In the old days of buying technology, there was one decision-maker: the CIO. As the only person in charge of implementing the product/software, CIOs didn't need input from other departments. And truthfully, they didn't want it either.
Today's business world is much different. Technology expands far beyond engineering and information technology, especially for retail. Marketing technology is fast becoming the standard for retailers and other B2C companies aiming to connect with their target audience. In fact, a recent article in eMarketer stated that desktops, laptops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones, wearables, kiosks, and mobile-payment devices impacted 28 percent of all sales in 2014. Overall, digital device use influenced $1.7 trillion in in-store retail sales and will influence 64 percent of all in-store sales this year.
The future of retail success relies heavily on marketing technology. As a result, the marketing department now has more decision-making power than IT when it comes to choosing a marketing tech platform. This may have sounded crazy 10 years ago, but today it's standard procedure. Simple programming with awful marketing results won't work. Impossible programming with superb marketing results won't work either. You need to find a common ground: A marketing tech solution that meets every departmental demand.
This article explores the needs of the primary stakeholders within a typical retail organization. Each individual will have unique objectives and perspectives on whether the platform will add value or make life more difficult. The one thing they do have in common? That's easy. They all must say "yes" in the end.
The following represents each spoke of the wheel to buying marketing tech:
Perhaps the most influential of the group, the CMO oversees the entire marketing strategy. Digital, print, TV, and mobile all fall under the CMO's omni-channel umbrella, so your marketing tech better offer a comprehensive solution for everything right off the bat. Here are some common yet fundamental questions that should be answered without hesitation:
The CMO is the be-all and end-all of selling your platform. Your pitch isn't finished yet, but if you get the green light here you've cleared the tallest hurdle of the bunch.
The VP or Director of Marketing will typically have more specific questions about the software and how you stack up to other vendors. Some directors may be in charge of their own channel, such as mobile, desktop, or paid (display ads), so make sure to prepare accordingly. Case studies are the perfect answer to any industry-related inquiry as all marketers want to know what their competitors are up to.
Measurability is also a key focus with this group. Data will continue to be at the forefront of marketing software so be ready to prove your technology measures up. This group will want to know:
Marketing may be holding the reins on this purchase, but information technology will definitely have their say. As mentioned above, no marketing magic can take place if IT blocks implementation. IT will want your solution to seamlessly integrate with their existing vendors. They will also want to know their developers will have the tools they need to implement and manage the platform. In short -- they want to know:
Major stakeholders aside, several other folks will certainly be involved in deciding whether a marketing tech solution makes sense for the business. The chief revenue officer or VP of sales will assess the cost/benefit to implement and use solution. Legal will analyze your contract, honing in on the T&Cs -- particularly indemnification and data security. Anything with potential to jeopardize the overall business will slow down your progress. And despite the changes in tech purchasers over the years, the CIO could still show up in these meetings. Their line of questioning could mimic IT, while encompassing the interests of other higher level stakeholders, so be prepared.
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Despite attempts to defeat fraud, advertisers still pay as much as $6 billion each year for non-human traffic, according to the Association of National Advertisers.
One of the primary reasons fraud exists is due in part to digital advertising's overreliance on third-party cookies and the ability to easily manipulate them by bots. In spite of an emergence of groups and tools to block cookies and channels (no third-party cookies on mobile) that lessen their impact, cookies are still the backbone of digital advertising. They're the centerpiece of marketers' ability to track consumer behavior and appropriately target personalized content and offers. They are also the nervous system of analytics platforms, research firms, conversion trackers, ad verification tools, ad networks, and retargeting companies.
The cookie was never intended to be used at this type of scale, or to be a red herring for digital marketers, but here we are and you better be on the lookout!
Advertising fraud exists in many forms, as we know. Fraudsters can infect computers to create botnets that allow them to count -- and get paid for -- non-human impressions they drive to targeted websites. Fraudsters can mask their own websites with the domain names of whitelisted sites to funnel money from advertisers by acting as a premium publisher. In some cases, they might embed toolbars and browser extensions with ad injectors that siphon ad revenue away from publisher sites. There are many variations of ad fraud, but all tend to have the same goal -- to steal money from publishers and advertisers.
So what would happen if we were to eliminate the third-party cookie? Would it limit the amount of advertising fraud that happens throughout the ecosystem? Simply said, no.
