capture on the open internet and via Apps more restrictive.  Legislation broadened (or formalized) the definition of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) for the digital age.  This broadened definition created a potential liability issue for non-compliant business (e.g. everything needs an “opt-in” now).  At the same time, the browsers and web operating systems have begun rolling out privacy features for several reasons: to protect consumers, to comply with legislation, and to avoid liability.  Beyond the basic implication that these events limit data capture, they also by proxy impact how media is delivered and measured.

Where we are right now?

Two major events are unfolding currently:

1. Google will soon be blocking third-party cookies/tags “by default”, joining Safari and Firefox, who are already doing so. 

Chrome represents a clear majority of U.S. web browser installs.  When Google activates this change, the impact will be huge.  Between the three browsers, 90+% of browser-based internet activity will have third-party tags blocked by default.  For definition, “by default” means the user of the browser would proactively have to opt-in for third-party tracking…but why would anyone do that? Once Google releases the Chrome update, consumers will begin updating their software and buying new devices.  As consumers start doing this, the % of third-party tags blocked by default will grow until it’s virtually the full Chrome user base.

2. The release of iOS14 Apple will require users to opt-in for IDFA (The Identifier for Advertiser) cross-app tracking, on an app by app basis. 

IDFA is Apple’s “Identifier for Advertisers”.  This will limit an app’s ability to see a user go to another app on the same device.  Cross-app tracking is similar in nature to third-party tagging (as described below) but one could argue that it’s easier for an app to make the case for how cross-app tracking can be a benefit to the consumer.  For instance, American Express could argue that allowing their app to be able to talk to the apps of their business partners could be a benefit to their cardmembers.  Since this iOS opt-in is at the app level, the consumer will be able to choose if they want to allow American Express cross-app tracking. As iOS14 is released, consumers and app owners will begin to face this choice very quickly.  And as consumers update their iOS and buy new devices with it pre-installed, it will become standard across the iOS ecosystem.

Why are third-party tags and cross-app tracking important?

Firstly, let’s look at the difference between “first-party” tags and “third-party” tags:

  • First-party tags: When a consumer is on Amazon.com, Amazon can track that visitor via first-party tags.  “First-party” in essence means the company doing the tracking owns the website the consumer is on.  This is akin to a shopper being in your brick and mortar store; they’re on your property therefore you have the right to observe where they go. 
  • Third-party tags: this is when the company who owns the “tag” is not the owner of the website the “tag” is placed on.  This allows the third-party to track consumers on sites they don’t own.  In the real world, this is akin to companies following people around all day and logging everywhere the people go and when.  This would obviously be a breach of privacy.  But on the internet, this is exactly what third-party tags had enabled companies to do unrestricted up until now. 

So, what were the implications? 

AdTech was basically built around third-party data capture.  Picture this: if a company places third-party tags across several hundred websites and paid media ads, capturing all the data of consumers hitting those media properties, that company could create a fairly accurate representation of internet behavior.  They could then mine their repository of cookies, all their associated behaviors, and leverage the data to deliver targeted media to their pool of cookies. 

Companies have been doing this for well over a decade.  And while cross-app tracking isn’t exactly the same as third-party tags it enables many of the same things: broad data capture, retargeting, audience/creative optimization, etc. 

If companies can’t use third-party tags and cross-app tracking, is AdTech dead?

No, AdTech isn’t dead. But it has to change.  There is a new approach to data capture that has come along to replace third-party tags and cross-app tracking: server-to-server integrations (S2S).  A server-to-server integration is when ABC.com matches its users to XYZ.com’s users so they can see the overlap in users on their sites.  Doing this is a bit more restrictive than what’s possible with third-party tags; ABC and XYZ need to have shared data elements they can match on.  They would typically match on an encrypted email address.  Net/net, they can only match consumers that have registered on their sites; they can’t match general visitors.  As a result:

  • Shareable audience pool size shrinks
  • Major implications on retargeting and, more generally, at any time digital audiences are created
  • Implementation bottleneck: for instance, Facebook can’t just do a server-to-server integration with every major media property and/or client overnight.  Right now, they have a waitlist that could be upwards of a year

Measurement implications: Is Multi-Touch Attribution dead?

