Marketers have spoken: Building brand awareness is their top priority for 2022. To help them meet their goals amid media fragmentation, Nielsen’s fifth global annual marketing report surveyed global marketers about new marketing channels and associated spend, martech effectiveness, the importance of brand promise and more.

The 1,942 marketers Nielsen surveyed between December 2, 2021 and January 12, 2022 were at or above manager level, working with annual marketing budgets of $1 million or more across automotive, financial services, fast-moving consumer goods, technology, health care and pharmaceutical categories.

First up, it’s important to note marketers’ most important objectives for the next year. From most to least important, Nielsen found that they’re prioritizing:

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Customer acquisition
  3. Customer retention
  4. Customer advocacy
  5. Competitor conquesting
  6. Churn reduction

Marketing accounts for 10 to 35 percent of a brand’s equity, according to Nielsen. As consumers shop in-store less, the online shelf expands and supply chain disruptions cause shoppers to try new brands, the growing reach and utility of digital channels can’t be undermined.

As many as 64 percent of global marketers say social media is their most effective paid channel and many plan to up their social media budgets more than any other channel over the next year. Twenty-two percent of North American marketers, 21 percent of Latin American marketers and 20 percent of Asia-Pacific marketers said they plan to increase their social media spending by 50 percent or more.

Despite the planned spend across social media, marketers told Nielsen they aren’t prioritizing engagement with Gen Z as a key business priority even though their primary increases focus on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

Marketers also plan to increase their ad spending across linear TV and traditional radio significantly less than across social media, for which the aggregate increase is 53 percent among global marketers. 

Forty-seven percent of marketers said they’re either very or extremely confident in the effectiveness of linear TV and out-of-home (OOH), respectively. Meanwhile, 46 percent said they’re extremely or very confident in direct mail, 43 percent said the same about print and cinema, respectively, and 41 percent for radio.

While 61 percent of marketers said they’re confident in their ability to measure the impact of brand building, their planned limited increases in ad spending across traditional mass reach channels highlight a potential misalignment between top business goals and marketing tactics. It also highlights the lower level of confidence among marketers in the effectiveness of traditional channels when compared to digital ones.

After social media (64 percent), marketers said their most effective paid digital channels are: 

  • Online/mobile video (58 percent)
  • Search (58 percent)
  • Online/mobile (58 percent)
  • Email (51 percent)
  • Streaming audio (48 percent)
  • OTT TV/CTV (49 percent)
  • Native advertising (47 percent)
  • Podcasts (44 percent)

After brand awareness (66 percent), the most important marketing metrics for respondents are:

  • Engagement (63 percent)
  • Viewability (61 percent)
  • Marketing mix modeling (61 percent)
  • Full-funnel media ROI (61 percent)
  • Multi-touch sales/attribution (60 percent)
  • Unduplicated reach and frequency (57 percent)

In addition to leaning into the mass reach capabilities of digital channels, marketers must ensure their cross-platform measurement isn’t siloed. Across paid digital channels, global marketers surveyed are most confident in their ability to measure return on investment (ROI) across social media (64 percent are extremely or very confident, equal to their perceived effectiveness of the channel).

Marketers said they’re most confident in measuring ROI from social media yet global measurement confidence is only 64 percent. Confidence in measuring social media ROI is much higher in Latin America (86 percent) and notably lower in Asia-Pacific (55 percent), while North America comes in at 59 percent (behind paid search at 60 percent). Despite the planned increases across social media over the next year, global marketers’ confidence in measuring their ROI—outside of Latin America—is low.

The lack of ROI-proving confidence in these preferred channels gives martech providers a chance to help brands improve their execution and results. As Nielsen notes, perhaps more important is the lack of confidence that global marketers have in measuring ROI across other paid and traditional channels.

As marketers lean into newer channels, they’ve expressed low confidence in being able to prove ROI. Almost half (49 percent) of global marketers, for example, said they plan to increase their spending on podcasts over the next year, with 11 percent planning increases of more than 50 percent. Yet their confidence in measuring the ROI of that investment is fairly low—only 44 percent are either extremely or very confident.

Nevertheless, marketers shouldn’t overlook this growing media channel. Nielsen’s Podcast Ad Effectiveness (PAE) solutions show that host-read ads drive a brand recall rate of 71 percent, which creates high levels of consumer interest, purchase intent and recommendation intent. 

Globally, 65 percent of marketers believe new formats like podcasts, brand integrations and sponsorships are extremely important to marketing strategies. This sentiment is less in Asia-Pacific (59 percent) and EMEA (58 percent), but greater in North America (71 percent) and Latin America (73 percent), found Nielsen.

CTV has become a growing focus for global marketers, with 51 percent planning to increase their over-the-top/CTV spending in the coming year. In North America, the percentage is 61 percent which is in line with the more than 15 million years’ worth of video content Americans streamed last year. 

Only 26 percent of global marketers are fully confident in their audience data. This data insecurity aside, marketers agree data is essential. Sixty-nine percent believe first-party data is important for their strategies and campaigns, and 72 percent believe they have access to quality data to maximize the impact of their media budgets (61 percent in EMEA and 78 percent in North America).

Most marketers surveyed also struggle with elements of audience data. Globally, 36 percent claim that data access, identity resolution and deriving actionable insights from data is either extremely or very difficult. Marketers in North America and Asia-Pacific claim to have the lowest levels of difficulty. To deliver more personalized, relevant experiences, Nielsen suggests marketers combine contextual and behavioral data for targeting.

In addition to amplifying brand exposure and engagement with new audiences, influencer marketing ranks high among global consumers as a trustworthy marketing channel, as indicated by 71 percent. More than influencers, consumers trust recommendations from people they know (89 percent), branded websites (84 percent), ads on TV (78 percent) and TV program product placements (74 percent).