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EPISODE 429 49 mins

How to Generate Awareness at Scale through Connected TV as Your #1 Top of Funnel Channel → Aditya Varanasi

About the guests

Aditya Varanasi

Kunle Campbell

Aditya Varanasi never dreamt of being an entrepreneur until he was faced with a choice: take a risk or sink back into Corporate America. Today, he is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Awarity, where they disrupt the advertising industry by making world-class marketing more affordable and sustainable for up-and-coming companies. He graduated with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University and earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. He spent 14 years at PepsiCo where he pioneered new ways to unlock the power of digital media across a wide range of brands
including Cheetos, Cracker Jack, and Lays Stax.

On today’s episode, Kunle is joined by Aditya Varanasi, CEO of Awarity, a media agency that offers effective ad campaigns for small businesses through connected TV.

Aditya Varanasi only dreamt of a stable and high-paying job so he decided to become a doctor. Little did he know that life had a different plan. He soon stumbled upon the world of digital marketing, fell in love, and built his own digital marketing agency, Awarity, and has been helping small businesses scale their ad campaigns successfully.

While most businesses target social media, Awarity’s innovative strategies in terms of brand awareness are helping smaller businesses that are looking to maximize their online presence through connected TV and banner ads. Aditya’s passion for creativity has taken Aditya to quickly become a leader in digital marketing.

It’s an interesting episode as you’d hear Kunle and Aditya talk more about Aditya’s journey to becoming a successful CEO and Awarity’s strategies and processes for creating brand awareness.

Here is a summary of some of the most important points made:

  • Aditya discovered marketing after his journey from pre-med and chemistry to being a chemical engineer working in a food brand.
  • Brand awareness is not just a finished product but a journey.
  • Creating brand awareness starts with what the goal of the brand is.
  • “The benefit of awareness advertising shows over several months, it builds like a snowball and keeps going the longer you keep it running.”
  • There are a lot of data and creative ways to utilize them.


Covered Topics:

In this episode, Kunle and Aditya discuss:

  • Aditya’s Backstory
  • Brand Awareness
  • The Process of Creating Brand Awareness
  • Principles of Brand Awareness
  • Connected TV Targeting Parameters
  • Call to Actions
  • Brand Awareness Strategies
  • Reach
  • Banner Ads
  • The Audience-First Mentality


  • 02:25 – Aditya’s Backstory
    • Aditya wanted to be a doctor and started Pre-med and Chemistry at Purdue. His goal growing up was stability and a good-paying job.
    • When he switched from pre-med and chemistry to chemical engineering, he got into Frito-Lay in Texas where he was also exposed to marketing.
    • “What drew me to Frito-Lay was that it’s a market leader. Everybody there had an affinity for excellence.”
    • Aditya talks about Cheetos and brand awareness.
    • After working for a private equity firm, he started his company, Awarity.
  • 11:18 – Brand Awareness
    • “The biggest mistake that I see is people prioritize the finish line and not the full journey.”
    • Aditya emphasizes that brands need to meet customers on their journey and not the way that brands want to sell.
    • Brands have a split second in the initial introduction of the ad to capture customers’ attention.
    • “Traditional advertising would make you reach everyone and waste a lot of money advertising to people that may not buy from you.”
  • 16:38 – The Process of Creating Brand Awareness
    • It starts with the goal.
    • “Banner ads can be a great tool for virtually any business because you can have content-specific advertising.”
    • Know what kind of content your customers are consuming.
    • “It’s about architecting that full experience.”
  • 19:50 – Principles of Brand Awareness
    • Reach, frequency, and compelling message are he
    • Reaching out to the right people
    • Reach out to the right people with the right frequency of ads.
    • Present a message that resonates with the audience and addresses their pain points.
    • Banner ads and connective TV are a great start for these three principles.
  • 26:10 – Connected TV Targeting Parameters
    • Aditya shares that with most of their connected TV, they will pick postal codes that meet the demographics that a brand is targeting.
    • “In the US, we can also layer in specific audience data. We can say, ‘We only want to serve these commercials to households that have kids under 12 because that’s where the product resonates.’”
    • Most of the commercials are high definition (1080p and 16:90).
    • For small businesses that don’t have commercials, Awarity has a fixed fee of $1500.
    • The commercials have a standard slot of 30 seconds but they have worked with clients who wanted to run 60 seconds.
  • 32:53 – Call to Actions
    • “We always encourage our clients to have a memorable website URL and have a memorable name.”
    • For Aditya, QR codes in commercials don’t work as you can’t pause or rewind them.
    • “From a consumer standpoint, we’ve not seen the QR codes be effective.”
    • Ensure that your SEO is optimized because people usually search for the things that they remember from the commercial.
  • 34:44 – Brand Awareness Strategies
    • “Marketing strategy should align with the business strategy.”
    • Aditya explains how one brand may reach out to different customers. There is a different message for end consumers and B2Bs.
    • “Let the business strategy and marketing strategy define how many creatives you ultimately need.”
  • 37:33 – Reach
    • Make sure that the evaluation window is longer than a normal purchase cycle.
    • “We all want immediate results and we want to see movement happen overnight.”
    • For brands who are just starting out, pick a market and run the ads for several months.
    • Look at how many prospective customers you want to reach and multiply it by how many times you want to reach them. The product will be the impressions you need and you can figure out the cost and budget depending on it.
  • 41:35 – Banner Ads
    • Awarity offers animated HTML2 ad with every campaign.
    • Their campaign includes a 300×250 animated HTML5 which is an “abundant inventory size across both mobile and desktop.”
    • Awarity uses animation to tell a story.
  • 43:15 – The Audience-First Mentality
    • “Rather than guessing the day and time when your customer is watching, tell us who they are.”
    • You can pinpoint the audience with connected TV.
    • In Awarity, if someone is interested in working with them, they run a product demo, show them how the platform works, and put together a proposal.