No. However, everything above implies severe limitations as these changes take effect.  The challenge is that it will become increasingly difficult to create a “complete” user path of media touchpoints that led to a conversion.  There were always challenges at play, but they will only become worse.  Server-to-server integrations will become the major way raw media data gets stitched together across platforms by players such as LiveRamp, but they, too, face challenges due to the blocking of third-party tags (which LiveRamp uses heavily). Since server-to-server integrations only work for registered site visitors, not general visitors, the audience scale and matching accuracy of partners such as LiveRamp will suffer. However, with data integrators such as LiveRamp it is nearly impossible to actually QC their work; it’s all anonymized.  As a result, the true gaps created by the loss of third-party tagging and the switch to server-to-server integrations may never be known; this could sew distrust within the Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) ecosystem, for example, raising questions like, “how accurate is this?”  Measurement partners will still deliver MTA solutions to clients but will the accuracy decline?  The marketplace doesn’t quite know yet.  If it does suffer, we can expect to see clients begin to reevaluate their measurement needs and become open to other near-term measurement solutions like Gain Theory’s Sensor

Media consolidation is at play as well

While this privacy battle has unfolded there has been significant consolidation in media.  We’ve seen the rise of major video platforms like Hulu, YouTube, etc.  These platforms have an endless supply of video content and consumers are typically logged in when they use them.  These two factors enable a massive amount of contextual understanding of the consumer. Given the scale of these platforms, and their ability to target, we’re seeing a massive shift towards contextually targeted media.  These platforms simply know so much about their massive audiences that they don’t need digital behavior data from outside their ecosystems to optimize media delivery effectively. 

Long story short, the large streaming video partners aren’t being hamstrung very much by the blocking of third-party tags and cross-app tracking.  And consumers’ attention and media consumption will continue to centralize around these platforms.  This means that with a handful of large-scale server-to-server integrations across these platforms, plus Google, Facebook, etc, we will be able to see a very comprehensive view of users’ digital media consumption. In the future, there will simply be fewer “critical” media partners, and all of them equipped with logged-in users.  This will make it easier to integrate a handful of major players than it was to track hundreds of third-party tags on mid-tier media partners.  Eventually, new measurement solutions or measurement workspaces like “white rooms” could become much more prevalent and holistic.

In our fifth episode of our Ask the Experts series titled “Agile Decision Making”, Claudia Sestini, Global CMO of Gain Theory, discusses best practices and advice for being agile in the face of changing priorities with a full panel of industry experts.

With regards to media allocation decisions across brands, Claudia Sestini asks:

“Many marketers have evolved their media plans and strategies to meet the needs of their customers in 2020, which can be particularly difficult when managing media allocations across multiple brands, products, industries or customer sets.

How should marketers decide media allocations across these portfolios to avoid spreading advertising budgets too thin?”

Panel Guests:

Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group

Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox

Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory

Key Takeaways:

  • There are four key factors that can help marketers, whether you’re allocating media across a full portfolio of brands, products, or different segments.

1. Consider all marketing and media allocation as investment choices:

  • Look for opportunities to invest that will drive ROI financially for the brand and benefit the customers. Look at where and how much you are investing, what you’re driving from that investment, and analyze the gaps to see if you’re over or underinvesting anywhere.
  • Look at the market as a whole, where you think the market is going, and compare your activities to others.
  • Consider your investment and activities to see whether they align with your business objectives.

2. Create a level playing field for assessment.

  • Create this level playing field across all your brands, products, or segments and find a way to compare apples to oranges to see where the true value of investment is for each.
  • Work with an econometrics expert to build a model that can help you make these investment comparisons.
  • Utilize multiple sources when researching and assessing.

3. Prioritize and make the tough decisions.

  • Doing fewer things well is a key to success.
  • Make informed decisions that align with your objectives and strategy to help you say “no” when needed.

4. Set the guard rails and be prepared to adapt.

  • Once you’ve established how much you will invest, where you will invest, and why – be ready to shift continuously through the year.
  • Review your results, analyze how the market is changing, and encourage agile decision-making.

Other topics addressed in the “Agile Decision Making” Ask the Experts Session: 

To stream the full video click here.  

The pandemic-driven recession is leading marketers to plan against various economic scenarios into 2021. To succeed in these testing times when consumer behaviors are uniquely unpredictable, marketers will need to apply a new way of thinking that fosters agility in their marketing strategies to acquire and retain customers.

