It’s only August, but it seems already to have been a long summer in advertising. To judge from Kogenta’s travels around the industry, in customer meetings and at conferences, three topics are dominating the 2023 headlines – with another coming up fast on the rails. What are we hearing? In no particular order:
The death of third party cookies
The former keystone of digital advertising, third party cookies face their long-anticipated final curtain in 2024, as, driven by consumer sensitivities and a tightening regulatory landscape, Google will finally deliver the coup de grace to ad-tracking and other non-consensual use of personal information. The need for new and effective ways to target prospects and markets is now compelling.
Advertisers, marketers, and tech companies are scrambling to adapt to this new reality, seeking innovative ways to effectively target prospects and markets. Businesses and agencies are investing in approaches that incorporate user consent and respect data privacy, shifting the point of focus from the individual to ‘the cohort’ and recognising the vital importance of geographic context in identifying markets.
Changes in the economic headwinds
And what they are blowing, for good or ill, towards the advertising business. Fear of inflation and recession is everywhere, and interest rates have risen to meet it. We face uncertain and contradictory economic times, and this is already having a significant impact on advertising spend and decision-making, as businesses hold back on any spend or change that feels discretionary. Add ongoing geo-political uncertainty to this, and the struggles of worldwide economies adapting to post-Covid consumer attitudes and behaviours, and there can rarely have been more uncertain times for business investment. We foresee expenditure in the short to medium term being targeted on ‘must-haves’ for which there is a compelling or unavoidable business case – such as cookie replacement strategies.
Sustainability and ‘responsible growth’
What part can advertising play in getting more from less and minimising our impact on the planet? As the world grapples with undeniable climate change, the advertising industry is reflecting on its own impact and the role it can play in promoting responsible growth and minimising the environmental footprint that it leaves. Digital communication, though not zero-consumption, is already reducing the physical impact of marketing. Further change is possible, however, through the use of innovative datasets (such as Kogenta KCI’s) which provide a more granular and nuanced understanding of target audience locations. Smarter use of data will increase efficiency by ensuring that the most relevant content reaches the right audience, minimising advertising waste and unnecessary resource consumption. And of course, marketing and advertising can be used to promote reuse too – helping businesses to focus not just on ‘selling more’ but on ‘selling better’ too.
Three macro changes in the business and economic landscape within which advertising and marketing must operate. And swirling around all of this is the sudden and dramatic rise of AI, the impact of which we can barely yet assess, but which could quickly dwarf every other issue on this list. Are we about to see not just auto-targeting of markets and customers, but routine auto-generation of messaging and content too? AI is already proving to be an invaluable tool for analysts and creatives alike. How far we can take it remains to be seen, but the journey promises to be interesting!
Kogenta visualisation of the month: UK EV charging infrastructure
In the UK, a ban on the sale of internal combustion-engined (ICE) vehicles will come into force in just 7 years time. But are we on course and on schedule for a smooth handover to all-electric transportation?
Ready to roll?
Although it will still be permissible to drive ICE vehicles after 2030, we are likely to see a substantial decline in sales as we run up to 2030, and it’s likely that all new vehicles bought in the UK in the two or three years before will be EVs – as is the intention of the policy.
It’s widely recognised however, that manufacturing, importing and selling EVs is one thing – but such vehicles also require a substantial supporting infrastructure, primarily of charging points that will support journeys of any significant distance from the vehicle’s home base.
The demand for charging will be considerable, not only as the number of EVs on the road continues to increase, but because the range of an EV will typically, for the foreseeable future at least, be much less than an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle.
To some extent, this will be counterbalanced by the ability of many (though not all) consumers to charge their vehicles at home. On the debit side of the equation, however, vehicle throughput at any public charging station will be much slower than the current throughput of petrol and diesel vehicles, further increasing the demand for charging points.
Given how soon the change to EVs as primary personal transport will be upon us, we’ve taken a look at progress to date, in terms of current charge point infrastructure across the country, as well as the number of electric vehicles per geographic area; and have looked at how the UK compares with similarly ambitious economies.
Where are we now?
