Digital Advertising: Creativity, Connections and Emotions

By Souhaila Elyass

What started out as an ordinary lecture on the advancement of digital advertising over mainstream traditional media advertising ended as an eye-opener and professional advice to a group of students taking advertising and marketing communication as they listened to the talk by Syed Khalid Alwee of Berkshire Media recently.

These students were from Prof. Dr. Nor Faridah Abdul Manaf’s Creative Writing class and Dr. Aida Mokhtar’s Advertising: Principles and Practice, and Written Communication for Organisations classes.

Digital advertising refers to the colourful, catchy (and sometimes annoying) banners, images and videos that take up space on digital platforms – social media websites carrying the bulk.

As many might have imaged in the past decade or so, this form of advertising has increased in popularity due to its many advantages over television, radio, billboard or newspaper advertising. Marketers find they are able to reach a much larger and targeted audience through social media at a much lower cost than the pricey, time-consuming and sometimes less targeted traditional media.

Khalid shared interesting facts about social media use in Malaysia, specifically that Malaysians have the most number of friends on social media at a global level and that millennials check their phones approximately 147 times per day.

This information may not mean much to most professionals, however in marketing this means that companies now have several platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name a few) in which they can advertise their products to a dynamic and engaging audience.

An even more intriguing aspect of digital advertising is the fact that these platforms have the ability to provide advertisers with almost precise data about the audience they want to target. They have developed algorithms that tailor the advertising content to each account depending on the account holders search history, likes, shares, online activities and so on.

To put this into perspective, have you not noticed that your Facebook page always have a page or advertisement that is interesting to you and rarely something far off from your favoured content? How many times have you asked yourself ‘how does google know that I am looking for a job’?

Basically through ‘big data’, corporations are able to access detailed information about the public from their last purchases, to their preferred medical services, anniversary dates, basically any information that is keyed into the internet is available to someone somewhere who could make it available to eager marketers looking for targeted audience to advertise to.

At this point digital advertising has transformed and developed to target its consumers through compelling images and emotional videos that will persuade you to click, read or listen and ultimately like, subscribe and purchase. Having the right content and appeal being displayed to the right ‘targeted’ audience is exactly what every marketer wants, it is almost the text-book definition of marketing.

Again from a marketing perspective this is all good news but as Khalid stressed, this is not all good at times and can be a little scary to normal unaware consumers.

Khalid’s parting remarks were that we should be aware of all these facts whenever we are online. We need to know that we are being targeted by digital marketing in many forms and through many platforms. So, before we make any purchasing decisions, we need to ask ourselves are we doing this because we need to or are we told to do so by behind the scenes advertisers? ***

Aznan Mat Piah

Senior Academic Fellow at IIUM. Has served the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Malaysia's diplomatic missions abroad in public diplomacy, and the Ministry of Information in public relations and information.

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