Cultural Conversation Series; Unboxing Christmas 2022

Powered Unpacked

Cultural Conversation Series;
Unboxing Christmas


Black Friday eclipses Boxing Day sales, and different marketing approaches now required – but 79% of Australians think brand Christmas ads off the mark

Brands are missing the mark on Christmas advertising, with four in five Australians calling for more reflective ads, not just diversity-washing. Meanwhile, Black Friday sales in November have eclipsed Boxing Day sales – and marketers need to rethink the kind of products they are promoting as a result. 


Black Friday versus
Boxing Day

Latest research from Nine shows the cultural and commercial tides are turning, and the balance of power between pre and post-Christmas sales has flipped.

“Perhaps the biggest shift we’re seeing in spending is the momentum behind Black Friday as the premium sales event of the season. 58 per cent of Australians bought during Black Friday sales versus 56 per cent during the Boxing Day sales last year,” says Toby Boon, Director of Strategy & Insights, Powered by Nine.

“The difference is even greater for people aged 18 to 34. Black Friday is now where the Christmas shopping season kicks off in earnest.”

Boon was speaking at a Nine-hosted panel session at The Big Ideas Store, alongside Lisa Day, Director of Content Partnerships – Publishing, Powered by Nine, Jane de Graaff from Honey Kitchen and the Today Show, Steph Winkler, Director with Nine research partner Crowd DNA, and Jack Bavin, Nine Melbourne’s Head of Strategy.

Changing Christmas climate

The research underlines how Christmas spending is changing. “Australians spent roughly $23.9 billion last festive, equivalent to a 38 per cent increase on the previous year,” says Boon.

“It’s not just how much money we’re spending, but how we are spending it. We are being influenced by broader cultural considerations like climate change and sustainability.

“80 per cent of Australians are concerned about the amount of waste in gifting, and 68 per cent believe that sustainable gifting is increasingly important, so we’re finding ways to approach the traditional in modern ways,” says Boon, pointing to surging sales of sustainable Christmas crackers, “bon bons”, in recent years, with plastic trinkets now firmly out of favour.

Rethinking the strategy

Black Friday versus Boxing Day: Different product approaches required

Honey Kitchen’s Jane de Graaff believes marketers must now rethink product promotion strategies, adopting different approaches for Black Friday versus Boxing Day.

“Black Friday sales are positioned before the season, so people tend to get in earlier, thinking ‘This is going to make my Christmas easier, so I’ll buy it now’,” she says. “Not that the Boxing Day sales are redundant, but I think the timing of Black Friday changes what people are looking for. We buy a lot more practical stuff at Black Friday time,” she says, citing things like kitchen products or items children will need for school.

“Then Boxing Day is more about, okay, I got through that period, what’s my reward? What do I want as opposed to what do I need?”

Christmas ads missing the mark

While brands globally and locally traditionally reserve a significant chunk of media budgets for the big Christmas campaign, Nine’s research suggests marketers may in fact be risking unintended consequences.

“In line with society more broadly, Christmas is becoming more inclusive. The extended Christmas period is being embraced by all Australians as a universal time of celebration – and we want to see that show up in comms,” says Boon.

“Just 21 per cent of us see our Christmas experience reflected in advertising and 71 per cent of Aussies want to see a more honest depiction of what Christmas really looks like.

“More than half of Australians believe that Christmas advertising needs more diverse cultural representations. Australians don’t want tokenism. They simply want to see people like themselves reflected through marketing and messaging.”

But that doesn’t mean “shoving as many diverse characters as possible into a 30-second ad,” says Nine Melbourne’s Jack Bavin.

“Our research shows that if advertisers do that, it has a negligible impact on building brand equity and short-term sales lift. So in other words, it does nothing. You’re ticking a box, sure, but you’re not actually doing much for your business.

“Yet if you show those under-represented groups in a positive way, a more engaging, more meaningful, more deliberate way – and probably a more long-form way – it has a huge uplift on both of those metrics. So marketers need to get that right.”

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Cultural Conversation Series; We are Family – a call for brands to represent modern Australia

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Cultural Conversation Series; We are Family


The nuclear parent trap: 54% of Aussies say brands failing to reflect modern families, pushing traditional mum, dad, 1.8 kids over reality; Maltesers, Target nailing it

The marketing and advertising sector is alienating a quarter of Aussies by primarily showing traditional – mum, dad and two children – families, new research shared by Nine shows. One in four people feel their family is poorly represented, and even though single parents make up 10 per cent of our population, only 12 per cent of the public recognise one adult and a child as a family. What brands should focus on is honesty, realism and rawness, Nine’s Toby Boon says.

