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Programmatic media executions have been fraught with scrutiny and held to standards that direct digital buys have not typically experienced. In the past, skepticism, fear, and distrust of technology have given programmatic a bad name, making the term synonymous with less desirable inventory. However, the general sense of the ease and efficiency that programmatic affords has led many brands and agencies to take programmatic in-house. 

Brands wanting more transparency and control over media buys have decided to take ownership of every part of programmatic execution. With this ownership comes the dedication of an immense amount of time and resources essential to building a successful operation. Many brands have achieved and thrived in this ownership, but it's crucial to understand that although running a self-service operation is appealing, it may not be the right option for all brands across the board.

While an in-house self-service enterprise offers more insight and intelligence into media buys, it takes time, money, and resources to fully develop and maintain. The truth is that many marketers that say they do programmatic in-house really only have a login or two to a DSP, and continue to operate via IO's. They have not established seamless or long-standing relationships with partners, nor are they necessarily pulling the execution levers themselves. Self-service programmatic, in this sense, does not mean that the work of managing tech and vendors goes away; it just means someone new internally is responsible with the right tools and background to have it run smoothly.

First and foremost, whether programmatic is done in-house or via a managed service offering, marketers should have access to the right technology for a campaign's success. This means partnering with multiple DSPs, SSPs, publishers, third-party verification vendors, measurement solutions, and many others to maintain the advantages that come with choice. This approach also attains a holistic view of what is necessary in successful programmatic executions. Forging and curating these relationships requires a dedicated partnership team that is responsible for constantly vetting, evaluating, and keeping up with the multitude of new offerings, existing vendor updates, and technological advancements.

Brands must also be educated about the full particulars of trading media -- the when, where, what, and how that goes into executing programmatic campaigns. The knowledge and skill needed to manipulate data, deliver to the proper venues, and use the best technology to drive performance is crucial to running a successful programmatic in-house execution. Managing these moving parts demands a knowledgeable and experienced operation of account managers, traders, and data scientists that provide strategic, analytical, and technical support across all aspects of campaign execution.

Finally, marketers should have transparency into the various points of media execution. Transparency not only refers to media cost, but insight into the actual implementation of a campaign -- the creative upload and tagging process, the targeting set-up on various platforms, the optimizations being made to drive performance, the wrap-up reporting, and the strategy moving forward. From beginning to end, it is imperative to understand where, how, and when media is running to ensure maximum return on spend and future success. Partners can often obscure how impressions are transacted. It is important for brands to keep them honest and require insight into their methodology and inner workings of campaign delivery.

Achieving programmatic expertise, acquiring the right technology, and learning trading best practices while successfully hiring, maintaining, and growing the right talent is much harder than it seems on the surface. It takes time, money, and resources to build and cultivate a world-class, comprehensive programmatic operation. When bringing programmatic media buying in-house, marketers should be aware of and prepared with the right tools to ensure a successful execution.

Jona Mici is senior director, product strategy at Varick Media Management.

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LinkedIn has a lot of great features, but many of them are under-used. One example is LinkedIn groups, which provides a lot of opportunity for connecting and communicating throughout the marketing industry. Are you making the most of this social feature?

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.

Participate consistently

Drew Gurley, Redbird Advisors

"Like anything else, you wouldn't just run one ad for your new product or service. If you believe the improved LinkedIn groups are target-rich environments, then you need to focus your efforts to establish yourself as an authority. Make sure you are responding to articles from others and providing strong and objective feedback. Engage with the members and build your reputation within the group."


Jonathan Long, Market Domination Media

"Use the groups as a networking platform. If you go in there expecting to sell, you will be in for a rude awakening. You need to enter these groups fully understanding that your time is best spent engaging in conversation and building meaningful relationships. This isn't the place to pitch or acquire social constants or email subscribers."

Find great moderators

Daniel Lambert, BoardVitals

"Marketers can use LinkedIn groups to their advantage by creating highly relevant groups that provide content of value. What separates a good group from a great group is active members who are posting interesting and helpful discussions. This can be facilitated by a good moderator."

