Advertising Week Recap: Findings to Help You Better Shape the Customer Journey

|Eric Hadley


I’ve already shared how much I enjoyed my experience at Advertising Week, especially my learnings and validations on the data front. Now, it’s time for me to laser focus on how everything I heard talked about in the panel discussions and in passing can be applied to the customer journey.

Here, at Outbrain, we feel it’s important to teach the industry all we know about how consumers interact with content. Additionally, how marketers, media companies, agencies, and publishers alike can benefit from better use of their data in shaping online experiences.

This post will be dedicated to some of the more tactical advice I encountered at Advertising Week, as well as relevant lessons we’ve gathered from our own data.

Give Audiences the Ad Formats they Want

In practically every case study from a business that used Outbrain to scale audience reach and engagement, you will find a desire to move away from traditional banner advertising into more natural, editorial-driven experiences. For example, in-feed.


Well, for one, we know CTR on display ads has been close to 0% since 2007. That’s almost a decade of dismal results! And that has everything to do with our inability to approach marketing with a consumer-friendly mentality.

As Spencer Sloe, VP and Head of Advertising Product & Strategy, put it during his speech at Consumers at the Center:

“What we really need is a nonlinear ad experience that compliments content.”

And while not all display is bad (if used strategically), it really comes down to creating a value exchange between the consumer and brand, or publisher.

We can create this type of value exchange in a few ways. For example in-program video, sponsored stories, and personalized content recommendations.

But, if consumer-first is going to be your mandate, you’ll also want to employ some best practices when ideating your content:

  • Produce smart creative with minimal (if any) interruptions
  • Create opportunities for the consumer to interact or opt-in
  • Bundle offers and empower consumers with multiple choices

Don’t Fight the Adblockers, Let Them Inform Your Content

Despite all the hubbub, did you know that only 6% of Internet users around the world are actively blocking ads? While that’s not to say that number isn’t rapidly growing year over year, what this means is that the everyday consumer isn’t blocking your ads.

Meanwhile, the consumers who are blocking your ads, are mostly male and largely millennials. They tend to live in the Northeast and Pacific coasts, and are not on mobile devices.

What this suggests is that if they don’t want to hear from you, you shouldn’t fight to go after them. Instead, to grab this demographic’s attention, you should commit to producing great ad creative and a more seamless execution of your overall advertising efforts.

The key takeaway here is relevance in advertising and not disruption. If you make it easier for a consumer to find great things through a seamless experience — which is especially important for the millennial — you can create a relationship with them along the content journey and potentially develop a lifelong customer.

Market to the 95% of Consumers Who Make Emotional Decisions

It’s called System 1 thinking; the fast, automatic, and emotionally-driven kind of thinking that research has proven accounts for 95% of the decisions we make as human beings. System 2, on the other hand, is slow, deliberate, and rationally-driven.

Here’s a quick and humorous snippet from Alex Hunt, President of The Americas, at BrainJuicer about how we’re more like Homer Simpson than we thought. Doh!

Why is this important to know?

It challenges the basis of the marketing persuasion model that is our common default. The one in which we aim to hit people over the head with our advertising messages, and then try to help them rationalize why they need our products or services. But really all it comes down to is this poignant line from Alex:

“The more you feel, the more you buy.”

In an evaluation done by Laura Salant, Senior Director of Research & Insights, on the impact of an Emirates Airline campaign which gave users a 360 view of their Airbus A380 model, survey participants were asked to nominate how they were feeling. In addition, she used eye tracking and facial recognition technology to monitor emotional expressions.

Not surprisingly, the ad was found far more emotionally effective than the standard ad benchmark. And interestingly enough, the survey suggested that even a negative emotion towards an ad is more valuable than a neutral one.

If you needed validation that evoking emotion is, in fact, the superior approach to your digital creative, here it is. It’s what actually builds brands and drives deeper levels of engagement.

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Eric Hadley

Eric Hadley

Eric Hadley serves as Head of Global Marketing at Outbrain. He joined Outbrain in 2015, and is responsible for the... Read more

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