The Australian family

Marketers are using an outdated model of the Australian family in advertising, sticking with a mum, dad and two kids, and alienating vast swathes of the public, new research from Nine and cultural insights agency Fiftyfive5 reveals.

More than half of Australians – 54 per cent – feel that brands are failing to reflect the reality of family life in their marketing, while one in four people believe their own family is poorly represented in advertising. The concept of mum, dad and 1.8 kids has been “a really, really powerful shortcut”, Nine’s Director of Strategy and Insights, Toby Boon, told a session of Powered by Nine’s Big Ideas Store.

“But the reality is that Australia is shifting.  We’re quite conservative in the way that we portray family groups in some ways. There are big changes in the ways that families are showing up,” he said. 

Realism required

Families make up 71 per cent of households, but they’re comprised of traditional families, same-sex families, unmarried couples, blended families, co-habiting parent families and grandparent families. Dr Klara De Wit, Fiftyfive5 consultant, said portraying different types of families was an important way to improve representation and public perceptions.

“There was quite a sad percentage where only 12 per cent of people recognise one adult and a child as a family, but in reality, single parents make up 10 per cent of Australia's population,” Dr De Wit said.  

“What Australian consumers love to see when it comes to families and parenting is realism and acknowledgement of what it means to be an Australian family today, and the difficulties and the hardships of that as well.”

Maltesers, Target get it right

The Massive Overshare campaign by Maltesers, which published intimate thoughts from mothers about motherhood, was one example that resonated, as did a Target ad that showed men and women doing chores with children around in a non-congratulatory way.

“It wasn’t necessarily about family life. It wasn’t necessarily talking overtly to a mother’s experience or a father’s experience, it was just showing a family home,” Dr De Wit said.  

“There was a dad vacuuming with a baby strapped to his chest, and they loved it because there was no glorifying and ‘Oh, wow, you’re doing such a great job.’ Or, ‘Oh, look at the dad. He’s babysitting his kids.’ It was just assumed to be normal.”

Almost nine in 10 mums (89 per cent) want brands to show more honesty about the challenges of family life.

But it's a tightrope for brands

There is a tightrope to walk, however. The research found that 46 per cent of Australians want brands to represent traditional family dynamics.

“There was a really interesting piece that came through in the research that compared the amount of time dads spent with their kids per day to the 1960s,” Boon said. “I can't remember at the top of my head what the number is today, but I know the average amount of time that fathers spent with their children in the ’60s was something like 16 minutes a day. Anything’s got to be an improvement on that.” 

The answer, according to Boon, is to listen to the audience and understand their purchase cycle and habits.

“One of the really interesting developments for me has been around the involvement of grandparents,” he said. “We know from research we’ve done previously that obviously older Australians are active for longer, are working for longer, are more involved for longer. And grandparents are one of these groups that are now super, super-actively involved in helping to support bringing up children.”

Which is why the smart brands are now reflecting grandparents in their family-focused campaigns – and recognising their influence on big-ticket purchases. Explore

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What makes a million dollar ad?

The past year has been a rollercoaster ride for Australia’s production companies, media agencies and clients and creatives. Set amidst a backdrop of a global pandemic, natural disasters from floods to fires, border closures, and a talent desert, many held on for dear life.

But in amongst the uncertainty, Australia’s creative industry continued to reflect the country’s culture, mood and humour.

As we edge closer to the return of Australia’s richest advertising prize, The State of Originality – Nine’s way of encouraging brand owners and their agencies to bring their best for a chance to win $1 million of inventory across Nine’s vast ecosystem – this Big Ideas Store session takes a deep-dive into what it takes to make an ad a piece of art.

Four great minds in the industry, who are also judges of The State of Originality, join Powered Director Liana Dubois to show and talk us through their favourite ads, giving an insightful commentary into what makes a million dollar advert.

Cindy Gallop, Advertising Consultant and founder of MakeLoveNotPorn; Tara Ford, Chief Creative Officer of The Monkeys; Paul Chappell, Strategic Partner and co-founder of Brand + Story; and Josh Whiteman, Director and co-founder of Brand + Story reveal their thoughts on what it takes to fulfil the six categories to win the prestigious prize – originality, simplicity, strategy, branding, emotion and execution.