Cookie-less targeting is on the rise, primarily to connect users across devices using first-party data, log-in, and various types of audience modeling techniques. Attempts at developing alternatives to the cookie have been made to differing degrees of success -- Verizon's unique identifier header (UIDH) is one notorious example. DigiTrust Group, Google, and Facebook have good intentions, but are all subject to the same challenges as the cookie.
Bots are smart. They evolve. They can sneak up on unsuspecting consumers in a variety of ways. You can do away with the cookie altogether, or develop something to replace its functionality, and it will not stop them. There's always a chance that a Trojan horse virus could be attached to a questionable email. Both consumers and publishers will continue to be targeted by fraudsters and botnets in order to make a profit.
The industry must strive to find new ways of gathering data, even if it's anonymous, to prove who is a real person. Being able to discern which browser, device, and operating system a person uses, or their IP address, will help to separate the bots from real people. Even things like offering rewards to consumers when they opt-in to exchange accurate information about themselves with brands, will go a long way in addressing fraud.
U.S. internet ad revenue reached a massive $49.5 billion record last year and when there is money like that on the table, fraud will undoubtedly follow. Regardless of whether or not the cookie remains a key ingredient in digital advertising, fraudsters will target publishers, advertisers, and consumers because of the stakes.
Instead of blaming the cookie, everyone in the digital advertising ecosystem has to remain vigilant, and be on the lookout for bad actors who prey on the unsuspecting and stand in the way of a free and open internet. New forms of fraud are being created every day. In order to beat the bots, third-party traffic sources must continually be verified, blacklists have to be updated regularly, and behavioral patterns at the impression level need to be examined to pinpoint bot sources. Diligence in identifying sources of fraud and educating yourself about how to prevent it is still the first line of defense in the fight against fraud.
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Who can't relate to the feeling you get when you're engaged in a customer service battle with a brand you once loved? Often, one bad experience with a company can ruin the entire relationship. Sadly, these instances are not one-offs and carry common themes.
Discover the most reoccurring qualities that make for unbearable customer service and why you need to structure your team, culture, and attitudes to avoid these pitfalls.
Ask most advertising pundits or creative directors what product category is the most innovative and very few will point to pharmaceuticals.
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs is legal only in two world markets: the United States and New Zealand. In the U.S., DTC ads are highly regulated, and governing bodies like the Food and Drug Administration are often behind the times when it comes to issuing guidelines about what can and can't be done with digital ads. Advertisers and their agencies are often left guessing about the role they can prescribe for digital ads, sometimes clashing with in-house legal teams at the manufacturer when ads push the envelope.
So when a solid creative idea or digital strategy emerges in pharma, it's doubly impressive -- the equivalent of creating an artistic masterpiece with a hand tied behind one's back.
Perhaps it makes sense to look at pharma with an eye toward creativity because making digital ads work in this category isn't easy, and some of the concepts and campaigns that come out of it can give us great insight into important aspects of both brand advertising and direct response. Here are a few campaigns that broke the mold.
iMedia traveled to thinkLA's Programmatic Summit and spoke with Scott Cunningham, general manager of the IAB Technology Laboratory. He sheds some light on the moves the company is making to help advertisers address the growing problem of ad fraud and bots in programmatic and some key ways marketers can protect their impressions.
While most people spent their summer adventuring on family vacations or lounging poolside, those of us on the publisher tech side of digital advertising were busy conquering the new innovative landscape of "header bidding." Since the term entered our collective conscious in mid-June when AdExchanger predicted it would lead to the "end of the publisher waterfall," the ad tech industry has been awash with articles and announcements about different companies launching this new technology (also referred to as pre-bid, advance, or tag-less bidding). As the summer fades and school is back in session, it is appropriate (and timely) to educate the industry with a primer on what header bidding is and what it actually means for publishers.
In the most elementary terms, it is technical implementation that allows a publisher to receive bids from multiple demand partners at the impression level, before making a call to their ad server. Anyone who has taken an intro to economics course may recall that when demand increases, prices rise. So as more buyers participate in the auction, the market will dictate higher CPMs for the publisher's inventory.
I don't know anyone who does not want to increase efficiency, but with Q4 quickly approaching, publishers need to be strategic and selective with their investments. So why should we as an industry invest in header bidding? It all comes down to the money, and header bidding provides significant lift for publishers. When programmatic demand is able to bid on each impression, it can compete against a publisher's internal and direct sold demand in real time. Referring back to our basic economic principal, more demand leads to higher yield for publishers.
