Shifting Digital Accountability to Brand Marketers

June 3, 2013

Growing up, when I was pestering my parents about something that I just really, really had to have (like a real, live pet monkey), they would often say:

“Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.”

Brand Marketers have been asking for lots more from digital—but have largely been unmoved by the response, and their anemic spending shows it.

Shifting Digital Accountability to Brand Marketers

Shifting Digital Accountability to Brand Marketers

They ARE shifting more money into digital, particularly as on-line video, mobile and social explode.  But their digital spending has lagged their direct marketing counterparts, as they continue to look for more evidence of the efficacy of digital advertising.

The accountability debate is shifting quickly though, from digital publishers and measurement companies to the Brand Marketers themselves.

What do Brand Marketers Need?

1.  Audience Delivery – Much has been written recently about the issues and opportunities associated with digital audience delivery. Any reader of the advertising and media press knows that large numbers of digital ads are not delivered to their intended audience, and many aren’t even viewable—a real embarrassment to many who prided digital on its precise targeting.

But the fact that we are even talking (or writing about) this topic says a lot about how to solve the problem. We can now measure how well, or how poorly, individual sites perform in delivering digital advertising to their intended audience—on a daily basis. And, with metrics that are common across platforms—e.g. reach, frequency, GRP’s against key demographic targets, Brand Marketers can now much better understand the relative performance of different media.

2.  Brand Impact – Brand Marketers care not just about sales, but about their brand or, more specifically, brand equity. They want to know that digital advertising has equal or more brand building impact than the alternative mediums.

Digital brand building metrics have now equaled and, in some cases, surpassed metrics from other mediums. Brands can not only measure increases in awareness, brand recall and other traditional ad effectiveness metrics, but can now also link ad exposure directly to traditional brand equity metrics. Given these tools, Brand Marketers should be confident that they can really understand the impact of digital advertising on their brand KPI’s.

3.  Sales Impact – Not surprisingly, while Brand Marketers want to see that digital advertising builds their brand, they also want to know that their brand building efforts result in sales. There are multiple approaches available for measuring the sales impact of digital advertising.

Traditional Market Mix Modeling (MMM) is one, and it’s particularly effective at giving brand builders a relative understanding of how digital advertising compares to other traditional mediums such as TV and Print. That is, for every $1 invested in digital, what on or off-line sales return do I get and how does that compare to other media?

A newer approach for Brand Marketers is Attribution Modeling, which models individuals’ exposure to different digital touch-points against sales. Ironically, attribution modeling was first advocated by direct marketers who were trying to understand the contribution of different digital exposures to search based click-thru.

The advantage of attribution modeling is that it can typically measure more granular digital activities than MMM and the impact of cross-platform exposure on sales—e.g. it can “attribute” impact to different touch-points and combinations thereof.

In either case, there really is no excuse now for not understanding the sales impact of your digital advertising—ROI measurement in digital is very good–even for brand based advertising.

4.  Real Time Optimization – One of Marketers biggest frustrations across all media has been their inability to quickly understand advertising and media performance, and then make improvements in-flight.

Digital, in theory, should be great at this, and in fact has made great strides with real-time bidding (RTB). RTB uses real time performance metrics (click thru, etc.) by site, placement, etc. to understand how to bid and re-allocate spend to the best performing placements just as its name implies—in real time. But again, these gains have mostly been in the direct response world, leaving brand marketers to wonder about what could have been.

Well, direct marketing to the rescue. Real time optimization is now the domain of the Brand Marketer. Brands can now select a few key brand metrics, measure impact continuously across creative units, sites, exposure frequency, and audience, and optimize in real time to improve results.

Optimization can be done manually by the Agency, or via demand side platforms. Some progressive agencies have even take this further by collaborating with publishers on real time optimization to deliver much stronger brand results.

Shifting Accountability to Brand Marketers

Brand Marketers used to have a real issue with digital—accountability. “What does it do for my brand ? How does it impact my sales?” Fair questions that, frankly, weren’t being answered very well until recently. Hence, the slower adoption of digital by the brand focused Marketing community.