“Creativity flourishes with constraint,” said Gallop, a former Advertising Woman of the Year recipient in the US. “I haven’t seen any drop in quality or calibre of advertising even with all the tragedy and very difficult times all around us.”  

How a giraffe gets attention but stacking hamsters doesn’t add up

Attention in advertising is often the industry’s elephant in the room. With no single metric or industry standard, it’s a jungle out there to try to measure the perfect way to reach an audience and have their brand memorised.

But a ground-breaking study by Nine and research company Amplified Intelligence has revealed new clarity on why attention is so important – and the best explanation may be found by looking at two unlikely animals: a giraffe and hamsters.  

Before we go on safari through the attention animal kingdom, however, Nine’s Director of Effectiveness Jonathan Fox explains why attention is a hot topic.

“Attention is important because of its strong links to business outcomes and it measures the effectiveness of an advert,” said Fox. “Advertisers want more of it, agencies want to find out exactly where it is, and media owners want to make sure they’re selling it at the right price.”

Nine conducted a study with attention research company Amplified Intelligence, which measured three different types of attention: active attention (eyes on screen); passive attention (in proximity but eyes not on screen) and non-attention (not in proximity of the screen).

The study was conducted in 200 households, with a camera placed beneath their televisions and phone cameras accessed to measure 9Now.

“We wanted to see what we could learn scientifically about the quality of our advertising, content, promos and integration across Nine’s assets,” said Fox. “The one thing I want to stress is that this attention study was done with people in the comfort of their own homes and not in a lab.”

The findings discovered that attention all comes down to the environment the viewer is experiencing.

“We found high levels of active attention across 9Now and our TV ad formats,” said Fox. “A 30 second ad on 9Now took out the top spot with a whopping 21.1 seconds of active attention. The exciting news for us is that these high levels of active attention deliver a big impact in both the short term and the long term.”

Amplified Intelligence has found that an ad requires at least three seconds of active attention to access memory and for each additional second beyond this it stays in the memory for about three days. So while social video places brands in the memory for days, TV and BVOD places brands in the memory of consumers for months.

“Nine’s linear TV and 9Now deliver long periods of active attention for advertisers,” said Professor Karen Nelson-Field, who led the study. “Based on the link between attention and memory, this keeps brands in consumers’ minds for longer.”

Short term impact is measured by Short Term Advertising Strength (STAS) – which is the increase in those who decided to purchase a product after ad exposure compared with those that chose to purchase that same brand without ad exposure. Those who saw ads on TV on 9Now chose to purchase that brand 79% more than others in the group.

And this is where the giraffe and hamsters should get some attention.

“You need to buy four social video hamsters to deliver the same short-term impact as one 9Now giraffe,” said Fox. “But the four hamsters only last in the memory for a few days, whereas one 30 second ad on 9Now will stay in the viewers memory for about three months.

“So, to achieve the same impact as a 9Now giraffe you need to buy a lot more social hamsters. In fact, every nine days you’d need to buy four more hamsters over three months.

“And that’s why stacking hamsters doesn’t make a giraffe.”

Human behaviour is the reason why the study found different attention was paid to different platforms. For YouTube on mobile or desktop, the participants’ eyes tended to drop down to the skip button. For TV, viewers tend to be on the sofa, and while there may be distractions, at the very least they’re listening to it. And then there’s 9Now on mobile devices when there’s just the viewer, no distractions and a more intimate one-on-one appointment viewing.

The research also found that longer ads on socials don’t give you more active attention, it gives you more wastage. That stands at odds to TV and BVOD, where putting longer ads on does deliver commensurate active attention. This is related to platform functionality and the role it plays in time-in-view.

“Attention is a proxy for ad effectiveness; more attention delivers disproportionately better outcomes in both the short term and long term,” said Fox. “And Nine’s content and viewing experience delivers market leading attention.”

And, just like the giraffe, sits head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to seeking attention. 

Why marketers need to do their research when buying under the influence

The Influencer market is often derided, but it would be unwise to dismiss their role in today’s marketing ecosystem. From A-list celebrity stars and social media icons to everyday brand fans and micro-influencers, marketers are harnessing the power of digital platforms to find audiences.

But finding the right Influencer is critical for a brand’s campaign to get cut-through. Credibility, authenticity and a firm knowledge of regulatory framework is key. 