Additionally, header bidding eliminates passbacks. With tag-based buys, when a network or exchange cannot fill an impression (or cannot reach a determined CPM floor), the impression gets defaulted back (or passed back) to the publisher's ad server to be filled elsewhere. Each of these additional ad calls requires ad serving fees that the publisher had to cover. Header bidding combines demand into a single auction within the ad server itself, thus eliminating passback costs and ultimately improving margins for the publisher.
Would a formula help? Let's try this one out:
Higher demand = Higher CPMs
Fewer ad calls = Lower ad-serving fees
Higher CPMs + Lower ad-serving fees = More profit
While there are many benefits of header bidding for publishers, the practice is not without its challenges. As with any new technological solution, there are growing pains and additional learnings that the industry needs to make, and future header bidding iterations will no doubt surpass and outperform those that exist today. The primary obstacles publishers face when implementing pre-bid solutions involve implementation and latency.
Setting up a header bidding partner is by no means a simple task, and Technorati recently found that over 45 percent of publishers are frustrated that their programmatic demand partners cannot compete with each other on an impression-level. Header bidding companies are making the process easier through APIs and aggregation, reducing the headache for publishers who are interested in implementing pre bid solutions.
Once integrated, any additional code in the site header (which loads before page content) can result in increased latency and a poor user experience for site visitors. Header bidding companies have all but eradicated this issue with sophisticated timeout thresholds, so publishers integrating today do not see the same increased load times that were experienced by early adopters.
Despite the challenges that exist, one thing is clear: we are in the season of the header bidder. Publishers across the internet are schooling the competition by maximizing yield without changing their site's user experience, all with minimal hands-on work required for implementation. The market now needs to study up on the features and benefits of header bidding and embrace the monetization opportunities that header bidding offers to publishers.
In our interconnected, digital world businesses are being challenged to meet the increasing demands and expectations people have from the products and services they consume. To build customer loyalty, retention, and business sustainability, businesses need to humanize their brands. Not only must businesses provide quality products and services, they must emotionally connect and align with their customers' values, fulfill their aspirations, operate with transparency, and deliver exceptional customer experiences. With so many new digital touch points being added to the customer journey each day, how can brands assure they are constantly innovating and evolving to meet the needs of today's consumer? And, how are employees being equipped to deliver customer experiences that satisfy customer needs and demands?
Even in the digital age, we must not forget that it is still about the people. Consumers are people with specific needs and desires. Businesses are groups of people who provide products and services to satisfy those needs and desires. Employees are people striving to find purpose and fulfillment in their work, while trying to satisfy their own needs and desires. Our society is a collective group of people bound together by our unified values, vision, and purpose. And, our culture is the manifestation of society's shared perspective and common behaviors, all of which influences how your customers and employees interact and engage with one another. Businesses need to understand the systemic influences that affect the customer experience and the impact it can have on business performance.
Here we will uncover the five essential practices required to establish a purpose-driven brand to improve the customer experience.
An advertisement -- whether it's a banner ad, video pre-roll, mobile pop-up, or anything else -- needs to be viewed by a consumer for it to be valuable for the company placing the ad. But does that mean advertisers should only pay for ads that are "viewable"? The answer is complicated.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines a viewable ad as at least 50 percent in-view for at least one second. Even with a standard in place, vendors measuring performance use their own proprietary means for calculating "viewability" scores. Despite commonalities, no two vendors net the same score. It's up to advertisers, agencies, and their ad-tech partners to determine which viewability vendors are providing the most accurate score. These scores are not just important post-ad placement. In the programmatic space, knowing in advance if the ad is viewable is key. Vendors have rolled out pre-bid viewability targeting as a result, and programmatic buying platforms should have this capability.
Viewability is not an issue for advertisers and ad-tech companies to solve alone. Publishers are reacting to the demand for more viewable inventory. Some are redesigning their websites to promise higher numbers of ads in view, even guaranteeing viewable space.
Should advertisers only buy from exchanges or publishers guaranteeing viewable inventory? Of course not, and especially not in programmatic buying. Viewability is only part of the equation in making a decision of when and where to place an ad. If you have a segment of highly responsive users, like shopping cart "abandoners," it might still be a high-value ad buy even if the viewability score is not at 100 percent. You risk missing a potential convertor, and possibly at a lower CPM, for the sake of one metric like viewability.