Create valuable content

Angela Harless, AcrobatAnt

"Group members will have to take a more active role in making the content on the groups more valuable to not only attract new members but to retain current ones. By adding this new layer of exclusivity to groups, the members of the groups become more engaged and the content becomes more valuable since discussions aren't as public."

Grab attention with images

David Ciccarelli,

"The new features really enable groups to function organically, more like forums. When administering a group for your industry, these upgrades enable you to do every marketer's dream -- engage. Grab attention with images as you do on other social streams, attract industry influencers and engage them with mentions, and get direct access to member's inboxes with "highlight" emails."

Stand out and connect

Joshua Lee, StandOut Authority

"LinkedIn's limited messaging inside groups can be hard for some, but the massive upside for the savvy marketer and communicator is how much easier it will be to stand out and connect. With fewer messages to compete against, you can garner the attention of your ideal client. It'll be a little more work upfront to only message your best possible clients, but the payoff could be huge."

Be honest

David Tomas, Cyberclick

"Marketers can no longer mass publish irrelevant material on LinkedIn groups in hopes to land some leads. To take advantage of these changes, one has to hit these groups with actual value that will result in interested leads. These new improved groups force marketers to be more honest with the material they publish and it will result in leads that will be more likely to turn into clients."

Focus on fewer groups

Andrew Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

"LinkedIn is not the stage for you to shout "me, me, me!" You've just got to be engaging and be personable. I think now is the time to focus on fewer groups. LinkedIn is making a push to improve groups and get more people involved. Pick two groups you care about. Focus on being a great member in those first. Then add more groups."

Target specific groups

Kevin Henrikson, Outlook iOS and Android, Microsoft

"Groups will be even more tailored to specific interests and talents. The new algorithm for the discover tab displays results based on skills, industry experience, group memberships, etc. These factors determine what is recommended. Marketers will have to focus searches and clearly define target markets in order to use the groups to their advantage."

Tag people

Shawn Porat, Fortune Cookie Advertising

"There are a couple of ways marketers can use new features. You'll now be able to mention other group members by name to alert them, similar to tagging people on Facebook. This is a useful way to initiate communication with members who might not otherwise check groups that much."

Combat spam at all cost

Matthew Capala, Search Decoder

"I've seen great Linkedin groups fall victim to spam and self-promotion, dropping users and engagement, and eventually becoming irrelevant. LinkedIn aimed to improve the quality of conversation within the Groups feature that many complain is often filled with spam. To take advantage of the improved LinkedIn Groups, play to the platform's primary goal: tighten the reins on membership and control spam."

Invite collaboration and research

Jared Brown, Hubstaff

"If LinkedIn is taking steps to make groups less spammy and boost engagement, then they become great places to go to for market research and customer engagement. Forget pushing a marketing message. Now, anytime you want to find out more about your target market, reach out to people and ask for their opinions via groups. Find experts who contribute regularly and turn them into brand advocates."

Cut through the noise

Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

"There is more useless garbage on LinkedIn than people have time for, so don't add to it! Don't keep shouting into the void by posting generalized info to your entire base when it's only useful to about 10 percent of them. LinkedIn is creating a powerful platform corralling individuals in unique groups, so leverage this to get new product info or helpful tips directly to the customers who care."

Publish, publish, publish

Andrew Kucheriavy, Intechnic

"The more valuable conversations you can get going, the more fine-tuned traffic you can attract to your page. Write content and publish, publish, publish. Also, if you own or manage a group, curate all of the posts and discussions provided by other group members and praise those who contribute valuable content."

Include your group members

Miles Jennings,

"With the changes that are now arising within LinkedIn Groups, members are gaining many more rights to publish content, approve pending group member submissions, and so much more. Involve your group members in your marketing and promotions. Let them take part in ideas that are shared within the group, and share their experiences with your company through photos, testimonials, and more."

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This video interview and article is sponsored by RevJet. Learn more about sponsor opportunities.

