Advertising Technology

Start Making Sense

Photobucket's David TonerThe Makegood is pleased to welcome Photobucket’s Brad Davis and David Toner as monthly contributors to The Makegood. Brad Davis is CRO/ EVP-Sales, and David Toner is VP Marketing at Photobucket, one of the world’s leading dedicated photo and video sharing services. Look for their columns every fourth Tuesday on The Makegood. This is the first column written by David Toner.

For some time we have acknowledged that our target audiences are all charting their own courses, developing their own behaviors, and no longer coalescing around prime-time television. Even though I’ve been in “new media” for nearly 15 years, I am starting to miss those simpler, traditional days when you could look at a campaign snapshot in a single view. Sure, actual sales impact was elusive, but at least you knew when your ad ran, how many people saw it, and who it reached.

While some audiences (retirees come to mind) can still be reached through a “traditional” media plan, the majority of our target audiences have been dispersed by cable, blogs, social nets, mobile apps, over-the-top devices and cord cutting altogether. Even though this is common knowledge, it has still become increasingly difficult to adjust our tactics and to find our target audiences—let alone quantify the results.

In a New York Times story about media agency Collective’s own marketing campaign, the results of a recent Collective study put a sharper focus on this challenge. They concluded that campaign reach and frequency opportunities are now “spread across multiple devices and are defined by the consumer’s preferences, even relationships, with each device.” That is absolutely true, and, at the same time, alarming. How are we to know how each person feels about each device through which they consume media? And how can we target campaigns appropriately?

Since the late ’90s we have dreamed of and been promised addressable one-to-one advertising. As this study shows—and privacy concerns dictate—that marketing dream is becoming more challenging every day as screens continue to proliferate. Marketing campaigns are becoming more complex, and with various campaign elements standing alone they must work harder towards a cumulative impact. Some efforts will delight, some will inform and engage, while others must inspire action. With diverse creative messages in play, the media mix must be targeted to reach the right audience on the right device at the right time with the right message. Whew, that should be easy enough.

Which Screen Now?
Collective’s study found that multiscreen users outnumber TV-only users by 2.5 to 1. It also found that “the largest group of multiscreen users employ three screens, combining TV, online (computer), and smartphone.” If we then layer the number of networks (broadcast & cable), content sites, social nets, apps, email lists, and mobile web pages, the combination of ways to reach your target audience becomes exponential—or perhaps infinite.

What’s Working?
Lots of sales pitches tout “right message, right time” for individual components of bigger campaigns, so let’s assume we’re able to figure that part out. But with campaign elements spanning various devices and media channels, who and what is the ultimate arbiter of the campaign’s overall success? It becomes even more complex as many brands push deeply into social media, content creation and storytelling. Beyond paid media, we must also take into account owned and earned, each of which have their own costs (because, after all, nothing is really free, even including “owned” channels—have you added up production costs recently?), resource allocations, and campaign metrics. At the end of all of that, somehow we have to figure out how total cost balances against total benefit.

I have worked for global agencies, global brands, and Top 10 web publishers, but I have yet to see a cross platform solution that truly can plan, deliver and measure across multimedia.

Who Can It Be Now? Big Data to the Rescue?
Is Big Data really about helping us to figure out what’s working? Or is it at least one intended outcome of the proliferation of data around us? I have friends at major CPGs that are frightened by big data—wondering how we will ever understand it all. Ironically, CPGs have long been the marketers that did understand it all—consumer pain points, needs and intents—and they developed and analyzed the data they had over multi-year planning cycles. But no one has time for that today, because there’s simply too much data to make sense of it all, Besides, every industry is busy tending to their real-time marketing and monitoring customer engagement.

The Answer, My “Friends”
While I realize this will not make me (m)any friends at media agencies, or holding companies, or social listening firms, or publishers, or analytics firms, honestly there is only one possible solution for marketers—to manage and measure their holistic campaign results in-house. Individual campaign channels absolutely can and should be optimized on their own, but when a brand wants to view its marketing return in its entirety (or when the CFO demands to see a broader ROI) it is becoming increasingly difficult for any third party to have the full-picture view. But this is where the broader analytics belong, at the client level. That will empower each area of expertise, be it agency or partner, to maximize channel return and in turn contribute their results to the client tasked with monitoring and evaluating the complete picture. At least then, we have a process in place that gives us a fair chance to make sense of it all.