  • “It comes down to embracing the notion that a consumer has to see you several times before they take action.”
  • The biggest mistake that most people make is prioritizing the finish line or what they call performance marketing.
  • Customers remember brands that are giving them value in their purchase journey.
  • “If you get a commercial out that speaks to a customer pain point, we’re reaching the right people, we can get more people to the website.”
  • With connected TV, demographics are nearly infinite but not infinite and also, the demographics are not as specific (e.g. age) but Awarity can confirm the households that a brand wants to target.

Links & Resources:


🔔 Book Announcement:

📈 ‘E-Commerce Growth Strategy’ by Kunle Campbell

Exciting news for our listeners! Kunle Campbell, your host and e-commerce expert, has just released his new book: ‘E-Commercer Growth Strategy.’ This essential guide is packed with strategies for attracting shoppers, building community, and retaining customers in the e-comerce space. Drawing on insights from the 2X eCommerce podcast and Kunle’s extensive experience, this book is a must-read for anyone in the e-commerce industry. Elevate your e-commerce game today!

Available now on Amazon.

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Welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast. This is the podcast dedicated to rapid growth in eCommerce, consumer brands, and all that good stuff. This episode is super exciting. I always say it’s super exciting but it is indeed super exciting because we haven’t spoken about this subject on the podcast. I’ll give you a bio read of the guest and I’ll tell you a little bit about what we’re going to talk about and then we’ll take it from there.

Aditya Varanasi never dreamt of being an entrepreneur until he was faced with a choice, take a risk or sink back into Corporate America. Today, he’s the Founder and CEO of Awarity where they disrupt the advertising industry by making world-class marketing more affordable and sustainable for up-and-coming companies like yourselves.

He graduated with a BS in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University and earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. He spent about fourteen years in in PepsiCo where he pioneered new ways to unlock the power of digital media across a wide range of brands including Cheetos, Cracker Jack, and Lay Stax. He’s a super accomplished executive who’s moved into digital advertising. Welcome, Aditya.

Thanks for having me on, Kunle. I appreciate it.

I would like you to give us a bit of background about yourself. Go as far back as you want. You could start from high school, you could start from uni, or you could start from your first gig so we get a backstory of who you are. 

Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor. My goal growing up was I wanted to get a good paying job and have some stability. I started at Purdue in pre-med and chemistry but then I quickly realized, “I may not want to be in school for as long as it requires to become a doctor.” I switched from chemistry to chemical engineering for no better reason than I heard chemical engineering was hard so I said, “Let’s try it out.” I ultimately graduated with the degree in chemical engineering, decided not to pursue medicine, and ended up at a snack food company, which I would have never imagined.

I remember when I got called and invited for the interview with Frito-Lay in Texas, first off, I’d never been to Texas. My wife was my girlfriend at the time and I told her, “Free trip to Texas. Let’s see if this is a practice interview.” I came down and I was intrigued. What drew me to Frito-Lay was that it’s a market leader. Everybody there had an affinity for excellence. They were trying to make sure everything they did was better than every other competitor and that experience made me think, “I could learn here. I could be challenged here. I could be part of a market leader.”

