Too many advertising campaigns today focus on short-term results rather than long-term brand building. When I first started in this business, clients typically had books with five years of sales data and they could just look at the trends. These days, you come up against clients that say, 'we've got some data from last week somewhere' or we've got some data six months ago but that's in a different format because all the systems have changed'.

If we don't measure the long-term effects of what we're doing it becomes much harder to justify budgets. If one looks at a typical advertising campaign, very often you find that they take six months to a year to break even. If all your evaluations are under six months, you'll often conclude that the campaign doesn't pay for itself. There's lots of budget-cutting happening on this basis, as well as a belief that spending money on paid media - especially physical mail - is inefficient and old-fashioned; a 20th century solution to a problem. But this isn't the case at all.

The appeal of mail

A perennial question is whether a consumer welcomes getting something on paper as opposed to something online. Personally, I do stuff online all the time and I like to interact in that way, but there are some contexts where I want paper.

For instance, I was in the process of booking a holiday and researching the destination. It was a big holiday; a big investment in time and money. I was doing lots of research online, but I actually realised that there was a role there for books and brochures. This was a real eye-opener.

It's just not comfortable or possible to absorb that sort of information on a screen in an efficient way.

So I got a whole load of brochures and it was a much better way to access the information. There was one particular company whose brochure - the layout, the weight of the paper, the quality of the photography, everything about it - just sent out the right message. You can't replicate the delight of holding something like that in your hands. The same applies to mail.

"You can't replicate the delight of holding something like a brochure in your hands. The same applies to mail."

There have been some great examples of direct mail in recent years - it's still a hugely effective and often overlooked area. There was a campaign for a particular brand of paper towels, demonstrating their durability. To do this, the paper towels were posted to people around the world. Another great example was for pensions, and was aimed at high net-worth individuals. When they opened the box, which was sent in the post, there was a little mobile phone in there. They then pressed a button and got put straight through to talk to a fund manager. That shows the perfect blend of physical and digital. But it was the physicality of what I was sent in the post that originally caught my attention.

The digital dilemma

Within digital, the next big thing is going to be ad blocking. I think the industry is in denial about what a big issue it is going to be. What we are going to see, and what we are already seeing to some extent, is that when you try to interrupt people when they're doing things online, they get very angry. This is particularly true with mobile, because you're getting right into the fabric of people's everyday lives. It's like you're walking about your daily business and people are standing behind you saying, "Oi! Oi!" and poking you in the back of the head.

It's the same with programmatic actually. In fact, my impression so far is that there's still a great deal for the industry to learn about programmatic buying. It's based on cookie data, which shows what people have been doing over the past few weeks. But the average person deletes their cookies every seven days.

And anyone who's got an ounce of sense will know it's not 100% accurate. I buy Christmas presents for my nieces and nephews, as a result of which my computer seems to think that I'm a six-year-old girl or a 14-year-old boy. So this idea that programmatic buying gives you completely perfect targeting is fictional. But I do think that there are areas of programmatic that haven't received enough attention. For example, we know in general with advertising that reach is more important than frequency - the first exposure to an ad is generally the most efficient one.

"There's a time and a place for digital, and a time and a place for physical."

The next step will be, I think, planning advertising with perfect execution - making sure that everyone in your target audience has seen your advert once before you move on to building up frequency. You can't do that with conventional advertising, but you could do it with programmatic buying if you have enough data and the customer's permission to use it. So yes, there's a time and place for digital, and a time and a place for physical. I think what marketers need to do is get back into the habit of researching what people really want. How do they feel about one format compared with another? What's useful for consumers? And I think that requires a change in perspective instead of 'we'll spam stuff and look at the response rate'.

Marketers need to get back out there and ask how people would like to receive information. At the end of the day, it's about making the lives of the consumers easier, not the lives of the marketers.

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The tension between long and short-term data analysis

Les Binet
Head of Effectiveness, Adam & Eve DDB