A panel containing some of the most powerful people in Influencer marketing, including founder of Sweaty Betty PR and one of Australia’s original influencers Roxy Jacenko; Sharyn Smith from Social Soup and Chair of Australian Influencer and Marketing Council; Head of Branded Content at Powered Studios Jessica Parry; and General Manager of Powered Studios Anna Quinn, tackled some of the issues facing the industry in a session ‘Buying Under the Influence’ at The Big ideas Store.

With the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) recently cracking down on finfluencers — social media influencers who focus on money matters — about their legal obligations around what constitutes financial advice, marketers must do their research on what influencers best suit their brand.  

“We see it as a good thing. More regulation is only going to bring more trust into the industry,” says Sharyn Smith. “Regulation helps build credibility. With ASIC’s [finfluencer crack down], I saw a stat that said a third of all 18 to 21 year olds follow a finfluencer.

“We want to keep financial markets safe and we are working with ASIC to clarify what giving financial advice constitutes. But then…it’s also a good thing that young people can develop financial literacy so we want to find the right way to go about this and I think the industry will evolve and be better for it.”

“The biggest time in influencer marketing is taken up by finding the right influencer; you have to invest the time and money into that, and brand safety comes from if you are in a more regulated environment.”

The relative newness of the category and ongoing changes to regulation can make it a tricky environment to navigate without the expertise. Jessica Parry helps clients navigate through those regulatory areas through her role as Head of Branded Content at Powered and says Influencer marketing is playing catch up to the world of branded content in traditional media.

“We have always abided by regulatory rules in branded content,” says Parry. “We want to work with influencers who understand what they’re talking about, so, yes, great to be an finfluencer but what are your qualifications? How credible are you in the space? We’ll apply the knowledge that we have gained [from branded content], make sure they’re aware of the regulations and then obviously get legal advice if we need it.”

Parry agrees that Influencer selection is key to a successful campaign.

“We look for quality, and if the influencer has 200,000 followers but the content is average that’s not great,” she says. “They have to have quality content, we have to be able to trust that they will produce the content they say they will; engagement is important as is reach obviously, but I think the most important thing for us is to consider the client’s objective.”

For one of Australia’s original Influencers, Roxy Jacenko, ensuring brand safety with the creators she brings on is important – and she offers some sage advice for those wanting to connect with brands.

“There’s been lots of different matters [involving Influencers in media stories] that have come up over the course of the last 24 months, and I think the most important thing to remember as an influencer is to be smart when you’re using social media,” she says.

“I know as someone who employees people, the first thing we do is check on social media to see how they conduct themselves, and how you act on socials is going to affect how you sell yourself into a brand or an agency.”

With consumers demanding authenticity and Influencers that are on the same page as their own ideals and ethics, Sharyn Smith says she is now seeing the rise of the micro-Influencer.

“The smart ones are the ones locking in the brands that they believe in, and that align with their values,” says Smith. “While we all want the bigger Influencers if you want to elevate a brand, the powerhouse is now with the micro-Influencer, which we call the ‘potency’. The potency is in the niche now; we want to move beyond this generalized lifestyle.”

And while Jessica Parry would use micro-Influencers for an FMCG, a recipe or fitness campaign, she says the true power of Influencer marketing can be illustrated through harnessing the power of Nine’s suite of assets.

“I see Nine as the ultimate macro-influencer because we have so many brands that can communicate to different audiences,” says Parry. “We consider our audience, and the client expectation. We have that advantage of taking a soundbite from Instagram and expanding it in such greater detail across our assets. Where applicable we’ll use Nine talent and mix that up with Influencer talent.”

From here to eternity…why brands need to keep their feet grounded when taking off into the metaverse

The metaverse is one of the most contentious topics facing forward-thinking brands and marketers today, with deep divisions on whether it’s a fantasy or, in a world where NFTs already exist, just around the [digital] corner. Indeed, for an industry based on articulating ideas, few seem to be able to even define what actually is the metaverse.

But what does the metaverse mean for marketers – should they be cynical and focus on what works now? And if the concept is all a far-flung dream, why are some of the biggest brands in the world chasing an abstract concept?

A panel of experts at Nine’s Big Ideas Store session, ‘Blurred Realities’ – hosted by Director of Powered Enterprise, Nicki Kenyon, with Wavemaker’s Chief Growth and Product Officer, James Hier, The Australian Financial Review technology journalist Jessica Sier and futurist Tom Goodwin – took on the hotly-debated subject.