For clarity, just because an impression does not get scored as viewable -- or doesn't have a high probability of being viewable -- doesn't mean the user didn't view the impression. We recognize that this is a confusing issue because viewability is based on a variety of methodologies that often include some consideration of probability. So when buying in the programmatic space, viewability is not necessarily the primary score that should be used, although it can certainly be a valuable metric.
There is a false conflation of viewability and fraud -- meaning that sometimes the market has believed that when an impression is viewable, it is by nature not fraudulent. This is not the case, and it's important to understand that the two things are not the same. Fraudsters have become wise to the fact that markets care about viewable ads, leading to a new type of fraud: view fraud. They can easily manipulate web behavior in order to pad a flimsy viewability metric. In fact, a 2014 study by White Ops reveals that when examining the viewability score of fraudulent entities versus real humans, the fraud actually exhibited a higher viewability.
In the programmatic space, we can swiftly push aside view fraud as an issue by optimizing to real advertiser outcomes, which are harder to manipulate. Optimizing to outcomes such as product purchases or validated account sign-ups are two great examples. Even for brand marketers, or those without online purchases to measure, a curated list of other success metrics can be used; downloads, email submissions, content viewed on site, time spent on site, and pages viewed are all such examples. These are much better success indicators than viewability.
In either case, a marketer can introduce A/B testing in order to see what benefit the media served had over an unexposed group. This methodology is easy to implement, with one nice byproduct being that in order to optimize to real outcomes, the ad has to actually be seen in order to prove lift. Even media at a slightly lower percentage viewed can drive better performance lift if the audience is more responsive.
In addition to A/B testing, you can also consider scrubbing out any conversions where the ad was deemed unviewable. While not perfect, due to the technical limitations described earlier, the focus on the viewability-required business outcome will promote better media planning decisions for future campaigns.
Publishers understand that viewable ads are in high demand, so they charge a premium for this inventory, often in the form of private marketplace deals. In cases where publishers are charging a fixed CPM or high floor price, the money you spent to pay that premium likely overshadows any waste you might have encountered from purchasing open-market non-viewable ads. Choosing a better KPI should solve for viewability by default, but there are still some marketers fixated on 100 percent viewability as a goal.
Unfortunately, percentages don't tell you anything about media cost. If you are able to achieve 80 percent viewability, but at half the cost, and consequently serve more of those highly responsive cart abandoners, why would we necessarily care about achieving 100 percent viewability? You may argue that the more expensive ads are more "premium" in nature, but without considering additional KPIs, what does premium even mean? In an ideal world, we'd be serving 100 percent viewable ads to every user we identify to be high value. However, due to the vendor and supply constraints described earlier, this simply isn't feasible in the present state of the market.
The pursuit of high viewability might be worthwhile, but instead of relying simply on a percentage metric to define success, remember what outcomes you are ultimately trying to achieve. Being able to tout 100 percent viewability does not get you any closer to driving true business outcomes, and in fact, can distract you from the metrics that do correlate to your outcomes -- finding the right audience, supply mix, and creative messaging, and then valuing each element appropriately.
Eric Picard is vice president of product planning for omni-channel media at MediaMath. Co-author Mike Monaco is MediaMath's vice president of programmatic strategy and optimization, and co-author Ari Buchalter is president of technology at the company.
Which companies are dominating the social sphere today? The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
"Buffer is the company that I think other brands should emulate. It interacts with its audience, shares useful content, and participates in regular Twitter chats. You can see its Twitter account, @Buffer."
"Dollar Shave Club, which according to investors is now worth $615 million, used social media fueled by its YouTube video to get its brand message out there. It is the perfect example of how a simple idea matched with a creative social media strategy can equal huge growth. Its concept is so simple -- and its social marketing pushed it right to the top."
"Airbnb uses social media flawlessly to drive its branding of 'Belong Anywhere.' Its Instagram features a continuous flow of beautiful images of host homes across the globe, often in remote and stunning places. While other people peddle products, its posts inspire me to travel and show me how reachable these far off places really are."
"I really like how Rent the Runway's social media is not overdone. It never over posts and aren't trying to constantly sell you via social media. It also has a very clean and crisp platform that includes inspiring pictures of its consumers with the product. I love how it incorporates real people into its social media outreach."
"Warby Parker is a NYC-based sunglasses and eyewear company that stepped out onto the scene a few years back. Throughout its social media strategy, it focuses on encouraging user-generated content that drives brand awareness. It pushes its users to share photos of their new glasses, create contests for the best pictures shared, and much more. This creates a strong bond with its customers."
