The annual Ofcom communications market summary is invaluable. But are the most popular channels the best for paid media? Not necessarily, says CAN’s John-Paul Danon.

Everyone in our team reads Dan Slee’s excellent annual Ofcom comms market report summary. But experience tells us the most popular comms channels are not all equally great for delivering the sort of engagement you want for paid media. And as for the Take That reference – well, Dan started it!

When we’re planning paid digital campaigns for local councils, we are asked to run messages on many of these channels. If you’re spending your hard-won comms budget, success in paid media requires more insight. It’s about:

  • cost per interaction,
  • how well a platform can target different geolocations and groups, 
  • and the suitability of the contextual environment.

Here’s a quick run-through of which channels are best for your paid campaigns in my view.

Facebook is the top social media channel in terms of users according to the Ofcom report, and it is also strong on nearly all fronts for paid media.

When we ran social care recruitment campaigns over the summer, our display ads on Facebook for London residents gained 35,000 interactions and a click-through rate of 1.1% (the average is around 0.35%). A campaign video posted on Facebook for West Midlands residents gained 28,000 views (for comparison, organically it only reached 200).

Instagram is linked to its sister platform Facebook for paid media, which makes it a far more cost-effective way of reaching younger people than Snapchat and TikTok (which both have limited targeting capabilities – especially in terms of geolocation).

News websites have come into their own in terms of reach during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are hungrier for accurate information. Audiences are more likely to see your message where they’re actively consuming news rather than passively scrolling through posts. You can buy pre-roll video advertising on these sites too, which works well in terms of interaction.

YouTube has almost as many followers as Facebook according to the latest Ofcom stats, and is a value-for-money platform with great reach, particularly amongst men. Video is ideal for getting complex messages across – and the Government Communication Service (GCS) has recently returned to the platform following new guarantees around context, as announced recently in this blog by GCS head Alex Aiken.

Google Search is still so powerful. You are limited to those people actively looking for you, but its cost-effectiveness makes it a must in the mix for most campaigns.

Please get in touch by jotting down your current campaign dilemma in this form if you’d like any further guidance on best-value in paid for the public sector. I’m happy to help you through the maze!