Before marketers start planning for this new frontier, the world needs to reach consensus on what the metaverse is and how it affects consumers. According to journalist Jessica Sier, the metaverse is not a singular place, rather it’s a variety of collective, virtual shared spaces that rethink how people spend their time online. 

“We do it through a screen but we’re in another place and we’re interacting in real-time with other people, doing real things,” says Sier. “The metaverse is evolving so there are things like commercial transactions, people are trading things, and buying and making money and that seems like a natural evolution and how companies are building it at the moment.”

“We’re not admonishing any clients because we’re all on this journey together. The CEO of Blackstone says it best: this journey will transform every Tom Goodwin is not as sold on the concept of the metaverse in its current state, telling Kenyon: “It’s a complete mess. Everybody’s talking about the metaverse but nobody remotely has any idea what it is. We all hold on to this vision in our head of whatever suits us individually.”

Outgoing Managing Editor of The Australian Financial Review Joanne Gray – who will soon be taking up a position at climate advisory and asset For James Hier, the metaverse is “just a vision”.

“A lot of people have been challenging it and calling it a ‘multiverse’ because none of it is actually connected,” he explains. “The metaverse is almost a collective noun for a collision of a whole lot of technologies like AI, VR crypto, NFTs with online interactions that we’re very familiar with, like social, commerce, gaming, entertainment, identity…” 

So why are brands and marketers investing in something that is still “just a vision”? Microsoft recently invested $75 billion in game development and interactive entertainment content publisher Activision Blizzard – this is a lot of money to invest in something that doesn’t exist. 

Jessica Sier said there needs to be a degree of scepticism around companies raising capital and ploughing money into metaverse with no real strategy. However, she doesn’t agree with the idea that the metaverse doesn’t exist.

“There are people spending time in these online places. They are buying and selling, there are commercial transactions taking place”, says Sier. “I would also argue that there is a technology breakthrough that means that a digital asset on the internet now, there’s only one of them. It’s got its own identity and can move around cyberspace.”

This is an interesting breakthrough because it means when people buy and sell digital assets on the internet, they’re not buying or selling something that can be copied and pasted thousands or millions of times, which has been a problem for brands for many decades now. 

Ultimately, brands and marketers need to be where the eyeballs are and at the moment, that is online, inside these universes. So now, with this technology breakthrough, brands can issue digital assets as part of their product line.

Nike has already done this, releasing sneakers to dress skins for different characters online, and they can now make sure that for people buying these ‘digital sneakers’, there is only one version, which gives it a value. 

“Whether or not you think the free market has taken this idea and gone a bit mental with NFTs – which is definitely what has happened – the technical breakthrough is quite sound,” says Sier.

“People are going to spend more and more time online in different virtual environments ‘doing stuff’. Now, we don’t know what the ‘stuff’ is yet, but people are in these games already… in Minecraft and Roblox, you’ve got kids already building their own portions of the metaverse with software.

“So if you’re going to look at a trend, look at what the young people are doing, and that’s what major brands are already doing. They’re pouring all this money in to try and capture a super young audience who’s got heaps of disposable income and who’s spending heaps of time in a game.

“If I’m a marketer then yeah, I want to make sure that Coke is in front of their eyeballs so that in their real lives they’ll buy Coke… I think it’s just an extension of people’s physical lives.”

While the metaverse is still in its infancy and may not have yet reached the ‘vision’ of Big Tech, the panel agrees that a range of online universes do exist and people are joining them in growing numbers. Smart brands are taking advantage of that, however a healthy dose of scepticism is warranted, as is a clear strategy for playing in this space as it continues to develop.  

Brands must be part of the solution not the problem when it comes to climate action

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the challenges facing the world right now. Whether it’s tackling climate change, slavery, sustainable consumerism, gender equality or any of the other myriad of issues our society faces, the world’s ‘To Do List’ is getting dauntingly long.

But as the United Nations sets out 17 goals for Sustainable Developments, the time is ripe for brands to fill the void that governments are leaving, step up and engage, and be a part of the solution to make our world a better place.

In Nine’s recent State of the Nation Sustainability study, it was revealed tackling climate change was the top concern for most people surveyed, with an overwhelming amount of respondents expecting that brands take a position on the issue and use their power to help enact action.

