It’s the mantra of all marketers everywhere, whether or not they prospect for a “brand” or a “cause”: the key to success is reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message – one that will motivate immediate, positive action from your intended respondent.
For advocates, this “holy grail” of marketing campaigns is even tougher than for brand marketers. Adding to the complexity of advocacy outreach is the fact that the “right audience” can vary from those who could most benefit from their services or those of their preferred industry, to those most able and willing to support their activity. Sometimes these audiences are so different that even the advocate’s core messaging has to change to accommodate each attempt at outreach.
Such a dichotomy is often tough to pull off in social media, where each online “persona” is relentlessly tested for authenticity. But there is one medium that has become at once so pervasive, and yet so personal, that it can uniquely deliver relevant messages that inspire immediate action: targeted mobile advertising.
More Pervasive Than Computers – Even for Video
Last month, Nielsen reported figures from Q3 of 2016 showing that the number of monthly users of apps and Web via smartphone for adults 18 and over outstripped the number of people accessing the internet via desktop or laptop. (Tablets – another mobile device that can be targeted with video and rich-media messaging – are the digital device of choice for U.S. children.)
Moreover, more adults viewed video via smartphone than on their computers. Some 90% of those 18-24 watch video via smartphone or tablet; 86% of those 25-34 do, and 79% of those 35-49 do. Even more than half of adults 50-59 watch video via smartphone or tablet. The connection between a millennial audience and mobile media is undeniable:
- 95% watch video on mobile at least 1X/week
- 48% ONLY watch videos on their mobile devices (the so-called “unplugged” you’ve heard so much about.)
- 58% watch video on mobile as their SOLE activity (compared with 28% for TV!)
- 80% find video helpful during initial research for a purchasing decision.
In its January report, US Time Spent with Mobile: A Deep Dive into Mobile App and Web Time, eMarketer reported that mobile video viewing time skews more heavily toward apps, with U.S. adults spending 20 minutes daily in apps vs. 11 minutes per day via mobile websites.
All these stats may seem like “overkill” for something so apparently obvious to anyone who has had to avoid a mobile-engrossed pedestrian, but as a vendor member of NTEN that offers mobile ad targeting, I’m more than a little obligated to back up my rationale. Yes, our success at Sabio is more than a bit skewed by the fact that our successful campaigns have been designed by marketers who have already bought-in to the proposition that their target audience has gone mobile, and that their storytelling, must therefore follow.
Mobile Apps Indicators: Persuasion’s ‘Secret Sauce’
Not all mobile video is created equal, and finding a willing audience where the “exit” is just a thumb-swipe away, is critical to the success of mobile ad campaigns. There is a “secret sauce” to those that have been able to leverage this technology to best effect, and it goes back to the holy grail scenario cited above. Those most persuadable to your point of view probably share common characteristics and interests besides their age, gender, income, and even location. Sometimes, what people DO on their most personal of information device – specifically via the apps they download and use every day – says as much about them and their potential affinity for your cause or your campaign as where they live or their demographics.
To explain why we’ve come to believe this, I have to go back to our origin as an advertising company looking to dispel the notion that all Hispanics are identical. We’re still a minority-owned company, and sometimes it takes one to know one, if you know what I mean. Many marketers treat the extraordinarily diverse Latino audience as homogenous, but there are not-so-subtle differences among the cultural identity of even American-born Hispanics based on things like their family’s country of origin, interests (not everyone loves soccer), tastes (in music, food and movies) and politics (they didn’t all “skew blue” in the last election, Trump comments about “the wall” notwithstanding!)
To be fair, many of the same targeting techniques that can be used in mobile advertising can be applied to online and social ads as well. But using the apps on users’ phones to “crack the code” of audience psychographics has proven remarkably powerful for us in targeting both branding and political campaigns.
We like to say “you are what you app,” which means that the app ecosystem on each person’s phone can be a roadmap to their personality, preferences and passions. Some of these indications are simple: you may be an in-market car buyer if you have Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book or Car Checker. You can spot a mom with small children by their K-12 educational apps combined with apps on great 30-minute meals. I’m a hockey fan, so of course I’ve downloaded the app from the Washington Caps (something you wouldn’t guess by my demographic, and I’ll leave it at that!)
Discerning differences in today’s party-hopping, populist era might be a bit tougher, but you might be a Democrat if you get your political news from Atlantic Monthly, NYT.com and Mother Jones. You might, conversely, vote Republican if you sport an NRA app and stream Fox News.