Ultimately, I was fortunate to get a job offer and accepted the job with Frito-Lay. That was where I first got exposed to marketing. I was in the R&D group as an engineer developing new products. I got exposed to marketing because I had to work with the brand teams on developing new products. I would attend focus groups, see customer research, and I thought, “This is fascinating.” As much as I was an engineer and wired analytically, I always loved creative challenges. I used to do pencil sketches. I played violin in the Purdue orchestra.

I always loved the creative side and embracing that and marketing allowed me to do both. I loved it so much so I ultimately pursued an MBA and came back to Frito-Lay in the brand marketing group. There was one big lesson I learned about marketing that is applicable to everyone. Take a company like PepsiCo, they’re a marketing leader, and they’ve been perfecting the science of marketing for hundreds of years. It comes down to embracing the notion that a consumer has to see you several times before they take action.

We take a brand like Cheetos. Everybody knows what Cheetos are. I don’t need to build brand awareness on Cheetos, 100% percent of people know what it is. Cheetos still runs TV advertising. Why would a brand like Cheetos need TV advertising if everybody already knows what it is? Why would they need to build awareness? Every day, Cheetos is competing for mindshare across the world of snacks. Snacks include healthy snacks like carrots. It could include other fun snacks like goldfish. It could include cookies, ice cream, or a whole host of things.

Cheetos is unique and that it’s orange and messy. When you eat it, you feel like a kid again. That’s unique in the world of snacking. The TV advertising reminds consumers, “This is orange, messy, and gives you that moment where you feel like a kid again.” That’s unique. A consumer sees it and they’re thinking Cheetos.

This isn’t the literal thought but they feel the emotion, “I feel like a kid when I have Cheetos.” It’s in the back of their minds. When they go to the store and they see Cheetos on a merchandising unit, they’re saying, “I was just thinking of Cheetos the other day.” If it happens to be on sale, they’ll pick up the bag and say, “It’s $0.50 off, I’m going to buy it.”

It’s the culmination of the TV advertising, the previous experiences with the brand, the way the packaging stands out, the way the merchandising stands out, and the pricing, all of that culminates to ultimately drive the purchase even on a high awareness brand. You think about that for lower awareness brands, brands that don’t have the same awareness as Cheetos, which most don’t, that journey becomes even more and more important. What I took away is that full funnel approach is critical to success.

I left PepsiCo. I was hired by a private equity firm to run a startup. It was my first time with a small business with a limited marketing budget. We started this brand and I wanted to advertise. I said, “I’m going to apply everything I learned from PepsiCo and we’re going to grow this eCommerce insurance brand that we developed.” I looked and I said, “How do I find something at the top of the funnel that’s efficient?” I couldn’t find it.

We had a specific customer profile that I wanted to reach. If I bought a TV advertisement, I would reach everybody and I’d spend money on reaching everyone. If we bought a newspaper advertiser, it would be the same thing. I said, “What’s efficient enough and affordable enough?” Those carry high ticket prices. I realized there’s a huge opportunity here. We’re able to do things on social and search and be successful there because Google and Meta have created some great tools for smaller businesses to have targeted advertising but those are more in the engagement and purchase side of the funnel.

I ultimately left that firm and started Awarity and our mission is to make world-class advertising accessible to everyone. We do that with banner ads and those are the ads you see on websites. Two thirds of the time we spend online is on websites so you can reach almost anyone. We serve connected TV commercials. Here in the US, over 85% of households are now streaming. Watching TV on streaming television surpassed cable in terms of consumption. Your ability to reach a broad audience is high but both of these channels allow you to be targeted.

Let’s say I have a restaurant in the middle of a town and I only service people that live within five miles of there. I can now set up advertising that only serves ads to people within five miles instead of buying a commercial across the entire metro area where there are a lot of people that’ll see the commercial and that I’ll pay to see the commercial that won’t see it. That’s the journey to where we got. I started the business in 2016. We did a lot of testing and validation. We started to scale it up in 2018.

In 2023, we were named one of the fastest growing companies in the US by Inc. Magazine and around number 200 in the marketing industry in the US for growth. I’m excited that businesses that embrace the need for awareness advertising are turning to us. We feel fortunate to be able to partner with them. Your small business is important to our overall economy. It’s an exciting place to support.

That’s a good precursor to what you’re doing at Awarity. I want to dig into the connected TV space. Before we do that, you talked about your experience in PepsiCo and your awareness of going multi-channel to reach the customer a number of times so you get that conversion. What’s your take for new consumer brands or challenger consumer brand looking to get that awareness piece right so that channels like Facebook or Google all work hard and get a better bang for their buck?