Creative optimization: Real time serving, experimenting, and reporting

Turning digital ad creative into a performance engine rather than a cost center is no easy task. Fortunately, technology has progressed enough within the industry to allow marketers to accomplish stellar real-time creative optimization so that each ad is built, tested, and served to the ideal target consumer in an automated fashion. For years the industry has been limping along with best guesses when it comes to creating compelling ads and reaching target markets. Digital advertising campaigns have been occurring in silos, with ads being created, served, and reported by separate entities with poor communication as to what's working. We need a better way.

One company that's taken the reigns in order to change the game is the marketing industry's first creative side platform, RevJet. Founder and CEO Mitchell Weisman, a marketing and ad tech veteran, speaks to iMedia about why automated creative optimization is the key to reaching target audiences and why our tactics must fundamentally change to improve the current industry standard.

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What defines social media success? In the early days of social marketing, brands raced to amass legions of fans and followers. The accumulation of likes, tweets, shares, and impressions were considered by marketers as benchmarks of success. For brands, success often meant building, but not necessarily understanding, its social audience.

4 ways to make your social data work for you

With the deep pool of data now available to marketers, we've begun to see a shift in how social success is defined: less by volume and more by action. By focusing on social segmentation, brands can use consumer data and social metadata to gauge not only the effectiveness of their content, but also the actual engagement of their audience.

Given the volume of social activity and data associated with some brands, the task of segmentation can seem potentially overwhelming. To help manage it, we've identified four steps to social marketing success.

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If you were to think of your connection with customers like a marriage or committed relationship, you wouldn't dream of focusing solely on clicks. In a committed relationship, you take the time to get to know your partner on a personal level. Chances are, you go through many steps to determine whether you want to continue dating, become exclusive, or make a long-term commitment. It takes more than just chemistry to get to that bonding stage.

The steps taken to develop a healthy, long-term relationship are strikingly similar to the process people navigate in their consumer journeys. Yet, many marketers are stuck at the chemistry stage by focusing solely on clicks -- the equivalent of trying to get a date with a passerby on a crowded street.

Optimize for true engagement
While driving clicks has a valued place in an overall marketing campaign, it is not -- and should not be -- the ultimate end game. Keywords, landing-page testing, and specific search criteria are amazing tools to help identify audiences, but they do little to truly connect with a consumer. That's because optimizing for clicks doesn't always mean you're optimizing for true engagement, let alone repeat engagement. In addition, unless the buyer's decision time is extremely short, there's little guarantee that clicks will correlate with long-term business results. And because clicks don't cultivate more than a surface-level understanding of the consumer, it's difficult to gain meaningful insights about the audience and their interests.

Make it a data-driven conversation
For deeper engagement, content needs to build strong relationships with consumers. Consumers show what they care about in their interactions with content -- developing a comprehensive view of their history and interests (relative to your brand) is critical for delivering a unique, personal experience for them. In part, this means being a good listener. Think of content as one part of a dialog, rather than something only watched or read. For brands, it can be the basis for a data-driven conversation that not only helps consumers learn more about your category or what your brand stands for, but also helps you discover what makes them tick through their behavior and interests. This will ultimately help you serve them better.

It's not just what you're delivering, it's where and when
How do you improve content to keep consumers engaged at every stage of their buying journey (social media, mobile, display advertising, emails, etc.)? No matter the stage, a good starting point is to pull back the focus on your brand and put your customers in the spotlight. Speak directly to what's relevant to them. Making it personal is one of the keys success for brand marketers. However, since there is a large amount of content developed by brands on a daily basis, brands need to find the most appropriate time and place to deliver worthwhile offerings. If you adequately analyze their tastes and preferences, and adjust your content accordingly, your brand's standing will improve because you're increasing your share of relevance.

Focus on current customer interests, but introduce them to more
Unfortunately, trust alone will not keep them engaged throughout the buying process. Your brand needs to remain exciting to customers. With content, repetition breeds boredom. Make sure your content is feeding their interests, but also taking a fresh approach. Successful content marketers leverage hot topics from other sources to keep customers engaged. Incorporating ideas from trending news topics or entertainment themes is one good way to be culturally relevant and timely.

