Connecting in the Moment

James Collins, Senior Vice President, Media Network at Rakuten Advertising explores the importance of context to successful advertising strategies

‘You’ not ‘that’: Think of today – is the ‘you’ of say, Monday, 10am, sat at your desk the same as the ‘you’ of Friday, 8pm, sat on the sofa with your family? The answer is probably not. Mid-morning, if you’re an ad-buyer, you might be working on the latest version of your media plan. In the evening, you’re (ideally) not working. Instead, you might be sat on the sofa with your partner watching a romcom, or you might have friends over watching a sports documentary.

Either way, ‘who’ you are has shifted slightly, and so has your perception of the world. We’re all different versions of ‘us’, depending on the time of day, how we’re feeling, who we’re with and what we’ve experienced that day. Your mood is different, and therefore how receptive you are to certain suggestions and messages has changed.

Impact on campaign strategy

Reaching consumers in the right context is of course nothing new to advertising – as far back as the 1950s, research showed that TV programme genres can influence perceptions of advertisements (Schwerin, 1958). However, over recent years, as digital advertising has come to the forefront, more focus has been put on using demographic data to target ‘the right people at the right time’.

Using demographic data to reach a target audience is essential to success, but alone it is not enough. As the ‘work’ you versus the ‘relaxing’ you example shows, thinking about consumers as a series of demographic data points alone doesn’t show you the whole picture. It misses the context surrounding each of those people in the audience. Combining demographic data with understanding of the context – or the Moment – the audience is in can transform the effectiveness of advertising.

And, adding context to demographic data doesn’t need to be particularly complex. Say you’re looking to place an advert for a sporty but family-friendly car where it will reach your target audience of high-earning parents in urban areas. A media planner can safely assume they’re reaching the ‘right’ person using demographic data. Knowing that person will also be seeing the ad alongside a selection of adrenaline-fuelled 12A action films also increases the chances of engaging them in the right context.

The Moments approach

This context-driven approach should be considered in terms of ‘Moments’ – i.e. when and where the audience is in the right frame of mind, the right mood, and the right situation for your brand to connect with them.

A Moment is certainly not momentary. It’s the duration of an act, be it watching a comedy film (129 minutes, to be precise, if you’re watching Love Actually), or spending an hour browsing online for that perfect gift for a loved one. Integrating Moments at the campaign-planning stage can make that campaign more effective by increasing the chances that the ad will land when and where the consumer is ready to engage. In doing so, it offers the potential to reduce advertising budget wastage.

Putting it into practice

A media plan that considers Moments as well as demographics starts with understanding where the brand or product ‘sits’ in the audience’s lives. This puts the emphasis on making sure the audience is in the right place and the right time to fully absorb the messages a brand is aiming to get across. As an aside, it’s also about making sure the brand message isn’t jarring with the wider context too. An example of this is the dramatic shift of advertising to demonstrate how brands were caring for communities when the pandemic began to take hold in 2020.

Demographics clearly play a part in Connecting in the Moment. But as I’ve covered already, they’re not everything and there are more options to add depth to that data right now. (We also won’t be able to rely on one-to-one targeting and tracking across media forever, but that’s a conversation for another day.) Any data that can help align advertising to the context the audience is in will help elevate the impact of an ad campaign. For connected TV, this could be knowing what the most popular content is at certain times of day.

Alignment to context can be relatively simple to identify. An emotive sports brand might resonate best within streamed sports documentaries. Business and finance companies might find viewers of news channels are in a more pragmatic mood, and therefore more receptive to their messages.

Shared alone, and together

It’s also important to remember that for the consumer, a Moment can be spent alone, or with others. Sharing pictures and videos with loved ones back home while travelling could in fact be both – you’re sharing a Moment while apart. Messaging friends in a group chat about what you’re watching on-demand – this is a Moment together. And perhaps the most obvious, watching a film sat on the sofa with your family is another ‘together’ Moment.

With brands tightening belts, the need to avoid advertising wastage is more important than ever. Simply reducing the scale of previous presumed best-practice won’t alter the percentage returns, nor improve effectiveness. The status quo with advertising models was good, it worked – but it can work better, with a combination of demographic data, but importantly demographic understanding.

In combining the profile of the customer with the scenario in which the brand will resonate most, advertising budgets will be optimised, and resonance increased. Spending less but being remembered more is a no-brainer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Love Actually with my family…

Featured image: GaudiLab /

James Collins

As Rakuten Advertising’s Senior Vice President, Media Network, James Collins works with a global team that is responsible for developing Rakuten Advertising's media offering - bringing together Rakuten’s unique audiences and maximising the value that Agencies and Brands can achieve by reaching them.James has championed the use of data in the digital sector over the last decade. Focusing on delivering actionable insights from advertisers’ marketing data, he is passionate about empowering businesses to use data to better understand their customers, make more effective marketing decisions, and ultimately improve the customer experience.

All articles