"Simply Measured does a great job of producing excellent content that can be shared on social media. Naturally, as a social analytics company, it receives a lot of great data about what's happening on social media, including the top trending topics. However, it's what it does with it that makes it effective. It regularly churn out blogs, infographics, and much more unique content to be shared."
"HotelTonight does a great job of appealing to a younger, travel-hungry audience with a simple outreach campaign that's easy to remember: Snap Your Stay. Its Facebook page is full of pictures of its customers enjoying its service. The lesson is that a simple slogan and great customer outreach can build your follower counts exponentially."
"Hootsuite is a great example of a company that eats its own food. When it comes to their social media, its posts are always visual, engaging, and insightful. It frequently shares useful tips on how to create great social media content and engage with followers, and its posts are always crafted uniquely for each of its different platforms, like Facebook and Twitter."
"From inspirational/motivational content, to contests, to relevant articles and tutorials, Shopify's social media profiles are worth studying and using as an inspiration for other startups. For example, there are posts like this one with close to 30,000 views. From humor to creativity, Shopify's Facebook profile has it all."
"ClassPass has a great social presence. It's not just about the deals! It looks to use its blog content, partner promotions, as well as events and promotions of its own. It's constantly engaging with its customers and partners. It's a fun community to be a part of."
"Quest Nutrition is a fun fitness company that has created a cult following over the past few years. It started doing social media in 2013, and it's been growing rapidly ever since to more than 1 million Facebook fans. With fun recipes, contests, and hashtags like #CheatClean, people post pictures with their Quest products in hopes of being featured on its pages. User-generated content is crucial."
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There's no debating the fact that content is not only a hot topic, but an essential part of digital strategy. Advertising effectiveness is on the decline, a trend fueled by a myriad of factors ranging from consumer control (and a subsequent unwillingness to be interrupted) to banner blindness, click fraud, and ad blocking software -- very much in the news currently thanks to Apple's new iOS 9.
As ads in paid media diminish in effectiveness, marketers are forced to confront new ways to connect with customers. This can be via owned media, i.e., pure content marketing; earned media, defined as social or PR, when sharing and/or input is requested from the audience; or forms of converged media, such as promoted posts in social or native advertising on publisher channels; or paying influencers to promote owned and earned content.
Regardless of the channel or medium, content is the one element that cannot be absent from the marketing equation. Paid, owned, earned -- without content, there's nothing. Advertising without content is empty time or space. What else is advertising, after all, than renting time or space from a publisher or broadcaster to inset a message in the form of content?
Social platforms, search, email, websites and microsites, apps, all are mere containers for content. If there's no content in these channels, it's the digital equivalent of dead air.
Where things get murky, however, is the cost of all this content. It's surprising how many in this industry see cost as a straight apples-to-apples comparison. The prevailing fallacy is if you take a dollar out of the advertising budget, and that means an extra dollar for the content budget. But it just doesn't work that way. That dollar gets reduced significantly. What trickles down to content is only maybe five to 15 cents.
Content is just plain cheaper than advertising, which is why that dollar is subject to a hefty exchange rate. Both content in earned and owned media require an investment, just as does creative (which is, let's face it, just a fancier word for content) in advertising. But strip away the cost of the media buy -- the highest-ticket item in marketing, and there's most of your budget right there.
Content isn't cheap. "Just hire a blogger" has long since ceded to videographers, developers (both web and app), graphic designers, photographers, and others skill sets more technical and specialized than basic writing ability. But absent that media buy, content will almost always, without exception, be cheaper than advertising.
Content requires tools, however. I've mapped the vast vendor landscape. However, this investment, which can be significant, isn't generally part of a budget line item for content. Instead, it's filed under marketing technology or a similar line item.
Few organizations have content departments or divisions, another reason it's so difficult to tease out those content numbers. Jobs with "content" or "editor" in the title are sharply on the rise, but they tend to hover at the manager or director level. That will change, and roles will become more senior, but not for another year or two.
Content remains more everything than it does its own thing -- in other words, until it's cordoned off into a defined discipline with a budget, a staff, and its own line items, it will remain extremely difficult to quantify what content budgets really are. From company to company, sector to sector, budget to budget, your mileage will vary.
Still, no matter how you slice it, more and more marketing dollars are pouring into content. Less into paid, more into owned and earned. And there's no end in sight to that trend.
Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor.
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