Align content marketing with business goals
If you are struggling with improving content, you might find the goals of your content marketing efforts simply aren't clear enough. It's important to make sure your content marketing goals align not just with surface level click and page view metrics, but with actual measures of business and brand results be they driving intent, repeat engagement, or purchase. At every stage of the digital journey, consumer interest must be identified, recorded, and leveraged in the next interaction.

Rather than put all the emphasis on cheap and anonymous clicks, make engagement long lasting. Like developing any long-term relationship, it takes time and attention to build connections and rapport. Relationship-based content marketing can help bring consumers closer to your brand and ultimately drive better business outcomes.

Adam Weinroth is CMO at OneSpot

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There's a reason why many are claiming we have entered the "golden age" or "renaissance" of the podcast. Though ad spend may still be lagging behind other, more traditional forms of media, podcast advertising has certainly emerged as a force to be reckoned with. In a much-cited study, Edison Research reported in 2014 that an estimated 39 million Americans listened to a podcast in the past month. With podcast listening reaching a new high last year, advertisers are beginning to pay attention more than ever.

Podcasts advertisements are known for high CPM, and they are typically direct-response ads featuring call-outs to visit a specific URL or make a purchase using a promo code. This burgeoning digital media format has been a favorite for direct-response for a number of years, but according to an article in The Atlantic, the prevailing marketing strategy for podcasts is beginning to change. Large companies have moved past calls-to-action for signups and orders with the hope of something bigger: creating positive associations with the brand. And it would be understatement to say this new strategy has potential.

Midroll, a podcast advertising network that acts as a middleman between advertisers and podcasters, has grown to learn a few things about what works in the podcast ad business. Adam Sachs, chief executive at Midroll, says the key is that its ads are read by the hosts themselves. "When you listen to a podcast regularly, you really get not only invested in the show, but also in the host," Sachs told Slate. "They're in your ear every day for weeks, and you start to develop a really intimate relationship with the host. And because all our ads are host-read, they work."

Midroll says these placements are, in fact, "native ads" fitting in with the flow and tone of the show. "We have an incredible 97 to 98 percent renewal rate from our ROI-driven direct-response advertisers because the audience responds so well to these spots." he told Digiday. You'll often hear podcast hosts shifting seamlessly into a message about a sponsor in a way that keeps listeners engaged. And, of course, it doesn't hurt when the podcast has built up impressive credibility and popularity. The cult-like following surrounding a show like "WTF with Marc Maron," for example, makes the host's voice incredibly valuable.

If you're no stranger to podcast listening, you've likely noticed that a handful of sponsors pop up again and again. You'll no doubt remember hearing about companies like Squarespace, Audible, and Mailchimp, who seem to dominate the digital airwaves. Mark DiCristina, the director of marketing at Mailchimp, told The Atlantic, "People tend to have warmer feelings about advertisers on podcasts than other media, and they tend to remember us a lot more than on other media."

So why are we rarely hearing from other, larger brands during podcasts? Well, some advertisers are calling the medium a kind of "best kept secret" they would rather not share just yet. "I think it would make sense for larger companies, although selfishly, I would like for them to stay away, because I enjoy being a big fish in the pond," DiCristina said, adding that big podcast sensations like "Serial" will likely be the primary draw for brands. The future of podcast advertising remains to be seen, but it's certainly becoming more difficult to ignore.

As an article in Slate put it: "At a time when consumers are increasingly cynical about advertising, the idea that podcast listeners could laugh at and enjoy podcast ads should be music to advertisers' marketing-attuned ears."

In the meantime, marketing professionals would be wise to get familiar with this intimate and fast-growing media format. So we're bringing you a small sample, in no particular order, of some relevant and insightful podcasts every marketer and advertiser can learn something from. Download them on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you prefer to get your podcasts.

