The paid landscape has seen some huge developments over the last year. Thanks to Return's dedication to connecting our clients with the right audiences through deep data insight, we've managed to stay at the forefront of paid performance. Here, I give my thoughts on what the future has in store, from audience-first targeting, to breaking down silos.

What does 'audience-first' mean to you?

If you don't understand your audience moving through 2018/19, you will start to see lower click-through rates, which will affect the overall results of the campaign.

It doesn't matter what marketing you're running - whether it's TV, banner ads, print or radio - you're still trying to affect an audience. Gone are the days of putting out an ad and expecting people to align themselves. Individual audiences expect more, so targeting must be better, and messaging needs to be super-relevant.

Combining this change in audience focus with the vast amounts of data provided to us by the likes of Facebook and Google, means that more relevant targeted campaigns are expected. As marketers, we need to truly understand who we're targeting; who are they, what do they need the product for, what are their triggers, what are their blockers for not converting? We deep-dive into data analytics, overlay psychology and use all that insight to craft a campaign.

Paid search and social must work together in a holistic way

Regardless of the channel, your goal is to reach out to a customer base and influence them to complete an action, whether that's filling out a contact form or buying a product.

To achieve this, we must ensure agility is front of mind on every campaign: how do we turn up and turn down certain channels to make sure we're in front of the customer at the right point in their journey, to increase the potential of them completing the target action?

The learnings that we gained during 2017 from pushing the audience-first approach via paid social put us in a really strong position to deliver exactly the right message, to the right customer, and at the right time. And now we're approaching paid search in the same way.

All of the data points that we already understand about a customer apply equally to paid search. Focusing on keywords is still part of the equation, but it must be combined with a strong understanding of the customer, their consideration period, and any barriers that could stop them from converting.

We look at how each channel can benefit from influencing that audience. Social, for example, might do a lot of the new audience acquisition, and then PPC might pick up a lot more of the remarketing.

Agile, multi-channel solutions are key

We typically come across two main issues when we're auditing clients' accounts. The first, is that in PPC people are still hammering keywords, when paid search is now far more sophisticated than that. Our audience-first approach maximises the potential of paid search, to deliver highly relevant campaigns to the right people during the right micro-moments. Our ROAS stats speak for themselves.

The second issue is around paid social. It isn't mature industry, so there are a lot of bad practices, and no one set way of working. People do whatever they think they should do - chuck in £20k to promote a post and hope for the best, or just run bottom-of-the-funnel activity because they can't attribute the value to new audience.

We've been looking more at the integration between both paid channels, to stop them running in silos. For example, we'll as set up audience lists based on new audience campaigns in Facebook, collect that data within AdWords, and speak to those customers in different ways. In this instance, we know that they've been qualified by social and have come in as high-quality users, because we've used pixel data to make sure they are a lookalike of someone who has purchased or spent over a certain value previously.

In conclusion

If brands want to stay ahead of the curve and truly engage in a rapidly changing digital environment, they must put their audiences at the heart of their marketing strategies. It will break down internal silos, foster multi-channel solutions and drive a positive impact for consumers and businesses alike.



By Victoria Blount, head of paid performance at Return

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