If the goal is to build awareness, you want to try to build awareness with where the customer is. Click to Tweet

It’s a great question. Everybody’s marketing budget is limited and everybody feels like they don’t have enough money to do everything they’d like to do so they have to prioritize. The biggest mistake that I see is people prioritize the finish line and not the full journey. With that, they pour most of their dollars into what they call performance marketing. Performance marketing is where you’re advertising people closest to purchase but then they completely neglect the notion of building awareness and generating demand at the top of the funnel.

What ends up happening is you show good results, “We’re spending $1 and we’re getting $2 back,” but you’re doing it with a small audience, and you’re not doing anything to expand that audience and bring more people in the funnel. What happens with that cycle, and I’ve seen it with a lot of businesses, is they keep pouring more money into Google and Facebook till they reach a point of diminishing returns and then they’re capped out.

To grow a brand, we have to delight our customers and that’s ultimately what comes down to. Are you delighting your customers? Are you providing them unparalleled value versus the alternatives. That value can be emotional, functional, or pricing, it’s a whole host of things combined into one. If you’re providing customers value, you have to meet them on their journey not the way that we want to sell.

Think about the last time, as a brand decision maker, you’ve made a purchase. You don’t want to be spoken to in terms of performance marketing. You want to be met for where you are on the journey. When you’re learning about a brand, there are some different thoughts, questions, and things that stand out.

We’re exposed to 4,000 to 6,000 thousand ads a day here in the US and yet I don’t know anybody that can recall more than ten that they’ve maybe seen in a day. The ones that we remember are the ones that speak to us based on where we are. They’re highlighting a pain point we’re experiencing. They’re presenting a solution that’s novel that we feel can help our lives. At the end of the day, they’re presenting it in a way that’s simple.

At that initial introduction, you have a split second to capture someone’s attention and they convey a complex story in a simple manner. When you do that, you start to build brand awareness. As you have that brand awareness, you start thinking about that business. You may not click on the ad and buy right away but you’re thinking about that brand. You then may notice something on social or you may have a need arise where that brand can help.

Think about something that may happen. If your car breaks, what’s the first brand you think about? What’s the first mechanic you think of going to get your car fixed? If you’re hungry, what’s the first restaurant you think of going to? The ones that you’re thinking of are the ones that have the highest brand awareness for you. Investing in awareness gets you into that consideration set.

When you go and run a search on Google, you’re more likely to click on the brand you recognize versus the brands you don’t recognize. It all works together but, unfortunately, too many people look at these channels in isolation versus the combination of that full journey. The thing that’s amazed me most with this business, which I didn’t expect, is that B2B brands that embrace this are seeing great and successful growth. You might think, “That works for consumers. What about niche B2B brand?”

Let’s imagine you’re selling cloud computer migration for small business, you have a niche audience and a niche product. If you start advertising to business owners, you start advertising on websites where people are reading about migrating to the cloud or how the cloud can help you. There are tons of blog content out there. There are tons of articles out there.

Start advertising alongside there but only in the areas of the country that you serve. You’re now building brand awareness with a targeted audience and you can do so much more cost effectively because you’re only trying to reach a small subset of people. Traditional advertising would make you reach everyone and waste a lot of money advertising to people that may not buy from you.

It’s a thought process content. Where are the platforms in which people are educating themselves? In this case, on cloud computing, and then affiliating yourself and targeting whether it’s through Google units or directly. What is the thought process there?

It starts with what’s the goal. If the goal is to build awareness, you want to try to build awareness with where the customer is. I always believe, for most brands, we all research things on the internet. Banner ads can be a great tool for virtually any business because you can have content-specific advertising. When somebody’s reading about a topic you can help with, you can advertise there. People use trade shows, billboards, radio, or specific print.

If you’re in cloud computing, maybe you want to be in technically-focused magazines where people are reading that content in conjunction to the website. If you’re a local restaurant, maybe you only want to advertise locally with banner ads. When people are online visiting websites within your zip codes, you can reach them. At the same time, maybe there’s a neighborhood newspaper that services the same area, that’s another way to build. It’s never a one-size-fits-all.

What you should take a step back and think about is what’s the content your customers are consuming that you can reach them at scale? Think about those as the channels and look at how expensive they are. What’s the absolute cost? How efficient it is? What percentage of those people are prospective customers? You could look at your effective costs per reaching a new customer and make a cost comparison to prioritize which of these awareness channels makes the most sense.

