Media Planning in the Age of the Filter Bubble

02/28/2017 07:11 pm ET

By Ian Reynolds, CEO, KBH-On-Train Media

Digital has the power to make our lives better; to make us more connected, enable us to make decisions easily. However, the creation of filter bubbles – social algorithms aligning with our own natural tendencies by selecting online content based on previous clicks/shares/views – are having a profound effect on life in general, as well as on marketing efforts.

The negative effects of filter bubbles were highlighted by the shock felt at last year’s Brexit and Trump results. BuzzFeed News recently introduced a feature to help readers see what people outside their social media networks are saying about the news – an attempt to get readers to acknowledge the existence of the viewpoints of people who don’t think like them.

With an increasing proportion of marketing spend via social media channels, the rather alarming effect of filter bubbles on brands is that we rarely expose ourselves to anything new, making us increasingly biased, unchallenged and out of reach of them.

Bursting the bubble

Filter bubbles are increasingly used to influence the news and products seen by individuals online. So where new brands once had to contend with low initial consumer awareness and huge marketing costs, they now also need to navigate algorithms which are slowly killing off discovery and serendipity. However, there is evidence of a backlash, as consumers look to switch off and embark on a digital detox.

The consumer appetite to switch off from digital is just one example of the movement to consume classic, low-fi media. Vinyl sales in 2016 reached a 25-year high, with a rise of 53% on the previous year. And The Economist grew profits to more than £60m by focusing on pushing its premium print subscription packages to readers. Both proof-points that consumers still appreciate, and use, classic media.

So how can marketers feed into the digital detox trend and burst a few filter bubbles along the way?

Put simply, traditional media channels are reaching consumers where other media can’t. Route (the UK’s out-of-home advertising’s audience measurement body) data shows that classic paper-and-paste OOH sites reach more people weekly than all other individual UK media brands.

Classic Traincards, for example, are more effective than ever, with our research showing a staggering 94% of passengers noticing them. Combine that figure with the average train journey of 40 minutes and it’s clear to see the opportunities ‘low-fi’ ads offer as the audience has the down-time to read, absorb and then act upon static OOH messaging. This presents a prime opportunity for brands to introduce their latest product or display a call to action that won’t be filtered out via browsing histories.

Classic media enables consumers to opt in to digital prompts at a time and place of their choice. Something which recent research from Outsmart demonstrated by showing that OOH converts brand advertising into brand behaviour. The results revealed that OOH activity drives a 17% uplift in smartphone brand actions.

But it’s not all about classic media. Digital out-of-home is also enjoying its moment in the spotlight for making traditional OOH contextually relevant. Brands and advertisers are benefiting from combining digital signage with its more traditional counterpart, leveraging OOH’s traditional strength of building brand awareness alongside DOOH’s reactive flexibility. This is a strategy opening up a myriad of opportunities.

Adopting a media mix of digital and classic advertising is the only way to execute a truly rounded campaign and deliver exactly what a brand needs – mass broadcast reach complemented with relevant messaging and an opportunity to influence immediate action. And it’s sure to burst a few filter bubbles along the way.

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