Why Brands Should Reallocate Social Media Ad Spend to Safer Platforms

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By Cassidy Diamond, VP of Brand Partnerships, SpotX

In June 2020, Unilever, a consumer-goods giant and one of the biggest advertisers in the world announced plans to halt U.S. advertising spend on Facebook and Twitter for at least the remainder of the year. In conjunction with a call for Facebook to take misinformation and hate speech on its platform more seriously, the company decided to reallocate advertising dollars earmarked for social media to other channels. This massive shift marked a significant escalation in the advertising industry’s efforts to force change and crack down on the spread of misinformation and hate speech on big tech platforms. Procter & Gamble’s top marketing executive, Marc Pritchard, has since called for social media platforms to do a better job of filtering their content, stating that “social media is about 5% of P&G’s marketing spending, but it’s 150% of our problems. We are tired of wasting time monitoring content.”

With social issues being brought to the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist and a contentious election underway, it is now more important than ever that advertisers be cognizant of where they are allocating ad spend and in what environments their content is landing. If they haven’t already, brands should move ad dollars to alternative digital channels that are safer and less controversial and work with trusted media owners to ensure their ads run within high quality and brand-safe environments.

Here are the top 5 reasons why brands should consider moving ad dollars to alternative digital channels:

Control and transparency are lost in social media

With advertising on social media, there is a lack of control and transparency as compared to premium video environments. Social media platforms do not enable controls for advertisers around the content they are positioned next to, this can lead to a misalignment with their brand values. While there are solutions available like Integral Ad Science’s social verification process, there are still gaps in blocking inflammatory hate speech and issues in placing ads next to unsuitable content. This poses a risk for both media buyers and advertisers.

Serious implications could be in store 

Advertisers are taking big risks if their creatives appear in spaces unsafe or unsuitable. When a brand runs an advertisement alongside content that is misaligned with their values, a consumer in this environment can artificially perceive that the brand supports the adjacent content, even if the brand’s values are not necessarily aligned with that content and they had no intention of supporting it. This can create a false sense of brand sentiment. Brands may also find themselves inadvertently funding user-generated content that does not align with their brand values, without full visibility into what their dollars are supporting. Advertisers will have to determine if the possibility of reach on social media is worth the risk.

Eyeballs are quickly shifting to OTT/CTV

Connected TV (CTV) has grown explosively in recent years in both consumer adoption and brand investment, with reports showing an 85% increase in year-on-year video viewership as a result of COVID-19, making it an increasingly attractive investment for advertisers. According to Nielsen, streaming grew to more than 25% of total TV minutes viewed in the second quarter of 2020 alone, as compared to 19% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Similarly, over-the-top (OTT) and CTV environments have increased co-viewership. Most CTV viewers regularly watch with others, usually a partner or kids, and sometimes with friends. Recent research reports suggest that co-viewing rates for CTV are 2-3x that of other platforms and only 16% of viewers always stream alone. The scale is critical for advertisers and OTT and CTV can offer family-safe environments to reach audiences at scale in a way that social media cannot, along with more control and transparency

Across OTT, brands can implement “do not air” signifiers or inclusion and/or exclusion lists that prevent advertisements from being shown alongside content that is not desirable. Brands are able to work with premium providers that have stringent safety and editing processes in place to ensure content is featured in brand-suitable environments.

Reach highly engaged audiences 

In addition to more people watching CTV and OTT, the average time spent on these platforms is also increasing. According to recent studies, most CTV viewers (63%) watch daily and spend an average of 23 hours per week watching content. Daily viewing hours have increased greatly over the past couple of years from 46 minutes in 2018 (Nielsen) to 180+ minutes in 2020. In comparison, as of 2019, the average daily social media usage of global internet users amounted to 144 minutes per day, up from 142 minutes in the previous year.

Ad receptivity on CTV is also striking as 4 out of 5 streamers watch ad-supported programming and 60% would choose to watch free content over a paid ad-free service. It’s evident that CTV ads help build awareness and influence purchase decisions. Studies show that there is an acceptance towards ads being shown, especially in order to provide free-to-view content; 57% of CTV audiences see ads for products that they have an interest in, and 30% were exposed to ads for products they had not previously considered. This allows for the increased brand and content discovery.

Online video offers more control

Online video for desktop or mobile is another effective channel for brands looking to move away from investing ad dollars on social media platforms. Online video price points, scale, performance metrics, and CPMs are similar to social media platforms, however, online video provides full transparency, greater visibility into placements, and the ability to reach broad audiences with heightened safeguards in place

So what can advertisers do to ensure their content is not winding up in unsafe environments? They should ask questions about technology and media partners without making assumptions. When determining which platform to leverage, advertisers should inquire about capabilities for blocking certain content, reporting, targeting, and what the platform’s opportunities are for scale and unique reach over specific time periods. In addition, advertisers should dig into the quality of programming and access to transparency offered on the platform.

While cost per conversion and audience scale are attractive in social media, brands will ultimately need to evaluate whether to re-invest in platforms and media owners that support positive content. OTT, CTV, and online video offer a level of transparency and control that allows the advertiser to validate the high-quality content they are aligning their values with and avoid detrimental snafus with social media.

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