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Get to the heart of Valentine's Day media planning

Get to the heart of Valentine's Day media planning Laura Carrier

Valentine's Day is the fourth largest retail holiday in the U.S. and may be growing even bigger. There was an increase in spending for the holiday of almost a billion dollars from 2015 to 2016.

But while it can be a lucrative holiday, Valentine's Day is also a potentially tricky seasonal event for marketers. Falling just six weeks after Christmas, Valentine's Day has a much shorter buying cycle than the winter holidays, leaving less time to prime consumers for purchase. Valentine's Day also comes at a time when retailers may be struggling depending on how holiday sales performed.

Despite these challenges and the fact that there are just two weeks to go until the holiday, marketers can still take advantage of some tips and tricks to reach shoppers looking to shower spouses, children, friends, and others with love this Feb. 14.

Build brand awareness before they buy

The truth is that consumers aren't really thinking about shopping for Valentine's Day until late January or early February -- even if stores have launched promotions for the event already. This doesn't mean marketers can't launch compelling brand awareness campaigns before the big day hits.

Consider high-impact units, such as billboards and homepage takeovers, to get your brand message across. Take advantage of lower CPMs for video buys in this less demanding Q1 market as video is a higher-CPM media channel. You can use video in late January and into February to prospect and build awareness for Valentine's Day. Then, switch your media mix to less expensive display ads by sequentially targeting users who have seen at least one of your video ads. We've found that users who see video ads before display are 20 percent more likely to convert than users served a display ad alone.

Be aggressive

In a perfect world, you would start your Valentine's Day campaigns in the last week of January. If you've missed that window, you're not alone. Of almost 100 Valentine's Day campaigns run through our platform over the last few years, the majority have started on Feb. 1. The key when launching your campaigns in February is to not just set and forget your strategies for two weeks.

The best time to ramp up your campaigns is in late January and early February as CPMs don't tend to rise as steeply as they do for Q4 holidays, so you won't need to scale back as much. Start prospecting as soon as you launch your campaigns, but at lower levels of spend, so you can notch it up closer to the holiday when conversions for prospecting begin to spike. From our analysis, prospecting conversions start to steadily rise starting on Feb. 6. Prospecting early will also help create your remarketing pool and save budget for last-minute shoppers.

In terms of targeting by device, our analysis shows that smartphone traffic starts surpassing desktop on Feb. 11. Retarget people who have seen your message on desktop on mobile using location and time of day targeting to hit them during prime moments like commuting.

Don't stereotype shoppers

Consumers now shop for more than just their romantic partner on Valentine's Day. According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers in 2016 were expected to spend an average of $27.79 on children, parents, and other family members; $7.08 on their children's classmates and teachers; and $5.83 on co-workers. Shoppers were also expected to spend $681 million on their pets last year.

The key is to not limit scale to one demographic -- both men and women are shopping. Our analysis found that jewelry was targeted as much as Valentine's Day, followed by age and gender targeting. You can leverage discounted Valentine's Day segments available through third-party data providers or create a model using your CRM file as a seed to build lookalike audiences from offline segments or to target product category-based segments. Maximize CPMs through open exchange buys and layer with these third-party segments to focus on the right demographics while prospecting. Another tip is to segment your site visitors to target them in different ways, such as looking for users that have frequented any gifts pages or temporary pages specific to Valentine's Day.

As shoppers are buying gifts for individuals beyond just romantic partners, carefully consider your creative. You can weave the concept of love into your ads, but more clearly differentiate your messaging for the specific audiences you are targeting. As we move closer to the holiday, grab last-minute shoppers and converters with sense-of-urgency creative that offers same-day delivery or discounts for shipping.

Laura Carrier is VP of vertical strategy - measurement at MediaMath. She is a retail guru with 10+ years of industry experience. Laura’s diverse retail experience spans into merchandising, omnichannel strategy, CRM, and marketing. Before...

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