On Tuesday, April 16th, my colleague, Ariel Howard, and I attended the AMIN (Advertising and Marketing Independent Network) Integrated Conference where our CEO, Raquel Rosenthal, moderated a panel on how today’s independent agencies are leveraging newly emerging digital channels for their clients and what challenges and rewards come with integrating these channels into a brand’s media mix. The network, comprised of nearly thirty independent advertising agencies from across the country offering services ranging from creative, public relations, print, digital, and everything in between, joins together almost 100 senior marketers. Digilant was lucky enough to have a dynamic discussion between three of them:
- Walt McRoberts, EVP of Media Strategy at Richter7
- Paige Lawson, Media Supervisor at Slingshot
- Cheryl Tulipana, Media Director at Signal Theory
All expert media buying professionals, Walt, Paige, and Cheryl gave us their take on everything from digital audio, DOOH, influencer marketing, programmatic TV, first party data modeling, personalization, attribution, and more. This is our summary of what was said and what we took away from the event. The responses from the panelists are not a word for word account of what was said upon answering each question.
Raquel kicked off the panel asking the group the following:
What new channels excite you personally and what will you be using more in 2019?
Cheryl jumped in first and talked about the excitement that she and her team at Signal Theory have around the advancements being made in programmatic TV, specifically leveraging OTT platforms through CTV (Connected TV). After working on an addressable TV campaign for six years targeting rural households of cattle producers through purchasing ad inventory on linear television in counties with high cattle populations, the prospect of executing a campaign that reaches the same audience leveraging the individual viewing habits of users within a DMA and deterministic matching to increase conversions and ROAS is highly appealing. Paige echoed Cheryl’s excitement surrounding CTV, noting that for Slingshot it has facilitated the connection of the digital and broadcast worlds. Audio Content Recognition (ACR) allows her agency to get a better understanding of what content audiences have been exposed to while they’re watching TV and then remarket to these audiences while they’re scrolling through Instagram and other social platforms on their mobile device and watching video content in their living room.
Despite privacy being a top concern for consumers and advertisers in today’s market, Walt loves that things are getting highly personalized in the digital space through multilayer targeting. A few years back, he and his colleagues were discussing a whiskey brand in the office and a half hour later began receiving banner ads for the brand. With home assistants becoming a standard item in U.S. homes, the opportunities that voice search marketing presents are very promising.
Which new channels present the greatest challenges, inefficiencies, or unknowns for your clients’ marketing efforts?
Influencer marketing is one channel that Cheryl feels is going downhill quickly, with frequent cases of what should come across as a genuine endorsement of a brand turning into a “DJ testimonial.” Although a lot of her clients are interested in adding it to their media mix, if it’s not authentic, then influencer marketing can go bad really quickly. It needs to make sense and brands need to partner with an influencer who will be a true evangelist of their product or service.
Paige noted that one of the biggest hurdles her team has when presenting new channels is navigating concerns that the channel won’t naturally integrate into the client’s media mix. She chimed back to what Walt mentioned regarding the high levels of personalization and targeting that can be achieved through mediums like voice that some clients think will come across as invasive. Although similar levels of data collection may be occurring through other channels that they’re already running media on, their mindsets aren’t there yet.
Walt also struggles with explaining to clients the benefits of more niche channels, such as DOOH. If there isn’t a billboard on their way into work or right outside of their office, they don’t want to do it. However, now that these new types of inventory are biddable, brands are slowly beginning to come around to them. Additionally, trying to define what OTT is and what it isn’t, while also explaining how different platforms like Hulu fit into it, has been a challenge.
How are traditional channels working with digital channels and are they starting to merge? Are the budgets still broken out and siloed, or is it treated as one budget planned by one media team.
Although budgets are continuously shifting to be more digitally-focused, Cheryl underscored that you can’t put everything into digital and need to have a robust media mix. The Signal Theory media planning team decides what forms of media they’ll run on through thorough research of their clients’ customers’ behavior. Their planners are channel agnostic and both plan and buy for the client to provide a holistic view of the campaign from start to finish. Paige said that her team members work similarly. Everything is planned around campaign goals and they often set up flowcharts broken out by video for example, where digital video, broadcast, and other mediums are all included together rather than divided out by traditional and digital. For Walt, traditional and digital have merged together based on where they can best reach different target audiences. With the rise of cord cutting and expansion of OTT platforms it’s harder to market to younger through traditional TV advertising, so a single campaign aiming to reach a broad range of age demographics will involve purchasing ads on channels like Hulu through CTV and linear TV to younger and older audiences respectively.
Do you have an attribution strategy for media performance across channels?
There’s still a long way to go to make implementing multi-touch attribution for omni-channel media buying campaigns a seamless process. Cheryl and Paige note that there’s so much data required from the client across the board from offline to online efforts that all contribute to sales, but more often than not clients associate results with last touch attribution. Paige cites a campaign of a client that wanted to drive form completions of home leasing applications that saw programmatic display as the last touchpoint before converting. Although they were using additional channels, like audio and video, they couldn’t directly see that without those higher funnel tactics, their conversion rate would be lower.
Client data is the most powerful data out there. Let’s talk about our clients giving us access so we can reach their audience.
A commonality in the responses from each panelist was that there’s generally a want from both the advertiser and the agency to have the brand’s first party data shared, however, clients don’t know how to handle their data or aren’t fully equipped to do so. In these instances, Cheryl’s team pulls in members of their analytics team to explain to their account managers what reporting and insights will look like based on the data to which they do have access. If CRM data or an email list can be shared that’s most helpful, but otherwise Paige and her colleagues at Slingshot will use second or third party data to make their campaigns as smart as possible, customizing targeting and messaging to reach customers in a more personalized and relevant way.
At Richter7 the degree to which they’ve been able to leverage first party data has been truly unique to each client according to Walt. He’s had clients that face restrictions when even simply exporting email lists to those that have gathered data from their POS systems along with users’ matching credit card data to create audiences based on loyalty and then load those custom audiences to Facebook to then activate the data to run campaigns against them. Having access to this level of granular data yields incredible insights and can help him and his team decide where digital media is or isn’t working.
Before the event concluded, Raquel opened up the discussion to receive questions from the audience.
To what degree are you telling clients in advance that you’ll be able to hit a conversion goal beyond awareness?
Given the multifaceted nature of the campaigns that agencies are taking on in 2019, all of the panelists emphasized that it’s difficult to determine what they can promise to deliver to their clients beyond awareness. Despite some clients asking to receive guaranteed lifts in sales, Cheryl and Walt both said that they instead establish front end benchmarks for KPIs that they determine by referencing industry research or historical data from previous campaigns. Although it’s a challenging conversation to have with the client, it’s essential to be transparent. Paige mentioned that benchmarks can vary greatly depending on vertical, market size, and other factors, so rather than guaranteeing a precise number of people moving into homes, like a performance marketing or guaranteed lead program, they’ll instead offer up an estimated conversion rate based off of similar campaigns.
Although the discussion could have gone on for much longer, we wanted to respect our panelists’ time and allow them to enjoy the rest of the conference. As campaign solutions analysts and managers, we gained a lot of insight into the evolving needs of today’s independent agencies and are excited to apply what we learned into our day to day work executing digital media buying campaigns on these new channels for our clients at Digilant.
Interested in learning about how your brand or agency can create and execute an innovative omni-channel digital media buying campaigns? Feel free to reach out to us about our custom programmatic offerings here.