Lia Cain: Battling a shrinking budget? It might be time to re-examine your media wastage

Channel Factory - Lia Cain

“There’s clearly a disconnect between our intentions and what actually happens to our budgets”

By Lia Cain, commercial director, ANZ at Channel Factory

Media wastage is far from a new problem, but recent research has proven it’s now an urgent one. Lia Cain, commercial director, ANZ at Channel Factory, says it’s time for marketers to wake up, look more closely at their strategy, and clamp down on wastage before it’s too late.

Have you ever bought something from Macca’s, only to go home and realise it’s not what you ordered?

It’s safe to say that it can be one of the most frustrating things to go through, knowing that your hard earned money has been wasted. And when it comes to wasting your business’ money, we shouldn’t be any less frustrated.

I am, of course, talking about media wastage. This is when a campaign fails to reach its target audience – and it’s a costly problem that’s only becoming more expensive.

Media wastage seems even more inexplicable when we recognise that most marketing teams go out of their way to secure the best value in many areas. But if this is the case, how does the industry end up with millions of dollars being poured into media ‘black holes’?

There’s clearly a disconnect between our intentions and what actually happens to our budgets – and that’s an issue that needs to be solved.

Next&Co’s proprietary media auditing tool, Prometheus, recently revealed that Australian advertisers wasted 41% of their overall digital ad spend, amounting to $5.46 billion out of a total $13.9 billion spent in 20221. This is an increase from the $3 billion wasted in 2021. Channel Factory’s own research also shows that on average brands see 28% of their media run against misaligned content, meaning they are not buying efficiently.

In the fast-paced digital realm, when we know that a certain percentage of our budgets will be wasted, all marketers need to consider it a top priority to lessen the waste and more deeply scrutinise brand-associated content to minimise risky brand situations.

And while 41% may seem like an intimidating figure, there are still solutions at hand to ensure your media spend is optimised and efficient. Marketers should focus on practical solutions that empower them to make informed decisions and prioritise the well-being of their audience.

First and foremost, marketers must think more creatively about the content that best aligns to their brand, as well as avoiding themes that could misalign with their target audience. This involves carefully defining their target audience and ensuring that the allocated budget is spent effectively on reaching the right consumers.

Contextual alignment in digital advertising is also highly dependent on brand values and the specific target audience.

Understanding the brand’s values and its desired association with specific content themes is crucial in achieving effective contextual alignment and ensuring the brand’s messaging resonates with the intended audience.

Take video gaming content for example – this is extremely engaging content that captures huge audiences across social platforms such as YouTube and targets a wide and varied audience for marketers. Reports show that 2020 became a defining year for YouTube, which witnessed subscribers tuning into gaming channels, recording overall 100 billion watch time hours, of which 10 billion hours was of live-streamed content2.

However, it is only at the cusp of embracing advertising. The temptation may be strong to jump into this category with both feet forward, however, video gaming is one of the riskiest categories to invest in, with 80% of media investment in high-risk content3.

This is where ensuring there’s contextual alignment with brand values becomes essential. Take lifestyle brands for example, that are known for their association with extreme sports and adventurous lifestyles. It may not place as much emphasis on appearing alongside gaming content when compared to a financial brand/institution..

There is also certain gaming content that may contain elements that conflict with a brand’s image or messaging, such as profanity, violence, or nudity. But there is also gaming content and creators which are based on family, excitement, mystery, and adventure. Often, marketers will have to look beyond what content may appear to be at face value to more deeply understand the true themes.

Brands that will flourish in aligning their ads to gaming environments, for example, should match the narrative and values of the specific creators. This way, by targeting ads to specific gaming environments or genres, marketers can ensure they are creating a positive association with their brand and increase the likelihood of driving engagement and conversions., and can more holistically relate their brand values to a game.

Other things for marketers to consider is tailoring local strategy and reflecting cultural nuances in your advertising. These are key ways to connect meaningfully to your target audience, and can also be lenses through which you can better examine your own brand values. For example, brands can consider utilising inclusion lists (as opposed to relying solely on exclusion lists) to proactively support minority or niche creators and channels that align to their existing DE&I initiatives.

Reducing media wastage is also an opportunity to consider any laws around privacy, children’s content or alcohol and gambling, to ensure your contextual targeting strategy avoids any legal pitfalls with certain content. Recent data from a Channel Factory and YouTube meta-analysis revealed that 17% of impressions were served on kids-skewed content4, highlighting the need for marketers to exercise caution and adhere to regulatory guidelines to avoid needlessly targeting this demographic.

Tech partners can also be extremely useful in helping advertisers improve brand suitability, reduce media wastage and increase time saving costs. When companies bring on a tech partner to help them navigate this space they gain access to a number of sophisticated tools and insights that enhance their targeting capabilities, save costs, and improve overall campaign effectiveness.

For example, external verification procedures performed by PwC5 have found that Channel Factory’s targeting reduced media wastage by 23% generating up to 12% cost savings for brands that use its AdTech solutions.

By embracing these solutions, marketers can pave the way for a more successful and responsible advertising ecosystem and create impactful campaigns that are aligned with their brand values, resonate with the right audience, and minimise wastage.


1. Digital Media Wastage Report, Next&Co, 2023
2. 2020 is YouTube’s Gaming’s biggest year ever
3. “Supercharging Youtube – Campaign Meta-analysis, Channel Factory March 2023
4. “Supercharging Youtube – Campaign Meta-analysis, Channel Factory  March 2023
5. Test and Report on ViewIQ – Channel Factory’s platform, PWC October 2022

Top image: Lia Cain

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