In a Big Ideas Store panel discussion on ‘Australia’s To Do List’ featuring Michele O’Neill, Director of Powered Enterprise; Rose Herceg, President of WPP Australia and New Zealand; Louise Eyres, Chief Marketing Officer of Vanguard; Matt Jones co-founder of Four Pillars Gin and Joanne Gray, outgoing Managing Editor of The Australian Financial Review, the big topics of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), sustainability and climate change and the role brands play in this space were addressed.

The marketing and advertising industries are based on the mantra of consumption is growth, but in an era of companies pledging to be Net Zero, how do the worlds of advertising and marketing play its role in becoming part of the solution?

“It is counter intuitive to talk about an industry that was created to get people to consume more, but we are re-engineering to get people to consume even better or less,” reveals Rose Herceg. “A great example of this is IKEA, who will have a circular economy by 2030; they will physically not have anything they can’t reuse by 2030. There will be no waste. They are changing their business model from selling to renting for some things.”

“We’re not admonishing any clients because we’re all on this journey together. The CEO of Blackstone says it best: this journey will transform every single business as we get to Net Zero. Of the top 50 clients we have, 32 have a rock solid ESG plan by 2025 to be Net Zero.”

Herceg also highlighted CommBank, who are empowering customers to turn their homes ‘green’ to be eligible for a green interest rate discount on mortgages.

Outgoing Managing Editor of The Australian Financial Review Joanne Gray – who will soon be taking up a position at climate advisory and asset management firm Pollination – says the issue of ‘nature risk’ will start coming to the fore.

With the Financial Review recently launching a weekly energy decarbonisation newsletter profiling how the Australian economy is transitioning to net zero, businesses will soon start to become scrutinised for their affect on the environment. A section within the newsletter, Hot Air, examines the pledges and promises of business leaders, companies and politicians and points out the shortcomings, hyperbole, and sometimes the straight-out lies.

“Nature risk will soon come into the equation which will ensure businesses will be scrutinised what damage they are doing to the environment overall,” says Gray. “Because as we know, businesses haven’t had to factor in the costs that the environment provides to us for free, like clean water, clean air, clean air or rich soil. There will be a push for nature positive business, with the filter being ‘are you making the environment worse or better’.”

Gray added that with the government pledging Net Zero, this has “unleashed the forces”.

“The speed is picking up in terms of pressure from investors, financiers, customers and employees on businesses to do the right thing,” she says. But action speaks louder than words, and brands who fail to follow through on bold promises may encounter heartache.

“There will be greater media scrutiny and customer expectation around pledges from companies who say they’re going net zero,” says Gray. “I think there will be a lot of focus on who’s saying they’re doing it and who is actually doing it. And that will be the issue for businesses that are making pledges – there will be quite a few businesses who have said they’re going to go net zero carbon but sure how they will get there.”

Louise Eyres, Chief Marketing Officer of investment firm Vanguard, agrees with the sentiment that there is a shift afoot in investments too. The lean towards sustainable and ESG investment in Australia has grown three-fold between 2017-2021 with over $40 billion sitting in investment.

“This figure represents approximately 3.8% of all investments in Australia but when we talk of making the progress, getting the momentum and there is a really strong trajectory that Australians are making towards their sustainable choices,” says Eyres.

Such is the public’s interest in wanting to know a company’s ESG plan, or demanding that superannuation funds invest in renewables, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age has released a new fortnightly column in Money called Clean Capital that explores all things ESG to help combat greenwashing in the mutli-trillion-dollar responsible investment world. The column allows for brands to join the sustainability conversation.

Unpacking all things data, cookies, privacy and impending legislation change.

Powered Unpacked

Unpacking all things data, cookies, privacy and impending legislation change.


"Marketers need to 'test and invest' as cookie cull 'resets' digital ad industry, and privacy law overhaul goes further than we thought" - IAB CEO Gai Le Roy

Incoming privacy changes and Google’s moves to phase out cookies on the web and tracking across mobile devices will fundamentally change how digital marketing functions. IAB CEO Gai Le Roy, Resolution COO Phil Pollock and Nine commercial product & data chief Ben Campbell unpack what’s coming down the track, and what marketers need to do now as the age of hyper-targeting comes to an end.

Marketers need to "test and invest"

IAB CEO Gai Le Roy has urged marketers to quickly get their heads around alternatives to cookies ahead of a “reset” of the digital ad industry. Publishing and media agency execs also warn brands to prepare for major disruption to the way they plan ad campaigns, and incoming restrictions on how they collect and use consumer data.

