How consumers are discussing advertising on social media

Gaelle Betrand, Head of Brand Insight, Kantar Media

Our recent DIMENSION report explored many of the key communication planning, buying and measurement issues faced by the industry from the perspective of industry leaders, and the consumers they are trying to reach.

It's a love/hate thing...

As part of this study, we looked at how consumers feel and engage with brand communications and identified that consumers do have a kind of love/hate relationship with advertising and in particular with online advertising. One of the paradigms was people’s relationships with personalisation. Half of connected adults (51% to be precise) said that they value targeted ads because they make them more interested in the brand advertised, but nearly three-quarters of the same connected adults find re-targeting tiresome, especially for something they have already bought, which is clearly a waste of time for the consumer and a waste of money for the advertiser.

The same goes for ad-blocking which, according to our study, is used by a fifth of all connected consumers. Based on this statistic it would be quite easy to dismiss that ad-blocking consumer as someone who cannot stand advertising. Our findings show that the truth is more nuanced. Indeed, more than half of ad-blocker users actually like, or at least tolerate, advertising as a whole – which would suggest it is only certain aspects of advertising that they dislike.

This ambiguous relationship with online advertising and advertising in general really came to light when we looked at how social media users talk about advertising on public social media channels.
In total, there was over half a million conversations about advertising on public social media among UK users in the past year, excluding brand-generated content, bots, giveaways, recruitment ads and spam.

When looking at what people discussed, the main focus was campaigns, with only around a third of all social media conversations being about some of the ‘hate’ things about advertising, such as targeted ads, ad blocking/avoidance, data protection and ethics/standards. And most of the UK buzz on these industry issues came from media and industry professionals.

What was most mentioned in this context were some of the measures that the unavoidables of digital advertising - Google and Facebook - are putting in place to counter perceptions of intrusiveness, such as Google’s plans to stop scanning users’ Gmail accounts to target ads, YouTube retiring its 30-second un-skippable mobile ads for shorter and more interactive formats and Google’s plans to introduce an ad filter on Chrome making ads less intrusive. Recently, we also saw a couple of social media campaigns prompting the advertising industry to “clean-up their act” gain traction, such as the “Stop Funding Hate” campaign urging brands to pull banners from “extremist sites” or the campaign calling on Facebook to stop allowing the promotion of “fake news”.


So what actually drives talkability?...

Conversations about campaigns are extremely topical and seasonal; with Christmas ads driving conversations up ten-fold as soon as the ever-longer Christmas season approaches. The 2016 John Lewis ‘Buster the Boxer’ ad drove a quarter of all public conversations about advertising on UK public social media in November 2016, so 50k mentions over that period.

Super Bowl Sunday in early February saw 38K posts discussing ads airing on game night and on YouTube, despite the event being a US stronghold, showing the global nature of social media conversations.

Online vs offline…

On social media, it is not just digital ads that are discussed but all types of ads. It is true that digital ads are a strong focus, being in mentioned in 6 in 10 conversations, but broadcast campaigns are still discussed in 3 in 10 conversations. This shows how relevant TV advertising still is in the digital age. Broadcast ads are discussed primarily when a celebrity is involved, e.g. Gareth Bale's recent appearance in a Nissan campaign. Kendall Jenner’s controversial Pepsi advert in April 2017 triggered 35K mentions among UK users.

In the run up to the UK general election, party ads also drew social media users’ attention, as everything from banners at sports matches to billboards became subjects of discussion. Political parties’ social media advertising spend and strategy was also dissected on social media, indicating an interest. 

The role of social media insights...

Assessing the success of campaigns is probably the most obvious application of social media measurement and insights. However, what most brands seem to lack when analysing campaigns is context or benchmarks and social media analysis can provide that.

The #IPASocialWorks ‘Measuring Not Counting’ project, to which Kantar Media contributed in 2014, provides best practice on how to use social media as a campaign effectiveness assessment tool. Understanding whether a campaign has shifted brand perceptions is at least as important as understanding whether it has driven talkability.
If the contribution made by earned media can be quantified but also qualified, it can turn to efficiencies in paid for budgets.

Kantar Media presented the findings of its study at the recent IAB Conference on the Future of Social Media.

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