The Magical Combination of UX and Paid Media

In too many organizations, UX and Paid Media are distant departments. Sure, they bump into each other in the kitchen, and maybe they work together on a landing page now and then. But for the most part, these two teams are seen as separate entities - and major opportunities are missed. 

When UX and Paid Media come together, magical things happen. In fact, the combination of razor-sharp targeting strategy and human-centered user experience just might be what keeps advertisers steady through the ever-evolving, rapidly changing landscape of marketing that’s unfolding today. 

What Do UX and Paid Media Have in Common?

The short answer: everything. 

And now for the long answer, which starts with a re-thinking of the term UX. 

Too often, our industry reduces user experience to click rate optimization, focusing only on conversion touchpoints and button placement. But a user experiences so much more than clicking a button on a brand's landing page. 

User experience includes every interaction a person has with a business - from the messaging in a brand’s display ad, to YouTube pre-rolls, to how an influencer promotes a product or service on Instagram, to a brand’s digital storefront and even their brick-and-mortar store. 

If the user experiences it, it’s UX. That’s why at Nebo, we never use the phrase “CRO.” Instead, we prefer UXO or User Experience Optimization.

When we stop reducing UX to CRO, the connection between UX and Paid Media comes to light.

Typically, UX and Paid Media are viewed as separate entities, siloed from one another in distant departments. We overlook the possibilities that can happen when we work together. For example: one thing we often don’t realize when we focus only on UX or CRO, is the interplay between user experience and media buys.

Take a programmatic buy, a typical display buy or even a TV buy. 

The goal of the creative that you're buying on a CPM basis is to get the audience to take the next step, whether that's clicking an ad that leads to a landing page, picking up the phone or signing up for an email list. 

Let’s say you spent $2 million on this buy, and you end up with a 0.03% CTR on a display campaign, which is about the industry average performance.

If you improve that CTR to a measly .09% (which is still too low IMHO), you've effectively tripled your media budget. You’ve taken out $2 million, and you just turned it into $6 million. But too often, we don’t even think about UX or UXO for ads.

Now, let’s say that the UX and Paid are in perfect sync for this campaign. If you work in UX, you may think that Paid Media only cares about the landing page. But when UX and Paid Media work together, you can create a human-centered experience that encompasses the entire journey, from how media is bought to the content that fills each buy.

In this scenario, let’s say your UX and Paid teams have worked together and truly thought through the user’s experience along every step of the journey. The messaging, user experience and all the customer expectations are aligned. You’ve worked together to ensure that the ad doesn’t feel intrusive to the viewer. 

Instead, it feels relevant and engaging. The user has a cohesive, engaging and exciting experience with your brand, and the conversion rate on that landing page then increases from 2% to 2.5%. This increase may sound small, but in fact, you’ve added an extra 25% to your budget.

Paid and UX in the New New Buyer Journey 

For years, we in the marketing industry have been talking about “the new buyer journey” as technologies evolve and the Internet of Things becomes ever more expansive. Today’s buyer journey looks less like a funnel and more like a swirling cosmos of connected channels - a multiverse that users can choose to opt into or out of at any time. 

As if that shift weren’t radical enough, the shape of the buyer journey has changed even more after the pandemic forced more businesses and consumers to move previously in-person activities online. We are now in the new new buyer journey, and only time will tell what behaviors will remain once the world reaches a sense of normalcy once again. 

But one thing is certain: with more happening on connected channels than ever before, it’s crucial that UX and Paid Media work together closely to ensure that a brand’s presence is cohesive and most importantly, relevant to the user. 

Just 15 years ago, ad experiences were something people couldn’t escape. If you wanted to watch television, you had to sit through the commercials. If you wanted to listen to the latest music or a talk show on your commute, you had to patiently endure the ads on the radio.

Today, you can skip a YouTube pre-roll, download an ad blocker, pay extra for commercial-free TV streaming or ad-free music. Users now have more control over their experience with ads than the advertiser. That increased control means higher expectations put on advertisers to be relevant and engaging. 

This is where UX and Paid Media come together to meet the user’s needs. 

Paid Media has an abundance of audience insights. We're able to see exactly what that person is searching for at that moment, and who that person is - their demographics, what content they enjoy reading and what pair of shows they’ve been thinking of buying, but can’t quite commit to. 

But a perfect targeting strategy doesn’t make for an amazing ad experience. We’ve all been served incredibly relevant ads that are also incredibly boring, or even annoying. In some ways, data and targeting have taken away the incentive for advertisers to create great work that has to earn the viewer’s attention. One could argue that targeting led to the decline of the golden age of advertising. But with UX and Paid Media combined, perhaps we can bring it back.   

In an ideal world, Paid Media gathers data touch points and signals that they can use to create a highly-accurate targeting strategy. And this data can also be used by UX teams. UX and Paid Media can then work together to go beyond a great campaign targeting strategy and make a holistic ad experience as relevant as possible. 

How Paid and UX Can Usher in the Future of Advertising

Tech is changing the marketing industry faster than we can keep up. New possibilities in the realms of voice tech, AR and VR, experiential advertising and in-store shopping are emerging every day, bringing new opportunities for targeting and data with them. 

But as the world changes, the power of UX and Paid Media will remain the same. With more data, we marketers will continue to rely on amazing paid specialists to create new and exciting strategies for targeting. And with more targeting opportunities, the need for a holistic user experience across all interactions will be more important than ever. 

This blog post is just the tip of a massive iceberg of opportunities for UX and Paid Media to collaborate. For more on how these two teams can make magic happen, check out the latest episode of Paid Media Coffee, “The Intersection of Paid Media and UX Podcast with Kelly Mancuso at INBOUND.” 

Written by Brian Easter on September 23, 2020


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