In our fifth episode of our Ask the Experts series titled “Agile Decision Making”, Claudia Sestini, Global CMO of Gain Theory, discusses best practices and advice for being agile in the face of changing priorities with a full panel of industry experts. Our panel guests included Georgia Thodey, Head of Brand and Media Planning at NatWest Group, Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox, and Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory.

Topics addressed:

You can stream the full episode below.

In this livestreamed “Ask the Experts” session, Ajay Ahuja at Kellogg’s and Chris Sloane, Senior Partner at Gain Theory, discussed how marketers can drive present and future data-informed decisions.

Claudia Sestini, Global CMO, opened stating that in today’s world, understanding what happened, why it happened and what will happen are key to informing the actions that drive business growth.

The session kicked off by getting to know Ajay and Chris. Ajay’s CPG career spans over a decade covering analytics to reporting across multiple markets such as China, South Africa and Australia. His remit at Kellogg’s sees him answer key business questions and participate in business future proofing projects.  Chris spoke about his extensive career in marketing effectiveness traversing both the UK and Australia, whilst writing industry-leading thought leadership in WARC, covering topics such as optimal advertising frequency and ROI of integrated marketing campaigns.

In conversation, Ajay and Chris covered the following topics:

  • The Role of Marketing & Media within Overall Sales Drivers
  • Decisions that Drive Value for Consumers
  • Role of Online and Offline Channels and Media to Drive Business KPIs
  • The Switch to Private Label During Recessions
  • Justifying Investment in Brand
  • Selecting Media Platforms: Emotional Decision Making  

Stream the full video here and read the key take outs below.

The Role of Marketing & Media within Overall Sales Drivers

How should marketers think about media and marketing within overall sales drivers? 

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s important to drive awareness and salience while simultaneously creating a long-lasting effect on customers and shoppers.
  • To discover what is most important during the “new normal” period: test, test, test. Find out what is working; ask if the fundamentals still apply to your business and how you can optimize for the future.
  • Immediate steps to consider for optimization, both online and offline, include pausing to understand what is happening with consumers and then exploring e-commerce and new channels.
  • Take a step back to trace the insights from consumers and shoppers, noticing changes in trends.

Decisions that Drive Value for Consumers

Insights from data can assist with decision making to drive KPIs such as sales. How should marketers factor in the value they are delivering to consumers?

Key Takeaways:

  • Some products, such as Kellogg’s products, appeal more to shoppers and consumers post-Covid because they are safe, well-known, and associated with good hygiene.
  • When you have “safe” products with these attributes known to the market, you’re not limited to solely driving sales in the organization.
  • Rethink what value means to consumers and how that translates to both your product offer and how you convey value to consumers.
  • Marketing requires more than driving value for the organization, creating high ROI, long-lasting effects – it’s also about making a difference in your community, inclusive of your corporate social responsibility.

Role of Online and Offline Channels and Media to Drive Business KPIs

Regarding the “new normal” world and purchasing behaviors, what role do online and “offline” channels and media play in driving business KPIs?

Key Takeaways:

  • Marketers see everything as either online or offline, but consumers don’t. Their priorities revolve around convenience and availability, which is most important, making visibility key for retailers and brands.
  • Customers may be more loyal now, shopping in-person and/or online more frequently, often multiple times a week, from the same retailer on both online and offline channels.
  • Marketers need to maximize the opportunity for people to purchase. Simply because more sales have flipped online doesn’t mean that everyone’s media consumption has flipped online.
  • The fundamentals still stand. Ask yourself: What is the path to purchase? How and when can we influence consumers on that journey to buy that product? That matters more than where those sales are actually realized.
  • It’s vital to think about the cost to effectiveness ratio of your advertising investment across your channels.

The Switch to Private Label During Recessions

There’s an assumption, based on historical trends, suggesting that in times of recession people are more likely to switch to private labels. If we assume this is correct, or challenge it, how do you maintain relevance of the brand? 