When we look at the spread and location of existing charging points we can see that, perhaps predictably, the concentration of availability is far greater around densely populated areas, and around areas of higher-than-average income. And up to a point this makes sense – this is where EVs are being bought in large numbers, and will very likely provide the quickest payback and highest return on investment. It’s the best capital strategy. We also need to recognise that there will be a particular demand for public charging in highly urbanised environments, where driveways are relatively scarce and home charging impractical.
But if the objective is to encourage the uptake of EVs across the country, then charging rollout cannot be left to simply evolve. In particular, nothing dissuades people from acquiring an EV more than ‘range anxiety’ – “will I make it to my destination?” – and this is likely to be less of an issue in cities and densely populated conurbations where a) there are already a high number of charging points and b) people tend to take shorter urban journeys.
As our mapping shows, however, there are large swathes of the country where charging opportunities are worryingly few – including, for example, Dartmoor, mid-Wales, Cumbria and the Scottish Highlands.
Kogenta heatmap: UK charging infrastructure
If the UK is to encourage higher – and wider – uptake of EVs, it has to encourage the deployment of charging infrastructure in these more rural areas where journeys are longer and charging points fewer. So charging infrastructure providers, as well as consumers, need to be motivated to get on board.
Carrots as well as sticks
In countries like Norway, where ICE vehicle sales will be forbidden from 2025, just two years away, the carrot prevails over the stick. Yes, the ICE economy is already rapidly disappearing, so consumers will have to change eventually. But they are also motivated to do so by fiscal and legislative policy shifts which are designed to nudge consumers in the right direction rather than punish them for not doing so. These include:
Exempting electric vehicles from purchase taxes and value-added taxes (VAT) making them more affordable than ICE-powered cars.
Exempting EVs from toll roads and ferry fees, further reducing the cost of ownership.
Investing heavily in charging infrastructure, with over 10,000 charging stations across the country (for a population of 5.4m). The government has also funded the development of fast-charging stations along major highways.
Investment in electric buses and other forms of public transportation, reducing emissions and encouraging the switch to electric power through example.
Incentivising businesses to switch to EVs through reduced company car taxes and toll road exemptions for commercial EVs.
Running public awareness campaigns to promote the benefits of EVs and encourage more people to make the switch.
Left to its own devices, the market will not provide incentives like this, and will simply head for where the biggest margin and quickest payback is to be found. The message from Norway is that Governments need to actively participate to encourage EV uptake and a smooth conversion from ICE.
Are we nearly there yet?
The measures outlined above have been successful in encouraging the uptake of EVs in Norway, with electric cars already accounting for more than half of all new car sales in the country.
It has one of the highest densities of electric vehicle (EV) charging points in the world, with a wide network of charging stations that cover both urban and rural areas. According to the Norwegian EV Association, as of January 2022, there were over 11,000 public charging points across the country, including over 2,200 fast chargers.
The widespread availability of charging points has been a key factor in the growing success of electric vehicles in Norway. EV owners can easily find charging points in most areas of the country, which reduces range anxiety and makes EV ownership more attractive.
The Norwegian government has set a target of having 100,000 public charging points by 2025, a significant increase from the current number. In addition, many private companies and organisations offer charging stations for their employees and customers. Hotels, shopping centres, and restaurants have also installed charging stations to attract custom from EV owners. All of this is building momentum towards an all-electric vehicle economy.
In the UK, meanwhile, at the end of January 2023, there were 37,851 public electric vehicle charging points across 22,355 charging locations. This represents a 31% Y-O-Y increase in the total number of charging devices, so numbers are going up, and accelerating, but given the much higher population of the UK (67.9m vs 5.4m) rollout needs to be even more rapid.
To achieve a per capita number of charging points equivalent to Norway’s at ‘changeover’ (i.e. when ICE sales end), the UK would need 1.25m charging points, around a 30-fold increase on today’s numbers.
In addition, distribution needs to be considered, as charging connectors are far from evenly spread throughout the country. Greater London has the most EV charging points with 11,656, followed by the South East with around 5,000 – so not far short of 50% of all charging points in the UK are currently concentrated in London and the South East, while large areas of the UK have relatively few connectors. Wales, for example, has only 1,500 public charging connectors to cover a wide and often sparsely populated area.
