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Competitive intelligence & display advertising - Strategic insights

There are several solutions in the current marketplace that provide competitive intelligence around display advertising.

Competitive intelligence & display advertising

Even though it might come as a surprise to many. There are several solutions in the current marketplace that provide competitive intelligence around display advertising. The aim is to provide a better understanding as to why this information is relevant for companies and which specific insights can be derived from this intelligence.

First things first, why do you want competitive insights at all? In a previous blog the topic of competitive intelligence in online marketing was discusses in a broad sense. The outcome of this blog was even though there are reasons for low adoption within the industry and possible pitfalls that come with the use of competitive intelligence, the possible benefits are clear. Examples are; being able to benchmark your results, spotting opportunities, auditing your media agency and driving innovation.

Every marketer knows that each channel has its own strategies, strengths, weaknesses, goals and so forth. This means that when a channel specific approach is taken when looking at competitive intelligence, an understanding of that specific channel is essential in order to process the available information into valuable intelligence. We’ve already taken a closer look at SEO as a channel and made a case why senior management should start monitoring SEO results, now let’s talk display.

When it comes to channel specific characteristics, there are a few things to say about display that will be relevant when discussing the competitive intelligence aspect. First of all, display is often used for either upper funnel marketing (branding) or lower funnel marketing (remarketing). Display ads are often visually attractive and increasingly provide room for engagement between the ad and the audience which makes it ideal for storytelling purposes. Furthermore, display is a channel which often plays an important part in a sequence of channels, be it as the starting point by reaching a lot of people or as a remarketing ad to close the deal, display is almost never utilized in isolation.

What kind of insights can be derived from competitive display advertising intelligence? Before this is discussed it is important to note that we look at the channel display and its place in the media mix rather than the conceptual aspect of display, which has its own specific characteristics that could provide different but nonetheless interesting forms of competitive intelligence. Furthermore, remarketing is not taken into account which follows from the way (without cookies) display competitive intelligence is gathered. Now let’s see what we can learn from competitive display intelligence.

Display is an essential channel in most large (online) marketing campaigns and as mentioned before often used for upper-funnel marketing which entails creating awareness for your brand, product or service. This entails that high display spends overall (or during a specific period) point to a focus on increasing the brand awareness for a company and or a specific product. This information could be utilized to generate a better understanding of competitors’ marketing strategies which in turn provides valuable direction for benchmarking or even adapting your companies’ strategy.

Additionally, display spend provides you insights into the overall seasonality in the market and the marketing calendars of your competitors. If the spend is consistently high during specific periods in the year it is safe to say that those periods are especially relevant for the industry, e.g. the summer holiday for travel or Christmas for retail. However, when we take a look at the graph below which shows a years’ worth of display spend in a specific market., we see a different picture. All the players in the market show significantly different strategies when it comes to amount of display spend but also the seasonality of the display spend. This information could prove useful to understand why competitors are spending more during different periods in the year and whether this could be interesting for your company as well.

As mentioned previously, display, hopefully like most channels in today’s digital landscape, has a strong connection with other channels. One of the many applications of display advertising in relation to other channels is to utilize display advertising to increase your social following throughout different platforms. Therefore, if competitive display intelligence is combined with competitive social intelligence, it is possible to figure out which competitors are consistently driving the most social following/engagement with their display activities. If competitors are steadily doing a better job than you in creating social following/engagement with their branding activities it might be interesting to see how they go about their business and what your company can learn from this. Are you merely sending messages or are you actually engaging with your audience?

Another combination of competitive intelligence of two channels can provide you with insights into the content richness of campaigns. For this approach we have to take into consideration the phase in which display is often used (awareness) and the storytelling applicability of display advertising. There are many ways to tell a story, one being with greatly written content. If you combine display spend competitive intelligence with SEO (organic ranking) competitive intelligence you might gain insights into the content richness of competitors’ campaigns (and yours in relation to them). This could be derived from a strong increase in organic ranking for specific subjects (possible indication of content improvements) at the same time or (relatively) shortly after a. burst in display spend. Is your competition steadily improving their organic ranking whilst they drive their awareness while you’re stuck with your old rankings? Perhaps it could be worthwhile to see how they deal with the content richness of their campaigns and see if your strategy needs improvement.

Dealing with competitive intelligence in online marketing is not yet widely adopted which entails that professionals might have difficulties with gathering the right information and turning this information into intelligence. Just like any process that needs to be done well it is a matter of trial and error. You can begin with starting to understand and analyze what is happening and why this is happening. Then benchmark/relate this to your own activities and evaluate whether you still feel like you are making the right choices. After this evaluation it is time to strategize, which decisions are we going to make in order to achieve our goals in the (near) future? These decisions might not necessarily be strongly impacted by the gathered competitive intelligence. Nonetheless, it will be a more informed and therefore quite possibly a better decision than you would have made without the available intelligence.

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