Key Takeaways:

  • Comparing the 2008 recession to the 2020 recession reveals this is not a “regular” recession. It’s about value, getting the best deals and shopping to different places. Paired with this realization is the focus on hygiene.
  • Consumers want to ensure what they are buying is hygienic and has value. You want to know the products you buy for yourself and your family have product superiority. These factors challenge the hypothesis of an immediate switch to private label.
  • This is being termed the “first natural disease-driven recession of modern times”. Therefore, the consumer mindset will be different, and brands shouldn’t treat this recession like the last one. Comfort is found in brands that we trust and love, and people will return to them.
  • “The lipstick effect: Consumers don’t want to splurge excessive amounts of money on products, but they want to do something indulgent for themselves. Offering a variety of tastes, sizes, and indulgences is a key to defending your brand from switches to private label.

Justifying Investment in Brand

Currently, several organizations are tightly focused on driving short-term returns. How do marketers justify investment in brand, which arguably has a longer-term ROI, to the CFO?

Key Takeaways:

  • You can prove that brand advertising now will pay back greater dividends over the longer term. That won’t have changed in this pandemic recession.
  • Conduct research, gather as much industry and brand-specific information as you can and make that case to the CFO.
  • Gain Theory has several pieces of research including The Long Term Impacts of Advertising, The Business Case for Advertising Now and Marketing Investment in Uncertain Times: Tactics to Ally with Finance.
  • What we’re trying to do is minimize risk and maximize value, in both the short-term and long-term.
  • Cleverly approach difficult conversations with Finance by utilizing learnings from the past and performing certain advanced analytics around the data.

Selecting Media Platforms: Emotional Decision Making

We appear to be entering a world where media platforms are politicized, which may impact media investment decisions. How do you layer this type of “emotional” decision-making into fact-led decision making? 

Key Takeaways:

  • Consider first, “How should brands plan across media channels given those factors?” and second, “Who decides that the platform isn’t suitable for the brand?”
  • It’s not a planner’s decision to choose what media channels should and shouldn’t be part of a mix. They need to optimize reach point, sales, business outcomes, etc.
  • It’s for the C-suite to choose which media platforms and channels are acceptable for the brand or not.

As originally published by Thinkbox on May 22, 2020

Matt Chappell, Senior Partner at Gain Theory, outlines four data-driven reasons to invest in advertising now in order to succeed in the future.

The common reaction to the unprecedented situation we have been facing over the last few months is to pull up the drawbridge, adopt defensive positions, and more often than not in the world of marketing, cut, cancel, pause, delay and reduce. 

But there are two sides of the coin. 

Unfortunately, there are businesses who have had to shut down completely or have experienced a decrease in demand. On the flip side, many in-demand businesses are finding themselves butting up against capacity limits. All of this leads to a reduced demand for advertising, especially if you’re of the school of thought that believes that advertising exists to prompt demand in the here and now.

However, Marketers that can hold their nerve, as well as the nerves of their Finance Director and board, know that advertising has an impact beyond today and will drive profits far beyond this crisis. 

With that in mind, here are four data-informed reasons to invest in advertising now in order to succeed in the future. They are:


1. Advertising’s long-term impact

Gain Theory’s Long Term Impact of Advertising analysis from Thinkbox’s report showed that 58% of advertising’s payback came in the long term (in general, 3 months to 3 years) versus 42% in the short term (now to 3 months). This means that even in a world where short term returns are not viable, there is still value over the long term. If your short-term advertising ROI, as measured by econometrics, was £1, then investing now will generate a further £1.38 over the long term, showing that advertising can have a value over and above what it delivers in the present time.

It is this long-term value that informs findings around companies who invest in a recession doing better afterwards. 

Here are a few famous examples: 

1. Consumer Packaged Goods
Post was the category leader but cut advertising spend during the Great Depression. Kellogg’s the younger competitor, doubled spend, and remains to this day the category leader. 

2. Automotive
During the recession of the early 1970s, triggered by the oil crisis, Toyota maintained advertising spend as part of its long-term strategy, overcoming both Honda and Volkswagen to become the number one imported car brand into the US. 

3. Quick Service Restaurants
In the recession of 1990-91, McDonalds dropped its advertising budget which allowed competitors Pizza Hut and Taco Bell to increase sales significantly. 


2. Great value media

It is not new news that a lot of media is very good value right now, indeed Matt Hill at Thinkbox has already written about this in detail in the WARC article ‘Cleaning up with TV in Lockdown’.  