After you get there, you think about how they’re engaging and learning more. How is your website structured? Does it introduce the key points of difference and then provide more information to provide a seamless journey to educate them? Are you utilizing social media and retargeting to bring people back to your website after they’ve learned about you? Are you utilizing email marketing to curate leads and past customers?

There are a host of other channels to get in front of the people that are learning about you so that you stay in front of them. The more you stay in front of them, you’re ultimately likely to convert because as they have a need arise, they’re going to be thinking of you first. That conversion can be done again via email, paid search, or SEO optimization. It could be done in part due to the way your website is architected to make the user flow seamless in the way they want to be spoken to and information that matters to them as they’re making the purchase.

It’s about architecting that full experience. Where are they doing their research and learning? Where are they engaging to try to learn more and try to get into more detail? Ultimately, what are the key points when they make a purchase that they’re looking for? What are the ad channels where you can present those messages across that journey?

I agree, research, following up about that journey to watch your eventual purchase of your product.  I want to speak to connected TV and banner ads as potential media channels for that brand awareness piece as you speak to. A lot of us in the industry, if you look at the biggest challenger brands, most of them started off with Facebook ads, viral video, or some sort of media that started digitally.

As they hit certain thresholds, maybe they hit the $50 million in revenue mark, they then say, “Now’s the time to go for a national TV advertising campaign. Now’s the time to start to deploy capital in TV.” You’re saying the reverse, which is people should start to consider connected TV and banner ads at scale, top of funnel. It creates awareness. With that, it makes your efficiency of all the channels further down the funnel like your Google ads and Facebook ad campaigns a lot more efficient.

You pull more awareness at the top of the funnel and it trickles down like a waterfall. Going deep into connected TV, because no one’s talked about this top-of-funnel channel on this podcast, what do we need to think about from a media perspective? With Facebook, we know short-form video work. We know that if you go fifteen seconds and there’s a lot of reach frequency, it could eventually work. What should we be thinking about in the media? What are the first principles?

The most important things are reach, frequency, and presenting a compelling message. Reach is, are you reaching the right people? Are you reaching them efficiently? Are you reaching enough of them? The second is frequency. You don’t want to reach them 50 times in a month. You’re going to get to a point of diminishing returns if you reach them too frequently within a certain time period like a month. You want to reach them enough.

You also don’t want to reach them once a month because then it’s going to be harder for them to remember you. We always say when you’re in prospecting, you definitely want to be north of two at a bare minimum. Generally, you want to be at least 4 to 6 to 8 per month in terms of frequency on a newer brand. You have to present a message that resonates with that audience and something that speaks to them, addresses their pain points, and presents them a solution that somehow makes their life a little bit better. Banner ads and connective TV are great for that.

If you take a step back, let’s say you’ve got an eCommerce brand that is premium so it generally resonates with a higher-income consumer. If you go rely solely on social media, for example, less than half of social media users are in the platform daily. I could go days without being in Facebook but then I might go a few days where I’m checking in and looking at stuff. You’re likely going to miss me if you’re relying on Facebook to advertise to me.

Investing in awareness gets you into that consideration set. Click to Tweet

If you utilize banner ads or connected TV, we’re all watching TV. Everybody is on websites consuming content every day, it’s a great way to reach audiences that expands beyond one app on your phone or computer. The other thing that’s interesting about these, which is why I believe they’re phenomenal solutions for smaller brands, is they can be hyper efficient. Let’s go back to this example of your premium brand.

If you buy a traditional broadcast TV advertisement, you’re advertising to everyone. There may only be 25% of the people viewing that are an eligible customer. That means 75% of the dollars you just spent are wasted because you’re advertising to people that are not likely a customer and your message isn’t likely to resonate with them. What banner ads and connected TV allow you to do is pinpoint the households you want to see it. You can not only geographically constrain them to geographies that you know meet the demographics you’re looking for but you can also be content specific on who you’re serving those to.

For example, if your company specializes in heating repair and you tailor to a more affluent customer because you sell a more expensive and energy efficient product, you’re going to want to advertise differently than another company that provides heating repair that maybe has a value proposition where they’re saying, “We’re more affordable. If you pay us $100 per year, will come and repair whatever you need all year long.” Those are two different messages that tailor to two different households.

Banner ads and connect TV allow you to pinpoint the right places to make it. You go back to the example of broadcast and maybe only 25% of the households are the messages relevant for them. With connected TV, you can cut your budget by 75%. You can get the same effect by spending a fraction of what you would spend on broadcast with connected TV and still get the same impact. Why this new digital technology is so excited is it lets you be so much more efficient with your ad spend, pinpoint the people you want to reach, and you don’t compromise effectiveness because you’re now being precise in where these messages are going and you can do it at scale.

