Making an impression

Building a brand in today’s digital world is a different beast from 10, or even 5 years ago; the media choices for investment are fast-changing and the metrics we use to measure communication effectiveness have changed – racking up ‘impressions’ just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

‘Reach’, as traditionally thought of, based on ‘impressions’ is a meaningless metric if the audience is so bombarded with stimulus that they’ll likely miss what they had the potential to see. Gaining the audience’s attention is more of a challenge nowadays and brands are changing how they do this.

TV as a medium for ‘reaching’ the audience is fast becoming less of a priority in a brand-builders media plan. According to a report from Bloomberg, TV advertising sales fell 7.8 percent to $61.8 billion last year. Per the report, this is the steepest drop outside of a recession in more than 20 years.


And as such, big-ass advertising budgets to create epic TV spots are not the focus. Brands like Axe are shifting their focus in to content marketing and in to partnerships. Rik Strubel, Global Brand Vice President of Axe recently commented about this when speaking to The Drum at Advertising Week Europe:

“In the past, we had a massive reach and got to a lot of people with what was great advertising for a while, but that’s not the measure any more. Of course, reach is important, we’re a mass brand that needs to reach as many people as possible but just reaching them, meaning that you appear somewhere, you’re only there for a second. So we’ve done a lot of work on conversing more.”

“The days when we would pay millions for an ad to run…that’s not what we’re doing anymore. We’re being efficient but big budgets are going into content,” he said. “It’s been a real step-change and we’re investing more in content than I ever have in my time with the brand.”

From this:

To this:

With a big shift on this campaign towards branded content partnerships with publishers to drive engagement. This ‘Is it OK…’ campaign played on the idea of changing the results from common searches men made on Google. Axe partnered with Vice and Snapchat to create dedicated social content that Strubel claimed delivered a 21% increase in engagement rates and the highest ever “swipe up rates” for Vice on Snapchat.

Branded content partnerships enable brands to enter into spaces where their audience are already engaged. And some enable campaign ideas that are even more powerful. Take for example the Vice + Smirnoff hook up. When Vice’s electronic music publication, Thump, revealed that women make up only 17% of the acts at major electronic music festivals, they partnered with Smirnoff to do something about it. By embarking on a joint mission to “double the women headliners in electronic music,” they created something even more impactful than the content itself – purpose. Content that stands for something always stands out, especially with the 90% of millennials who would switch brands to one associated with a cause.

I also love this example of Fatherly and Airbnb joining forces. This series featuring dads sharing stories and photos from their family trips resonates in a profound way. Taking travel from the hypothetical to the practical, with Airbnb acting as a facilitator of the family bond.


Going at it alone and sticking to traditional media channels will may not be a brand’s best foot forward in today’s world to get the attention of its intended target audience.

Consider who might be great partners and explore even bigger ideas to engage a sharper target audience in a more focused way like the above case studies if you really want to make an ‘impression’.


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