Google’s phasing out of 3rd party cookies and announcements to later cull Android ad IDs follow Apple’s removal of its ID For Advertisers and make brands and publishers gain explicit consent to track people across 3rd party websites and apps.

The upshot is that advertisers have already lost a lot of the things they took for granted in terms of ad planning, targeting and attribution, with further changes coming as regulators globally and locally tighten data privacy laws.

Tracking, targeting: prepare for impact

Apple’s manoeuvres have had a “huge impact”, said IAB CEO Gai Le Roy, with brands finding the majority of people do not opt in to tracking, making it hard to track across apps.

She said marketers must now prepare for Google’s changes with third-party cookies set to be removed next year, and get to grips with alternatives – such as Topics, a way of audience segmentation via browsers, and FLEDGE, a solution for retargeting without cookies. Google is also working on new APIs for attribution.

“So there are lots of challenges for marketers to actually ascertain what's working, how they should be spending their money,” said Le Roy.

Marketers must “educate themselves and create a plan … they really need to formulate the impact in their own business,” urged Phil Pollock, Chief Operating Officer at Omnicom-owned Resolution Digital.

“Do a full audit, really understand all the different touch points [within their digital marketing supply chain], and the different ad tech vendors they're utilising,” he said. “And it is really important to communicate those impacts to all stakeholders internally. [Tell them] ‘This will have an impact on measurement, it will have an impact on the campaigns that we are running’ – that needs to be clearly articulated throughout the organisation.”

Is connected TV immune to upheaval?

While most digital channels are disrupted, connected TVs and BVOD don’t use cookies, and so are “largely immune” from the incoming changes, according to Nine Director of Advertising and Data Products, Ben Campbell.

“So a lot of the targeting that exists on connected TVs will likely continue into the future, for now at least,” he said.

While Google and Apple’s changes make cross-site and cross-app tracking harder, Campbell thinks Nine is in a “pretty unique position, because we own that first-party relationship with users when they come to our site”. Because first-party cookies will still be allowed, that means vertically integrated publishers like Nine “will still be able to track within our ecosystem”.

Hence Nine is working to enrich its first-party data to understand more about its audiences and expanding its single sign on strategy to capture more identity data – essentially, gathering more email addresses by asking people to log-in to stream video or read news. Brands can then match those emails with data from their own CRM systems. Nine now has upwards of 14 million unique IDs.

“That’s really important for us, to try and build up that identity data set so that we can help advertisers find more of their customers who might have signed into one of their services when they surface on Nine,” said Campbell.

Privacy changes "go further than we thought"

Australia’s privacy laws are under review, with major implications for advertisers in terms of the kind of data that can be collected and used. While “nothing is yet set in stone”, the Attorney-General’s proposals “took everyone by surprise by going a little bit further than we thought they were going to”, IAB’s Gai Le Roy said.

A key proposal is a “fair and reasonable” test for collection and use of data. “That’s quite a hard thing to do because [the definition of what is fair and reasonable] is quite subjective,” she said.

“We’re still working with the government to work out exactly what that looks like, making sure Australia can operate with other markets, that we’re not too different and that we can work in a global economy.

“There’s definitely a lot more power on the consumer side, which is great. The challenge for us as an industry is to articulate to consumers what we are doing with their data.”

Do data restrictions herald return of mass marketing?

Failure to win consumer trust will mean fewer people will agree to allow brands and publishers to use their data, and both Nine’s Ben Campbell and Resolution’s Phil Pollock think the privacy overhaul will put a stop to many current digital advertising practices.

“I think that the landscape is fundamentally going to change over the next two years,” said Pollock.

Campbell agreed there are “big implications” for how data can be used. The days of hoovering up every crumb of data about who and where people are, what they are looking at, what they like and dislike, is over, he suggested.

“Technology has evolved at such rapid pace that whenever there was a capability to go out and micro-target particular audiences, people just went ahead and did it, rather than taking a step back and asking, ‘should we do this’?”

The probable upshot is a swing back from hyper-targeting towards mass marketing, Campbell suggested, and a return to panels for attribution.

All of which means marketers must prepare to go back to a fast approaching future.

“It’s a bit of a reset moment,” said IAB’s Gai Le Roy. “It’s time to test [post-cookie, post-privacy approaches] and really invest in understanding what’s going on.”

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