What are the targeting parameters? You talked about demographics or income interest based on the channels they frequent. I also see a plethora of platforms within connected TV, Roku, Fire TV, and Chromecast, how does it work? Apple TV is even in that mix. What are the options? I’m slightly confused. Are you buying media from Roku or Amazon for instance?

Most of our connected TV advertising is done in the US. I’m going to speak a little bit more to what’s available in the United States. Each country has slightly different rules and laws on data usage. The first thing we’ll do is we’ll geographically exclude. We’ll pick postal codes that meet the base demographics of who the brand is targeting. If there’s certain income parameters, home ownership parameters, or other demographic parameters, we’ll isolate those. Instead of advertising to the market at large, we’ll only advertise in those postal codes that meet the specific demographics of the brand.

In the US, we can also layer in specific audience data. We can say, “We only want to serve these commercials to households that have kids under 12 because that’s where the product resonates.” We can use data to identify which households they are. It’s all anonymized data so we don’t have any personal information. We don’t know anything about the household. We just have an identifier to say, “This is the device we’re going to target with the ad message.”

You also have a host of audience data that you can curate and then there’s content level data. You could say, “Within these zip codes, if it’s a travel brand for example, we want to target content related to travel, travel shows, and travel programming.” It distributes whether it’s the household data or the content across a wide range of apps and services, so it could be Roku, Hulu, or one of the cable networks like NBC or ABC. It could be one of the news networks. It could be something like Home Garden TV or Food TV. Based on what that consumer is watching, if they fit the profile we’re targeting, we’ll try to serve the commercial to them.

I’m assuming that the media would be TV commercial quality.

Yes. High definition and 1080p.

You don’t even need 4k.

No. Most commercials are still 1080p.

They’re in 16:9 I presume.

Yes. We’ll even produce a commercial for you. We recognize a lot of small businesses don’t have a commercial but they have a lot of footage. We’ll edit and put together commercial for a fixed fee of $1,500.

You test the waters and see. What is the expectation of the audience on the other side? Do they expect a certain level of TV commercials?

Yes. We guarantee a certain number of views of the commercial. The other thing we tell them is you’ll see an increase in your website traffic. If you get a commercial out that speaks to a customer pain point, we’re reaching the right people, we can get more people the website. That doesn’t always translate to immediate sales. For some businesses, it does. For some businesses, there’s friction along the way, there’s competitive dynamics, and there’s pricing dynamics.

There’s a host of other factors that ultimately go into the purchase decision. As advertisers, what we have the greatest influence on is getting new people to our client’s websites. That’s something we’ve shown time and again that whether it’s TV advertising or banner advertising, we can get new people to our client’s websites more efficiently than anything else out there.

Which can then be retargeted with other media. Commercials run for 30 seconds.

Our standard slot is 30 seconds. We’ve had some clients that wanted to run 60 seconds. Personally, I think that’s a little long. You’re asking people to pay attention for 60 seconds. Specifically, if you’re trying to build awareness, less is more. You want something they’re going to remember. If it’s longer than 30 seconds, it gets harder to remember that singular message. Fifteen seconds can be successful too. If you have a message you can get across in fifteen seconds, that works too. We’ve seen the sweet spot in terms of cost and cost per view is 30 seconds.

They get a flurry of traffic. There’s targeting. You can help out with the media, which makes more sense. What about call to actions? Is this purely an awareness play? Obviously, you know that there would be more eyeballs on the site but what’s your recommendation of the format? Is it to link an emotion to your brand and create that awareness and put the customer at the core and say, “This could be you,” and you take them through that?

It’s about awareness. We always encourage our clients to have a memorable website URL and have a memorable name. We’ve tried QR codes. We’ve had a lot of people ask, “Should we put a QR code?” We’ve tested it and it just doesn’t work. A lot of these streaming commercials, you can’t pause or rewind it.

If you’re watching a commercial and it’s 30 seconds and you decide after 15 seconds, “I’m interested in learning about it. Let me think about it. Let me see if I want to do this.” By the time you’ve decided you want the QR code, it’s twenty seconds. You’ve then got to go find your phone, you’ve got to figure out where it is, you got to get your phone, and you’re like, “How do I get to the camera app?” You then got to get it into focus and by the time you get there, the commercial is gone.

From a consumer standpoint, we’ve not seen the QR codes be effective. What we have been seen effective is if you can ensure your SEO is optimized. People search for the thing they’re going to remember in your commercial and if you can show up there, you have a much better chance of getting those commercial views that translate into new website visitors.

