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The Beauty of Back-to-School

The Beauty of Back-to-School

Adam Blass

Back-to-school is a big deal.

Back-to-school is a big deal. Year after year it’s proven to be the busiest shopping season for retailers, besting even the Christmas holidays. In fact, according to a recent survey from the Retail Council of Canada, more than 85% of Canadians are planning to make back-to-school purchases this year. That’s a lot of Canadians! If you’re an advertiser with a back-to-school product or service to offer, you would be remiss to not put your best foot forward and make the most of this opportunity.

Of course, wherever there’s opportunity, competition isn’t far behind. Data from eMarketer predicts that U.S. back-to-school sales are going to total more than $67 billion in 2022. With so many others attempting to carve out as big of a slice of that pie as they possibly can, how might you as an advertiser be able to stand above the rest and achieve your goals?

A study from Integral Ad Science (or IAS for short) may just have the answer you’re looking for. In it, they asked 1024 American adult students and parents of students a series of questions about how digital advertising influences their back-to-school purchases. Where do they go to research what they’re going to buy, and who do they go to once they’re ready to make those purchases? And what role does advertising play in each stage of that process? Let’s break it down.

The average consumer reports multiple influences on their back-to-school purchasing decisions, with the most popular being information provided by the school at 47% and product reviews at 36%. Buying guides and lifestyle blogs/articles were popular choices as well, totalling 31% and 30% respectively. In terms of where consumers go to search for back-to-school content, social media was the clear winner at 72%. Videos came in second at 47%, while articles finished third at 35%.

A trend that emerged during the survey was the importance of online advertising in guiding consumer behaviours. A whopping 96% of respondents said it was important that they’re able to easily find products and promotions that match their back-to-school needs, with a further 59% agreeing that online advertising helps them discover said products and promotions. For which forms of advertising they prefer, 58% said social media, 49% said display, and 39% said video.

However, not all advertisements are created equal. Out of the multitude of strategies and formats available, the clear winner was contextual advertising. As the study reports, “Contextual relevance is crucial for back-to-school consumers, with nearly all respondents [93%] agreeing that it’s important for online ads to be contextually aligned while shopping for the upcoming school year.” Furthermore, 67% agreed that they’re more likely to remember an advertisement that’s contextually related to the content they’re viewing, and 66% agreed they have a more favourable view of brands that use contextual advertising.

Think about it: if a consumer is viewing a post on social media about the hottest back-to-school fashion trends or which pencil sharpener is the one to buy, why would they want to see an ad for summer getaway vacations or the latest and greatest air fryers? That’s next-to-useless for them. If the post says that such-and-such shoes are going to be a must-have, and you sell such-and-such shoes, then it should be your ad they see, not anyone else’s. Then if they decide to buy the shoes, there’s a link to purchase them from you right there, simple and easy and oh-so-convenient. It just makes sense.

Don’t think it's only consumers who prefer contextual advertising either. IAS has found an incredible 417% improvement in ROI when advertisers expand their campaigns to target contextual back-to-school segments!

Contextual advertising is clearly a winning strategy, so why limit it to the back-to-school season exclusively? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could employ contextual advertising all year round, no matter the occasion?

Enter Reticle!

Using state-of-the-art machine learning technology, we’re able to offer effective contextual advertising by finding placements whose emotional signals align with your brand’s unique messaging.

Let’s return to the earlier example of the hot new such-and-such shoes to illustrate how Reticle works. Let’s say there are three placements available: a post for budget-savvy parents looking to find the best savings on shoes, a humorous YouTube video about a teenager’s quest to track down a pair of their own, and an informative guide on a sports site about whether the shoes are good for running. While each placement could receive the signal of Trendy, the first one could also receive Successful, the second one Funny, and the third one Active. Reticle then uses these signals to either include or exclude these placements from your campaign depending on how well they contextually align with your messaging. We also identify negative signals to ensure your ads don’t appear in places you don’t want them to.

Working with Reticle is simple and easy. First, either you, or we, or both of us select the emotional signals that best align with your campaign. No need to create new campaigns from scratch; we’re leveraging your existing brand strategies. Next, we work with a range of SSPs to curate brand-optimal inventory for you via Deal Id creation. All you need to do is accept the deal in your preferred DSP (DV360, TheTradeDesk, MediaMath, Xandr, Adobe, Yahoo!, and more) if and only if you’re happy with it. There’s no commitment required. After that, we continue to optimize and measure media metrics, brand lift, and perception changes.

Some of the world’s leading brands have already found success with Reticle. With us, they were able to achieve on average a 21% lift in brand awareness, a 23% lift in brand consideration, and a 15% lift in brand perceptions. It’s all about reaching the right audience at the right moment — at scale — to improve brand-building performance.

Interested in learning more or seeing if Reticle’s approach to contextual advertising is the right solution for you? Either send us a message or schedule an introduction with us and we’d be more than happy to speak with you!

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