How a DTC vitamin company is rethinking its media mix as CPMs continue to rise

As CPMs rise and targeting weakens across the digital advertising landscape, Ritual vitamin company has been working toward a more robust marketing mix to diversify its spend.

Like a number of other direct-to-consumer brands, Ritual built its brand advertising mostly on Facebook and Instagram. But as the pandemic has continued to deliver supply-chain uncertainties, consumer shopping habits change and digital data privacy measures make targeting murky, Ritual has focused on “finding incremental wins in a handful of other marketing channels,” said Justin Fredlender, vice president of acquisition at Ritual.

“As costs have come up on Facebook and Instagram, and the impact of iOS14, we want to understand what other areas we could take advantage of in order to even out our media mix,” Fredlender said. 

The seven-year-old, California-based direct-to-consumer company has spent the last two years shifting spend across marketing channels to create a more balanced mix and ensure the brand is not over-allocated in any one place. At present, the company spends evenly across digital, podcasts, influencers, TV, streaming, search and direct mail, according to Fredlender. It’s unclear what the exact spend looks like as Fredlender declined to offer further details.

“As a growth marketer, our job is to really stay abreast of a lot of these rapidly moving changes in the marketing environment, marketing landscape,” he said.

That’s not to say Facebook and Instagram are not still part of the brand’s marketing mix. Ritual has ads currently running on both platforms, leveraging influencers and video graphic posts, according to Facebook’s ad library.

From January to September of 2021, Ritual spent more than $170,000 on paid media, significantly down from the $700,000 spent during that same time period in the year prior, according to Kantar. In 2019, the vitamin brand spent nearly $22 million on paid media. Those numbers do not include social spend as Kantar does not track those figures.

Ritual is one of a number of DTC brands looking to diversify its media mix. For the last two years, media buyers have been actively pushing to diversify away from Facebook and Instagram, according to previous Digiday reporting. For many, including Ritual, rising costs have been a large factor in that decision.

As technology continues to make targeting and measurement more viable on channels like streaming and digital out-of-home, it has caught the attention of brands like Vivid Seats and Adore Me. As DTC brands continue to diversify due to rising costs and privacy changes, marketers and agency execs say it’s necessary to do so.

“It’s almost hedging your bet,” said David Song, CEO at Rosie Labs ad agency. “It’s diversifying your funds. The better word is diversifying your media to make sure that you don’t have a negative [return on investment].”

However, there’s still value in maintaining an investment in social media advertising, according to Michael Hayes, chief growth officer at Goodway Group marketing company. Platforms have rolled out new products, like shoppability, to keep users on the platform, offering another way for brands to meet shoppers where they are.

“Ultimately, you want your brand to meet customers where they are and when consumers are most receptive to your message,” Hayes said in an email. “Each touchpoint should be intentional for brands, and doing so provides an agile, smart strategy to diversifying your media mix.”

As Ritual continues to grow, the plan is to shift and meet shoppers wherever they are, per Fendlender. 

“We found that if we keep a tight focus on that line of thought, we’ve been able to expand our current mix,” he said. “And expanding our current media mix means growth.”

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