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Today, organizations need a new nerve center: a strategic nucleus that guides -- and connects -- all organizational activities with a light but deft touch. That is what the modern CMO is perfectly positioned to do. Marketing, when it's done right, shapes brand futures by driving both product and sales, and everything in between.

Successful marketing used to be about Kotler's 4Ps (product, price, place, and promotion). But with the increasing commoditization of product features, the ubiquity of product availability, the transparency of pricing, and the overuse of promotion, their power has been blunted.

There are new rules for today's CMO:

Be laser focused on customer experience from start to finish.
The new CMO needs to be responsible for every touchpoint of the brand and customer interface, from messaging, to sales, to billing, to customer satisfaction.

Be passionately articulate about the customer's voice within her/his organization.
Most organizations are too internally focused -- it is critical for at least one senior leader to have wide external orientation and to amplify the customer's (and the potential customer's) voice within every corner of the company. Power has shifted from brands to consumers. Today's empowered consumers are informed, fickle, and outspoken; it's no easy task to please them. And they are constantly evolving; it's no easy task to keep up with them. With the barrage of content that's hurled at them, they are no longer captive audiences that are easy to reach. A successful leader is keenly aware of these realities and hones the organizational approach on how/when to connect and engage with relevance. Not just via the marketing department, but via every team in the company.

Harmonize the cacophony of content.
Like the conductor of a symphony, the CMO needs to be able to let individual notes ring loud and true, yet string them together in a clear melody -- a single, overarching brand narrative that's clear, distinct, and compelling. Without this, every marketing message, every sales call, every CSR imperative just adds to -- and gets lost in -- the white noise of content overload.

Build a team that has strong competencies in data science and behavioral science, as well as the art and science of messaging.
Data is just data unless made actionable by insights into the human psyche. And new media has created a host of opportunities to make messaging far more meaningful, contextual, and actionable than ever before. These three competencies need to mesh closely together -- there is no time for silos in today's turbo-paced world. One danger in the data driven world is that art becomes muted by science. A savvy CMO will not allow that to happen. She will create havens for creativity, for serendipity, for the muse to strike -- not just within her marketing team, but across all teams that interface with consumers.

Understand technology.
No, CMOs do not need to know how to code. But they do need to understand technology's fundamentally transformative effects on consumer habits and choices. It used to be that CTOs and CMOs sat in very different wings of organizations. Their paths rarely crossed and neither did their words and functions. Today, they need to be the strongest of allies and collaborators. This is an alliance that helps improve both marketing development and product development -- marketing and technology now go hand in hand like never before. Issues like data access, privacy, and security are often top of mind for consumers. Therefore, they need to be front and center for marketing teams as well.

Have courage and humor.
CMOs must be comfortable with risk and ambiguity. Yesterday's CMOs were expected to be perfectionists -- control freaks who would release only perfectly polished messaging in controlled media spaces. Those days are over. Today's CMOs need to act fast, often before they are fully ready. They need to be agile learners, ready to roll with the punches and learn from failure as well as success. Courage and humor are critical to survival.

Understand that speed is of the essence.
The internet has caused the world to move at the speed of light. CMOs need to foster agility both within their teams and their organizations to "move fast!" A game-changing idea today, if not deftly and quickly deployed, will become tomorrow's old news. The real world moves in real time and so should today's CMOs.

Have compound vision.
Competition today can come from anywhere. Consumer habits that change in an unrelated field can have unexpected consequences for all products. Great CMOs are savvy soothsayers who are keenly aware of -- and always prepared for -- what could be coming around the corner.

Today's CMOs must live and work not just in today, but on the cusp of tomorrow.

Shafi Saxena is chief brand officer at News Republic

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Often companies get bogged down with day-to-day tasks and meetings that don't always produce the expected results. However, to be the most successful, companies need to evaluate and adjust internal culture to have the most effective processes in place.
The mantra, "You can't spend the same minute twice," is at the heart of this. In other words, focusing on key priorities, avoiding distractions, knowing when to put things in the parking lot, and maintaining frequent, transparent communications facilitate fast decision-making. Simply put, the success of how well a company or an individual team executes relies on how well cross-functional areas are engaging and working together.
Here are the top six ways we have found to effectively communicate, to establish team goals, to have successful processes, and to "never spend the same minute twice."