For brand, let’s give a hypothetical eCommerce brand. Let’s say we have a consumer brand and they sell coffee and they’re doing maybe north of $20 million a year in revenue processing quite a lot of orders, national brand, and they’re looking at connected TV, finally, as a potential channel. How many ads do you think they should run? How many actual messages should they have? Would a strategy like looking at their own customer data and saying, “We have a cluster of customers in New York and California,” be a signpost for them for the targeting in the connected TV. Using existing data to say, “We’ve seen where the success has doubled down with this channel.” What are your thoughts there?

Persistence and consistency are the things that ultimately breakthrough in that situation. Click to Tweet

First off, marketing strategy should align with the business strategy. If the business says, “We need to win with a specific customer,” the marketing strategy should align there and that should inform which messages you highlight. If you have 2 or 3 customer segments but it’s a similar message, you may only need 1 ad message. A lot of times, message doesn’t wear out quickly. For smaller brands that are just starting, wear-out should be the least of the concern.

After six months, if you’re saturating the market, you could think about changing messages, updating creative, and things of that nature but it all should be derived from what’s the business strategy say you have to grow with? Do you have a marketing strategy to win with that consumer? Can this be a subset? What’s the message that matters to that customer?

Let’s take your coffee brand. Maybe there’s a consumer message for coffee lovers and then there’s a B2B message for commercial contracts. Maybe you have two different commercials and they have slightly different value propositions that you articulate. For the B2B, it might be about bringing the best in at an affordable price for your office. For the consumer, you brew the best fresh at home every morning. It’s a slightly different message with a similar underlying theme.

The same brand, different message because they’re different segments.

Let the business strategy and marketing strategy define how many creatives you ultimately need. Don’t worry about wear out unless you’re spending a lot of money and your data shows you’re saturating the market.

From a reach perspective, when do they stop and look at the numbers and say, “This is the data and we need to make X and X moves.” Do you need a million impression, for instance, to understand what’s going on to start to make tweaks to whatever offer you have? For commercial, you have a message.

It’s a good question. There’s not an exact science. I will say you generally have to give it time. You generally have to be ready to give it a little bit of time because. Let’s take coffee. I order coffee at home but I order it every two months. If you showed me a commercial right after my last order and I intended to switch, it might be two months before you see me order the next batch of coffee. If you don’t see results in a week, that doesn’t mean it’s not working. It’s important to line up your evaluation criteria of success or what’s working to the purchase cycle and try to make sure your evaluation window is longer than a normal purchase cycle.

If the purchase cycle is two months, give it three months. If the purchase cycle is several months, give it a few more months than that. That way, you’re not falsely reading pluses or minuses. That’s a hard thing. We all want immediate results and we want to see movement happen overnight. You can look at things more quickly like how new people are coming to the website and that should happen much more quickly. The benefit of awareness advertising shows over several months, it builds like a snowball and keeps going the longer you keep it running.

What’s a typical budget for a $20 million brand?

I don’t want to give a hard and fast rule because some brands have to spend more and some brands have to spend less. It depends on what your go-to market strategy is. If you’re talking about a B2C brand that’s trying to sell direct on their website and it’s a newer brand, the traditional rule of thumb is 2% to 3% of your P&L goes to marketing. If you’re committed to building and growing the brand, you may have to think a lot more. You may have to think 5%, 7%, 8%, or maybe even more to truly build the brand and get awareness. You’re up against incumbents like Starbucks and other brands that people think about first when they’re out there.

I always use this analogy. Imagine you’re trying to convince your friend to buy this new coffee brand. You may or may not be successful but you’re having a one-to-one conversation and you’re able to read their responses and sell them on what matters to them. Even then, you’re not guaranteed success. Now, imagine trying to do the same thing by writing a message on a whiteboard and holding it up, it’s going to get harder. Now do it through an advertisement. Persistence and consistency are the things that ultimately breakthrough in that situation.

Going back to your budget question, it depends on your brand and what stage it’s at. One thing you can always do with digital tools is if you want to see what happens, you can pick a market. I always tell people, “Instead of spending your entire budget in one month and trying to evaluate, why don’t we pick a narrow market segment, a narrow geography, and let that run for several months? Let’s look at what happens there.”

You’re going to get a much better feel for what’s happening and you’re not going to feel the stress of a big spend. As you get learnings, maybe you hone the message, and maybe we hone the targeting and then you can expand it and set some more clear expectations on what a nationwide campaign might look like.