What does this look like in real life? When SONY Pictures wanted to herald the release on DVD of a movie about the transformative power of prayer at WalMart, we targeted mobile users when they were within a few miles of a WalMart that also had either Bible or church apps on their phones. The resulting synergy between messaging and target audience drove one of the highest sales days among the retailer’s movie releases.
On the political front, we mobile voters in Georgia who had an NRA app with a 30-second video endorsement by the NRA of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) for his recent re-election campaign. And, we didn’t stop there. We also targeted a different, 15-second ad spot talking about how Isakson was the “most effective” legislator in Congress to people whose apps resembled those of NRA members. (In digital marketing, we call this a “look-alike” campaign.) Both ads were charged on a “cost per completed view” basis, meaning the senator’s campaign only paid when someone watched the ad to its completion. Because the ad was so relevant to users to whom it was delivered, the video completion ratio was greater than 80%.
Only as Good as the Gardener
Like any tool in the shed, mobile targeting may not be for everyone. Advocacy marketing funds are always limited because organizations want to use the maximum amount of resources in driving the kind of change for which they were created – not just in ad campaigns. When the money does become available, non-profits either want to “go big” – grab the highest number of eyeballs possible via broadcast TV – or spend the least amount of money possible, perhaps by building out a social profile and trying to activate the organization’s own users.
The first step in figuring out whether a targeted mobile ad campaign could help your organization could be to conduct a “super-user” survey to find out their media habits. Do your most supportive followers cite mobile media as a key activity? Does commonly available media research tell you the same thing? Consult your website stats; most analytic programs will tell you how many of your web visits are from users on their mobile devices. (If your website isn’t yet mobile-friendly, that also will help to explain the higher than average “bounce rate”!)
Start small, and learn fast. If you can instantly think of apps that would be commonly used by your potential constituents, if you have a cultural target that is hard to discern in other ways, if your target falls strictly within a specific geographic area (high-income ZIP codes, or voters within a single state or other locale), or if your audience is overwhelmingly millennial or younger, then it’s probably worth a test. Posit a demographic, geographic and psychographic “bullseye” for a test campaign, then – when it succeeds – stretch its boundaries as far as practical so long as your goals are met.
Be realistic. It is possible to over-target in terms of the specific audience characteristics of the people you think might join your bandwagon. Targeting can’t make up for missing the mark on poor media choices generally. For instance, in the last election cycle, so much money was being spent on television advertising that it vastly overran TV’s media usage by its audience. Digital media was, conversely, under-bought. Selective uses of mobile ad targeting – like a video campaign targeted to progressive-leaning millennials in Florida with this ad, for example – were successful, and accounted for major “blue” counties for HRC. This campaign paid only 3.5 CENTS for videos watched from beginning to end – a bargain in any medium, and far cheaper than direct mail. Still, the campaign might have been even more effective if the video were served more broadly in all states with double-digit Hispanic populations.
And, this next tip sounds simplistic, but if your cause would benefit minorities, don’t forget to INCLUDE them in your messaging! Not only should your creative and your “messengers” reflect this audience, but targeting your ads to this cohort can strongly influence the propagation of your campaign through social sharing. Advocacy marketer often are surprised when they see the extent to which mobile apps and websites, combined with video viewing over smartphone, has cut into to television viewing. (Note the adjacent Nielsen media usage data by race ethnicity as reported in eMarketer.)
Make no mistake; if you have the resources to run television spots in the right markets, it’s not yet time to abandon broadcast TV. But the smartest marketers are leveraging both broadcast and mobile media to increase awareness and frequency. And, there are many congressional districts whose mere geographical configuration makes it tough to get the most efficient use of overlapping broadcast signals.
Telling a story from the perspective of those people that advocates are trying to help, or communicating surprising truths to the un-initiated, still requires creative skill. Don’t hesitate to try out your messaging in social video first and let the audience weigh in on its effectiveness before delivering it to a wider audience. Just don’t assume that the people you’d most like to influence will necessarily find it without prompting.
As with all technological advances, non-profits may lag their brand marketer peers in adoption, but Sabio is committed to both inclusion in the political process and supporting non-profits as much as humanly possible. On paper, this means that we’ve lowered our campaign minimums and can include creative design services as a value-added bonus to help your cause along. And, as this year’s editor of The Voice, I’d love to hear from you: what are YOU doing to mobilize your base and convert the persuadable?
(Note, Sabio mobile recently won both the Reed Award for best Get out the Vote Technology and two Pollie Awards for best mobile advertising and best mobile ad targeting. Next up: What makes for a compelling mobile ad? Creative examples from the mobile ad front.)