The accountability debate has shifted—to Brand Marketers. There really is no reason, at least no measurement reason, that Brand Marketers shouldn’t be playing in digital—in a big way. Now Brand Marketers need to be accountable for measuring, understanding and improving the impact of their digital advertising.

And, let’s hope they fare better than I did with my monkey request. Because while my pet monkey was a lot of fun (and a blast at show and tell), I also spent an awful lot of time cleaning up his messes—at meal time and otherwise !

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Is Real Time Bidding the Future of Advertising?

August 23, 2010

One of the hotter trends in the on-line advertising field is the rise of real time bidding (RTB). One journalist, Nick Saint, even went so far as to headline a recent RTB article “The Rise of Real Time Bidding is the Biggest on-Line Advertising Story of 2010.” How important is RTB and could it ever move beyond the web?

Real Time Bidding: 2010 Online Advertising Trend

Real Time Bidding – What is It?

Real time bidding combines web browsing behavior, sophisticated algorithms, and ad inventory platforms which make it relatively easy for advertisers to bid on specific audience profiles in real time.

Key players in the RTB space include AdMeld, Invite Media (recently purchased by Google), and AdSafe. Advertisers use platforms like MediaMath which combines all of the relevant data—who advertisers want to target, how much they’re willing to pay, etc.–to make buying on-line inventory simple and fast.

Real Time Bidding: Web Browsing & Behavior Analytics

The RTB Value Chain

Conceptually, RTB makes a lot of sense:  why buy inventory impressions when you can buy against a much more targeted audience? Everyone benefits:

  • Publishers can sell targeted inventory at higher prices
  • Advertisers are willing to pay a premium to get more targeted ad coverage
  • Middlemen supply the platforms and technology and benefit as well

Setting aside privacy issues, which the Wall Street Journal and others have reported on recently, RTB is a classic case of how marketers can operate in a more efficient manner with the right information and technology.

The RTB Value Chain: Linking Web Behavior & Publisher Demand

What’s Wrong with RTB

Sounds great, right? Currently, RTB is essentially focused on better targeting. And better targeting is important. In fact, past analyses using single source data from the TV world would suggest that better targeting based on buyer behavior instead of demographics can increase advertising effectiveness by +10% or more. But, there are important areas where RTB currently fall short:

  1. RTB doesn’t Consider the Contextual Power of Content – As I’ve written about in other posts, content—in this case web page content–makes a big difference in how your ad performs. If content providers had access to data showing how ads perform on brand recall, purchase intent, etc. in different content, this data could easily be factored into the RTB buying algorithms to yield a better advertising outcome.
  2. RTB doesn’t Focus on Business Impact – Why stop at better targeting? If the data existed, why not buy media based on actual impact—either brand equity improvements or volume and share growth? In the past, the industry got hung up on click-thru rates as a surrogate for impact—a bad decision. But, the general intent was a good one—to more closely link the impression to actual performance. In an ideal world, advertisers would buy inventory not just against a target, but against real business impact.
  3. RTB is only On-Line – On-line is important and getting more so every day. But, for some categories like CPG, TV remains the medium of choice for driving high levels of reach very quickly at relatively low cost. For RTB to really have an impact, it will need to migrate out of on-line and into the world of TV. As TV morphs into an increasingly “networked” on-demand form of entertainment, this is becoming more and more plausible—albeit still a ways in the future.

RTB—Where Next?

RTB is a great concept and its beginning to come to life on-line. The AdMeld CEO estimates that the 2010 RTB market will be approximately $1B, so this is no longer a niche phenomenon. But for perspective, this is still only 4% of estimated on-line ad spend, and just a tiny fraction of the $55.8B TV advertising market in the U.S.

Real Time Bidding: Small Percentage of Online Media Spend

All of the shortcomings outlined above aren’t meant to suggest that RTB is a bad idea. Far from it, I think it’s a huge advance forward and one that we should watch very carefully.

For RTB to realize its logical potential, it will need to increasingly measure brand impact and cross into other mediums like TV. But the potential is truly enormous—imagine being able to buy media in real-time based on how it actually builds your brand and your Marketing ROI.

Now that would be nirvana for any CMO or CEO—whether it’s the biggest advertising story this year or any other year.

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