We are hearing about media costs decreasing significantly due to demand for advertising decreasing and supply increasing as locked-in families watch more TV and spend more time online. What this means in practical terms, is that if your ROI from TV was £2 before the crisis, it could now be up to £3 or £4. If your demand has held strong, or even declined slightly (i.e. by less than costs in media have been decreasing) then it makes sense to place a strong bet on media.


3. Running from a walking start vs Running from a standing start

Some of us have taken up running in this lockdown period. As you will know, it’s a lot easier to sprint from a jogging start than it is from standing still. The same is true for media.

Behavioural research shows that consumers often need to see a piece of advertising multiple times before they are in a position to respond. This might be due to a complex message needing multiple views, a big reveal at the end that keeps the brand in suspense, or the fact that most consumers ignore or forget a number of ads to which they’re exposed.

When life goes back to some semblance of normal, most advertisers will want to capitalise on this moment and increase their advertising. Those who do so from a walking start, where consumers have already been exposed to some advertising, will do much better than those who try to start from scratch for the reasons outlined above. In fact, this can be equivalent to a 30-50% differential in a month’s worth of advertising effectiveness.


4. Spreading risk

As mentioned above, most advertisers will want to be present when the economy starts revving up again. But no-one knows exactly when this will be, with guidance on lockdowns and social distance being necessarily flexible and responsive to the latest risk and rate of infection.

Most advertisers will have significant lead times to getting an advert on air, impacted by creating the message, gaining business alignment, or buying the media. We have seen some fantastic examples of flexibility and strong messaging being created quickly but these are well-regarded exceptions and not the norm.

Because of this lead time and the uncertainty over exactly when we will return to normal, sensible businesses will be spreading the risk and reward of their advertising through the summer to ensure they have a presence when this occurs. And because of the above three points, they will also be reaping the benefits of good planning for long term success.

So, there you have it: four solid data-informed reasons to maintain advertising investment through this period. The best Marketers should never waste a crisis.


In the old, pre COVID-19 world, marketers could answer most business questions with a degree of confidence, and that confidence came from years of investment in data and analytics.

As COVID-19 mortality and recovery data floods in from various countries informing government guidance, we still don’t know with absolute confidence how things will pan out.  The impacts of the pandemic will continue to be felt across consumer behavior and businesses in various ways.

The ‘old rules’ have gone out the window and many marketers have landed in the situation where their finance departments are taking the reins, making marketing decisions.

In this uncertain world, how can marketers find the confidence to make data-informed business decisions that maximize marketing efficiency?

Claudia Sestini, our Global CMO, hosted a fireside chat with two experts at Gain Theory, Karen Kauffman and Shawn O’Neal, to discuss how marketers can use data and analytics insights to navigate with greater certainty in these uncertain times.

To view the full length episode click here or watch the segments and key takeouts below.

Topics include:

  • The Role Marketers are Playing Today 
  • Ensuring Marketing Investments are Not Wasted
  • Modeling in A COVID-19 World
  • Data and Analytics Available Now
  • “Wargaming” with Agent Based Modelling
  • Marketing Analytics Modelling in an Uncertain Environment 
  • Making a Case to Finance for Marketing Investment
  • Accounting for Changes in Media Consumption
  • Survival Tips for Marketers

The Role Marketers are Playing Today


Key takeaways:

  • Marketers have been investing in data and insight for a long time and that information is more valuable now than ever.
  • More than any other department, marketing leaders have the opportunity to lead now, with insights around consumer behaviors and media consumption, for example.
  • Take stock of what information is available, using early data and existing insights, to ensure that we are making the right decisions for the business.
  • There’s a natural inclination today to cut investment, but there is a smart way to do that.
  • Bring that information back to the organization and explain the ‘why’ behind decisions you’re making today.

