TargetCast tcm’s Audrey Siegel on Building Consumer Engagement

Audrey_SiegelAudrey Siegel is the President and co-founder of TargetCast tcm, a full service media agency delivering communications strategies and marketplace tactics. As President, Audrey oversees the day-to-day management of all client activity and is directly responsible for agency staffing and training. The Makegood recently spoke with Audrey about how TargetCast tcm differentiates itself in the advertising world and what the industry’s future holds.

The Makegood: How do you determine consumers’ mindsets, find connection opportunities, and determine the best timing and channel for them to receive messages?

TargetCast approaches all aspects of planning and buying from the operating principle of “Opt In Messaging,” believing that a message isn’t delivered unless it is received. We mine all available public and syndicated data sources as well as develop and field custom research studies to identify those “Aperture Moments” when the consumer is most open to receiving the brand’s message.  For each discrete product and category, the Aperture Moment will be unique, though the consumer might be the same.  For example, a woman between the ages of 25-34 will likely be open to receiving a message about a beauty product in a different context and setting than a message about travel opportunities.  Additionally, because of advanced online targeting technologies available today, and our ability to utilize initial consumer intent to message that consumer through behaviorally targeted media within the appropriate context, we are equally mindful of placing the most relevant message in that context for the biggest impact. We are attentive to the fact that consumer behavior is not static and the communication they use or gravitate toward will be fluid.  While we always begin with well-founded research, we monitor in-market activity on an ongoing basis to observe changes in behavior and media usage.  This allows us to affect optimization in near-real time, and enhance consumer-brand connections.

The Makegood: Why is cross-media fluency so important today, what is the biggest challenge for companies, and how do they get ahead of the game?

As a modern media agency born in the digital age, TargetCast had the advantage of creating its practice without silos from the start.  We believe that all communications planning flows from unified brand strategy, and that media should be considered holistically.  Our staff is organized to allow optimum exchange of ideas and information across all forms of communication.  Much as in learning a language, we believe that we must immerse ourselves in all media forms to become fully fluent and marketplace ready.

Research and planning staff are trained to be cross-fluent using a variety of methods, including ongoing internal and external training, webinar and seminar attendance, and most importantly hands-on experience.  Teams are constructed around brand/client responsibility, with all planning staff reporting to a unified Group Director.  Subject matter experts in national and local media implementation –  including television/video, search and all forms of digital media (display, social, mobile) – work closely with brand groups and across media to ensure optimum delivery of each plan.  Our hiring practices and talent management efforts fully support our practice.

For companies with legacy structures that clearly separate on/offline communication, as well as planning and buying disciplines, it is a challenge to restructure and create integrated staffing organizations.  There will be a level of discomfort among the staff and the best way to overcome it begins with full management support of the new structure, including training and careful consideration to all talent management efforts.

As client needs continue to evolve rapidly, cross-media fluency is increasingly important for a media agency in today’s ever changing marketplace.   Gone are the days where different media types fit neatly into specific tactical buckets.  Here to stay is the robust dialogue between client and agency partners to determine the right holistic, strategic approach to market with the corresponding tactics to support that strategy.  As new technologies are created and mature, an agency’s ability to examine different opportunities, rationalize budget across on and offline media with a unified agency voice and set appropriate strategies will be ever more important.  Cross media fluency ensures a team is well versed in all aspects of media strategy, planning and buying to best serve the client and elevate campaign success year over year.

The Makegood: You found that in digital, you can cause action, not just awareness. How do you apply these findings?

In all communication efforts, we are looking to cause action.  These may include creating and increasing awareness, changing consumer perception, encouraging direct action through site visits and on-line purchase, as well as generating word-of-mouth or other social behavior.

We track and trend online consumer behavior to determine those placements and messages that best contribute to each KPI, and then optimize each campaign to maximize those behaviors.  We explore the relationship between search behavior and other online metrics to continuously optimize that important element of the communication, and use various forms of attribution modeling and behavioral tracking to identify areas of success.  We then apply proprietary messaging techniques to dynamically serve relevant messages throughout the consumer online path.

The Makegood: Congratulations on being one of the 2013 Agencies to Watch (Ad Age). How do you think differently and what can others learn from you?

There are five important key elements that set us apart from other media agencies: 1) senior level attention to all client business, 2) grounding of all communication plans in relevant research identifying Aperture Moments of message receptivity, 3) fully cross-fluent practice born in the modern digital age, 4) open-source partnership with creative agency partners, and 5) broad depth of accessible resources within parent company MDC Partners.

We are good listeners, and good partners, to our clients.  Without self-interest, we are fully supportive of achieving client objectives, and do not promote one medium vs. another or one research tactic vs. another. We begin all campaign development from a media neutral position, understanding the consumer behavior and brand objectives that will drive communication efforts.  We do not believe that success in the past with one strategy should preclude original thinking moving forward.  We encourage collaboration between all disciplines, and with all client partners, enjoying effective give-and-take with brand creative agency partners to develop effective marketplace implementation.

The Makegood: You provide best-in-class strategy, tools and implementation. Can you give an example of a project you are especially proud of?

Honestly, it is hard to pick one, as we work equally as hard for all our clients.  Perhaps the key to our success in this area is our operating premise that “nothing is impossible,” and our creativity in crafting innovative solutions for client marketing challenges.

For example, when a client was willing to share their own rich database of customers, we were able to take that information and develop a proprietary blended Nielsen/Best Customer Database to create actionable customer ratings, and enhance both our planning and buying processes.  In another case, we created a multi-country awareness tracking methodology, to enable our client to track, trend and ultimately optimize messaging beyond borders.  And in yet another instance, we softened the boundaries between content and messaging to afford a B-to-B client the opportunity to create innovative communication opportunities.

Our approach, which is grounded in transparent client partnership and honest communication between our teams and their respective clients, helped to successfully bring these ideas to fruition.  While certainly our best-in-class strategy, tools and implementation are a big part of that success, strong client engagement ensures all team members (internal and external) are focused on the same goal.

The Makegood: What can new and old media learn from one another and what’s next in consumer engagement?

The most important learning for all communication practitioners is that we must align on brand objectives, consumer strategies and effective metrics, at the outset.   Keeping the consumer in the center of all communications efforts will lead us to more successful marketing campaigns.

It is important for media to stop feuding, and to recognize that the digitization of communications will ultimately lead to more effective and consumer relevant efforts.  We will continue to experience an evolving communication landscape, and must look for multiple ways to test, learn and apply findings for all brands.  This is the time to make new media opportunities affordable for clients to test and learn how to maximize the effectiveness of their campaigns.

What is next in consumer engagement?  It seems the more things change the more they go back to some of the original ideas of effective advertising. No longer can an advertiser take the chance and invest all of their dollars as a single sponsor of a television program, magazine issue or radio personality.

We can have increased brand involvement with the content, encouraging engagement whether it is through hashtags, contests or twitter conversations.   However, we must simultaneously be mindful of overstepping our bounds with consumers, respecting the privacy and their entertainment experience.  Using any of these tactics requires that advertisers must be constantly monitoring activity to make sure relevancy is maintained, and consumers are leaning forward, and not pulling away.

These are exciting times in our industry, and we at TargetCast are certainly leaning forward on behalf of our clients.

The Makegood: Thank you, Audrey