There are some practical reasons for this – not least that home charging tends to be less viable in more densely populated areas – and this balance is likely to be redressed somewhat when charging points are deployed in greater numbers, but comprehensive universal provision is unlikely to be achieved solely through market forces.
Way to go
The UK has set itself ambitious targets for conversion away from the internal combustion engine. Comparison with Norway, however, a ‘market leader’ in the field, suggests that there is still much to do if a smooth changeover is to be achieved, and that much may need to be achieved through fiscal and legislative strategy.
This article utilises UK charging point statistics courtesy Zap-Map. Kogenta mapping is based on UK Government Department of Transport data.
Good marketing is all about focus, which is why task number one in the marketing playbook is often: ‘Can you define your target market?’ Not just in broadly descriptive terms, but in ways that differentiate your market from the common herd – that give you a proper target at which to aim?
But having defined them – who they are, what they are – do you know where they are? Do you know where they live, where they work, where they shop, where they holiday? Because if you don’t know where they are, then everything else you understand about them as individuals won’t help you reach them.
After all, you’re fishing for prospects. And you can have all the information in the world about fish – what they look like, what their eating habits are, their lifecycle – and all of that will help you, for sure – but if you don’t know where they are, which part of the ocean, which stretch of the river they like to hang out in – you’re still not going to catch any. And – let’s be honest – that information is pretty critical (whether in fishing or marketing) and guesswork isn’t going to help much.
But maybe you’re thinking… this is old hat isn’t it? We all live digital lives now! Location doesn’t matter any more! We all hang in the metaverse now, boomer!
Well… yes and no. Like it or not the physical world will be with us for a while. We will all continue to occupy physical space, very often at the same time as we’re occupying virtual space. So I might be exclusively working and socialising in the cloud, but whether I’m doing that from my home or from a Starbucks in Manchester or a train between London and Birmingham could be of great interest to businesses that want my custom – such as Starbucks (or Costa!) or Avanti trains. Their marketing, and that of many businesses, depends on understanding where people like me are, and how we’re moving around.
To put it another way, the old mantra, ‘location, location, location’ still counts for something. And not just in terms of targeting individuals.
For example: I sometimes daydream about opening a cafe. This isn’t going to be an old style caff (though there will always be plenty of room for those!) I’m thinking of something pretty fancy in terms of the environment, the quality of the coffee I offer, the patisseries that I stock and so on.
I have a pretty good image of my target market – through the day it’s people who have plenty of time on their hands, who want somewhere to dawdle over a good coffee and some nice cakes and snacks, and who don’t mind spending in exchange for quality and a nice environment. Maybe I’ll open in the evening too, and offer nice cocktails, craft beers and small plate meals.
So I can visualise my market very clearly. I fancy I could make a decent fist of defining it in terms of social class, disposable income, gender mix and so on. But where are they? And is there a way of visualising my market in such a way that I can build some ideas about where I might locate my business? And where it might be worth promoting it to increase footfall and spend? That’s knowledge and insight that’s not so anecdotal. But it’s important!
Because if I can get an idea of where my target market is, then I can start planning the rollout and promotion of my business in a way that best secures my investment – where I‘m most likely to maximise that return, while minimising waste on (for example) advertising that will never hit my target market. I’ll be in business! (I’m already rubbing my hands!)
But wait… there’s more to be considered here… maybe I’ve found (superficially at least) a great location for my fancy-pants cafe… but there’s other context to be considered. Maybe it’s so great that there’s one (or two, or three) there already! So can we modify the picture to show competition too? And if there’s no competition, is there a good reason for that? Is it a social and commercial desert with little in the way of pedestrian traffic? Is it a dormitory area that empties during the day? All of these factors are physical but will contribute greatly to the likely success of my business and are the kind of insights that will help develop my ideas about how I want to roll it out – particularly if I can access and visualise them in an easy and intuitive way.
In the rush to digital, important though it is, the physical hasn’t gone away. For many, in fact, the amount of time they spend online has made them value their offline experiences all the more. But meeting that demand requires a close understanding of not just market preferences, but market location and movement – solid factual data, but importantly, data that will ground an airy marketing concept and go a long way to proving its likely value before too many dollars are spent.