Ensuring Marketing Investment is Not Wasted


Key takeaways:

  • It’s critical that marketers learn and pivot quickly using the data and analytics available.
  • Don’t wait until next year when the dust clears to measure effectiveness. This is the defining moment, between competitive advantage and market share gains, that will be lasting for the future.
  • For those marketers who can afford to invest right now, there is a significant opportunity to win market share.
  • We’ve seen research that indicates brands and businesses that invest in marketing do well, and often better than their competitors, both during and after recessions.
  • Studies suggest that getting new customers to try your product today can have a substantial effect on the business in the long term.
  • Reframe how you define success. There is a standard approach for marketers to think about incremental volume, incremental sales, ROI, etc. – but they should also be asking, “How can I gain more share of wallet?” or “How can I gain more share of consideration?”. Those are equally important in today’s time where categories are constricting.
  • Think beyond the immediate. We don’t know what the new normal will look like, or when that will take place, but agile scenario planning is essential right now.
  • Imagine different worlds and create a variety of different plans that will take advantage of different types of realities.
  • Think about what data you can use to infer which direction to take and how you can use that data to pivot marketing strategy and take advantage of what might come.
  • In the midst of cost cutting, we can use insights to suggest strategies that produce a higher ROI.
  • We’ve already seen substantially reduced costs across digital investments. For example, in April, Facebook cost per million was at 40% and digital on average was down roughly 10%.” 
  • If you have the data, you can quickly understand and know what’s working and what’s not; you can know the financials behind those strategies and can dramatically change the investment and return you’re going to get.

Modeling in A COVID-19 World


Key takeaways:

  • Understanding the break between pre and post COVID-19 models and the drivers behind that point in time will enable you to better predict the future and you’ll hit a point, this year, where that modeling makes incredible sense.
  • In the near term, any techniques that enable you to see and model data as it comes through will help inform you on which tactics are working, as well as what the drivers are now vs. what they were historically.
  • Don’t abandon modeling done in the past. There are ways in which we can take existing models and calibrate them to be more reflective of today’s reality.
  • Take variables, like changing consumer media behaviors or marketing interactions, and look at the effects on media response or cost.
  • Questions like, “Should we model today?” and “Should we refresh an existing model?” require marketers to reframe the business question they need to solve for at that time.
  • Don’t generalize variables or outcomes. Consumer behaviors can vary by geography, audience, etc. and there are ways we can build compelling models that allow us to interrogate those.
  • Ask the right questions: “Are there ways we can tailor our media strategy to unique geographies as they come back to the new normal?” “Are there audiences that are less price sensitive?” “Are those the ones we should be targeting?” “How can we market to them?
  • Take a step back and ask, “What can I learn today that is applicable to how I manage the business today? And how can I use that to generate new insights that may be more valuable 3, 6, or 12 months from now?
  • It’s a missed opportunity to plan for 2021, post COVID-19, without having done some of the modeling work today to connect the dots between pre, during, and post COVID-19. This will allow for predictions, estimates, and forecasts about what things may look like, given the break in trends and new things that are happening.

Data and Analytics Available Now


Key takeaways:

  • MMM, and marketing analytics in general, have given us a language that works for finance by articulating the return on marketing investment.
  • Gain Theory’s Sensor near-term measurement solution looks at the relative investment values for tactics at a granular level. If you’re starting to look post COVID-19 to see what is working and what is not, this kind of analysis works brilliantly for that kind of scenario.
  • Scenario planning – i.e. if it goes this well, or that well – gives us different ranges to show the financial impact and business return on your investment. This is a great basis on which to discuss with the finance team low-risk to high-risk investments and potential ROIs.
  • MMM and Multi-Touch Attribution have become common approaches today to measure marketing’s impact but there are other solutions relevant to today’s uncertain world.
  • Agent Based Modeling, for example, enables “wargaming” in environments that are not certain or in categories that are experiencing a lot of disruption.
  • Agent Based Modeling (ABM) “wargaming” has two phases:
  1. Questioning how a marketplace operates: how consumers make decisions to buy one brand over another brand; differentiate one brand from another; and what influencers drive business decisions. Then, creating a model to help explain and understand that environment.
  2. Once we have created that environment, we start to see a variety of scenarios to help inform the answers to “What would happen if…?”.For example, in retail, ABM can answer, “What would happen if my main competitor goes out of business; where do those shoppers go and what can I do to pull market incremental share?” For pharmaceutical marketers, ABM can answer, “When we lose a patent, what can happen?” or “What is the role of the doctor and the pharmacist in the decision for a consumer to go out and buy a specific script?”.
  • There’s a lot of value in digging deeper on a variety of data resources to understand what is happening today and see how consumers are behaving. This may be through consumer survey data, panel data, receipt data, etc. These can highlight changes in behavior and help determine if you can take advantage of that data. Data exploration is going to be a critical tool for us now and in the future.