Good points there. I would have liked to get a number but it’s okay. Would you suggest you run banner ad side by side connected TV or do brands find success with connected TV anyway? 

As far as a number, one thing I always say is there’s a simple formula if you want to calculate a number. Look at how many prospective customers you want to reach. Forget that you’re a $20 million brand. Let’s say you identify there are 100,000 coffee lovers that this product will resonate with and you want to reach them four times a month. You need 400, 000 impressions and you can figure out the cost and budget on 400,000 impressions.

With us, that would be about $16,000 a month if I did my math correctly. On connected TV, you could do that for maybe about a quarter to half of that with banner ads. If you’re looking to size, a lot of it comes under how many people do you want to reach, that’s arguably more important than the size of the brand. How many people do you want to reach to make a difference?

CPMs are about $25.

On the connected TV, we guarantee it will be under $40. Our average is in the low $30s. On banner ads, it’s generally around $4. We see some that are that are a lot less. It depends on how narrow the targeting is. With banner ads, what’s the objective? Is it click through rates or is it impressions?

It’s the impressions. We see 98% of conversions on banner ads fall on impression and not click.

Let’s speak to banner ads now. With banner ads, what formats do you agree? At the end of the day, it’s really brand recall you’re after.

We offer an animated HTML5 ad with every campaign, it’s included in our pricing. The creative is so important, we want to make sure we’re helping put together creative that maximizes the value of each impression. In terms of format, every campaign includes a 300×250 animated HTML5. That is the most abundant inventory size across both mobile and desktop. For larger advertisers, we’ll put together several other sizes that are most commonly used. They’re all animated so that you can tell a story and you’re not relying on just a static image.

Back to connect to TV, can you target local news, for instance? Let’s say someone is in Oregon and they’re in a certain town in Oregon. Can you use that location and say, “At the 9:00 news, we want to run this.”

We go back to that audience-first mentality. Rather than guessing the day and time when your target customer is watching, tell us who they are. Regardless of what they’re watching and when they’re watching, we’ll reach that customer. The old way of thinking is, “I have to guess when the customer is watching and try to advertise there.”

With Connected TV, you can now pinpoint that audience. Whether they’re watching the local news, HGTV, ESPN, or whatever that might be, you can now reach them regardless of what they’re watching and when they’re watching. If they’re watching over lunch, if they’re watching right after work, or if they’re watching early in the morning, you can reach them when they’re watching instead of having to guess.

Every household is profiled and you could even say a household could have multiple profiles because they have maybe teenage kids. They might have toddlers at the same time. They might be working for Corporate America and live in a certain area where home prices are $1 million-plus. You have all that rich data to follow them.

There is a lot of data out there and there’s creative ways to utilize. One of the things we always do is if somebody is interested, we run a product demo, we show them how the platform works, and then we’ll put together a proposal. We’ll say, “Tell us about who you want to reach.” We’ll be clear on, “This is how we can target. These are the things we cannot do to target. This is the way we would approach targeting a customer. Does this work or not?”

It’s never exact the way people talk about it. You might say, “I want kids under 16.” We might say, “We can only reach households we can confirm their households with kids under 18.” You might say, “That’s close enough.” There are nearly infinite choices but it’s not infinite. Sometimes what we’ll do is we’ll come back with what’s the closest match to what you’re looking for.

If the readers can visualize this or prepare themselves mentally that this is top of funnel and the cycle for potential return is a minimum 90 days, they can project forward and understand how the platform works over time while preparing the SEO, for instance. You’re reminding them well with the message. You’re retargeting ads because you now have more visitors on your website for retargeting. I could go on and on and on.

I’m impressed by your personal story as well as Awarity’s story. I’m fascinated by connected TV. I hope the readers have gained a ton. I’ve never spoken about connected TV before. Let’s not even leave banner ads. Forget about banner ads as a platform, it was interesting to see what the options are there. For those who want to find out more about Awarity, it’s Awarity.com. Are you active on any social platforms? If people enjoyed reading up until this point your voice and your insights, are you active on any social channels?

I would say LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the best one. I post content from time to time, different blog content, and other podcasts that I appear on. I’m working on a marketing book to help businesses apply the best practices from big companies to businesses of all sizes. Hopefully, that’ll be ready for release later this 2024. I’ll have updates on LinkedIn as well.

I would love to add it to my read list. Let us know when it’s ready and when you’re fully published. Aditya, thank you very much for coming on the 2X eCommerce podcast show. I appreciate it.

Thank you so much for having me on, it was a real pleasure.

About the host:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

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