Should I Continue Marketing Analytics Modeling Given the Uncertainty?


Key takeaways:

  • You will need to do some form of modeling—maybe not the same “traditional” modeling, however. Modify multiple variables to see how the pre and post COVID-19 models look. It may not be focused as much on your sales, but perhaps on other factors that you’ve modeled against to understand both pre and post COVID-19 to see how those factors are then aligned for sales.
  • We’re putting COVID-19 variables into our models for clients, factoring in variables like when announcements are made by state, when people go into quarantine, the number of sicknesses and deaths reported, etc.  These variables form a curve of the consumer response to COVID-19. That timing of the consumer response matches up with how people view your business, your brand, your sales—and redefines 2021 when you look at it.
  • There is an opportunity for marketers today to take advantage of what is happening. If your competitors have gone dark, there may be an opportunity to take advantage of that by placing the right compelling message in the market to win market share that has opened up.
  • If you can generate new trial today, there often is a good chance this behavior will continue when we have returned to a “new normal” if a consumer has had a good experience with your brand.
  • The cost of media is at an extreme low. The consumption of media, digital, and TV is also going up significantly, about 10-15%, depending on which channel you’re talking about. You’re paying less to get more in terms of every investment you’re making right now. Even if all you’re doing is just testing, it’s a great time to do so.

Making a Case to Finance for Marketing Investment


Key takeaways:

  • A universal occurrence that we’re finding for companies who are losing revenues, is the need to have finance step in and make some difficult decisions about costs.
  • The key is not to fold and go home. The key is to get to the other side of the crisis point.
  • Currently, we are still under the crisis point with several economic factors rapidly changing all around us, where finance teams don’t feel comfortable with predicting what the future is going to bring.
  • You need to do your homework to find the best ways to (a) understand what is changing; (b) how it is changing; and (c) apply testing in small amounts. Test your ROIs and see if low-cost media buys are more effective than ever.
  • Prepare yourself for either the back half or the fourth quarter—or, if your business cycle is longer, for 2021. Focus on a mindset of using the data and the tools we’re describing, along with the ROI language for the finance department. Be ready, when the time is right, to make the next ask, for the next investment, for the next initiative.
  • A lot of information is available in the public domain. Many studies have all concluded that marketing during recession leads to better outcomes during and after the recession.
  • Put a business case together for the finance team on what is the short-term value and long-term value of advertising and marketing.
  • For example, we modeled for one brand—who went off air for several months during a recession—that took 13 months to get back to where they were before going off air.
  • If you can, put together the case to explain, not only is there a short-term impact and market share loss from going off air, but there is a longer-term challenge to the business by not advertising. Put that information into financial terms to help it resonate better and make a business case for testing to see what will work today.
  • Long-term effectiveness is a capability we are actively developing and measuring. We’re currently working with clients today to measure long-term effectiveness as well as the regular effectiveness for marketing mix models.

Changes in Media Consumption


Key takeaways:

  • Take advantage of the opportunities and silver linings right now. People are spending 10-20 percent more of their time on channels and in places where you can communicate with them. Combine that information with the fact that costs are lower, and it is clear should take advantage of this unique time.
  • Digital is truly leapfrogging. This entire COVID-19 consumption pattern is impacting digital at a rate of 3-5x of the rate TV watch is increasing. People are going online, they’re going on mobile and Netflix, but they’re not necessarily watching traditional TV.
  • Take this time to be more selective and precise as to who you target and on which channels you spend. Taking the time to be data-informed and invest in this moment may be the most valuable thing you do.

Survival Tips for Marketers


Key takeaways:

  • Don’t throw out the past: it’s still a bridge to where we are today. It is important to understand what is happening during COVID-19, and it starts with the way it was before.
  • Use the fast-moving data and information that is available to you today. Keep measuring the trends and consumer habits.
  • Test and learn fast. Fail fast. By far, this one of the best environments to test, learn, fail or succeed, and then move on to the next thing. Don’t make big bets. Make smaller bets that you learn from and actively change and evolve month over month on your media mix.
  • Think locally: tactically, the United States will vary significantly by geography, and as different markets open up (and maybe close back down) you could take a local approach. This is an important change for organizations with national scale who might usually think from a national marketing perspective.


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