Establish company values

I sum up our culture in two words: "values-driven." Harvard Business Review's recent blog post, "Does your company make you a better person?" demonstrates the value of belonging to a workplace where you know that in addition to working on projects, problems, and products, you are constantly working on yourself. Many people put values up in their office, but values are what tie a company together and unite a team to win at their own game. Here are two examples of how you can bring your values to life:

  • Team events that align to the outlined value statements.
  • Creating performance reviews that directly get at "How well did you exhibit our values?" "Which did you excel at, and which do you need to improve?"

    Create and spread a weekly team dashboard

    In my experience, in the absence of knowing what's going on, people are unaware of the bigger picture for the company, and thus believe that they are in the dark. To eliminate any secret meetings and guessing by team members, it is critical to even the playing field by democratizing information in an easy to understand, weekly dashboard that visually shows how all teams are doing against key goals.
    Rich Kneece, the CEO of Massachusetts Technology Corporation and founder of Vocoli, noted that, "When businesses build...platforms to support company-wide conversations, employees inherently become better at their jobs. Upon improving horizontal and vertical communications, firms may receive more feedback from employees and will be tasked to execute new ideas."

    Use whole team meetings to facilitate open communication

    Jack Stack in his book, "The Great Game of Business: The Only Sensible Way to Run a Company," takes a critical look at whole staff meetings and says that, "A major problem with most staff meetings: [is] the boss is the only one communicating. Those meetings waste everybody's time, including yours if you're the boss."

    In order to keep open communication and to facilitate top-down transparency, all employees must feel that they have a forum to receive information about the company and ask hard-hitting questions. With the speed at which our company, and the industry is moving, it's critical to keep everyone on the same page about what's important for the company and ensure open communication loops.

    To do this, consider a weekly, one-hour, all-hands meeting that serves three purposes:

    Provide organization updates
    This includes updates on priorities, new team member introductions (who's new, who's doing what, how this impacts the organization), etc.

      What you need to know this week
      This portion is presented by different team members and encompasses key learnings from different offices, meetings, events, and the dashboard.

      Team members submit questions to ask anything they want. The questions (and most are tough) are then answered by members of the executive team.


      It's also important to have company-wide visibility into how everyone's actions are aligned to focus areas, and thus we have created the 3-1-3 model. Each week, one member of a functional team rotates and sends a company-wide note consisting of:

      3: Last week
      Key developments/activity with: Influencers (creators, leagues, teams, brands, etc); meetings (brands/ agencies / partners), content, community, etc in the context of our goals

      1: Thing that must be shared
      A challenge encountered/overcome; a key learning; a cross-functional shout-out

      3: Upcoming week
      Key priorities for next week in context of our goals
      The goal of the 3-1-3 emails are to spark cross-functional conversation, transparency, awareness, and education.

      Focus on making decisions in meetings

      Patty McCord, Netflix's chief talent officer until 2012, came up with questions that have come to be called "Patty's parting questions."

      The questions not only help everyone work as a team, but also reiterate the decisions made in the meeting, as well as the actionable items that will result from said conversation. 

      Communicate differently: Clean out your email inbox

      According to a study from McKinsey Global Institute and International Data Corp., time spent on email can be cut by 25-30 percent by introducing social networking communications into a business. By doing this, an employee can free up seven to eight percent of the workweek for other tasks.
      We use a private Facebook group to post all sorts of things that relate to our market such as interesting articles, press mentions, etc. and then we have discussions around them. This frees up our inbox and actually encourages more people on the team to engage with social media platforms throughout the day.
      The only constant in working at any emerging company is change. However, with processes, tools, and a general mindset that embraces change, we strive to stay laser focused on what's important. Success is about having the confidence and adaptability to make tradeoffs and decisions based on the here and now, our team, and our gut.
      So I ask you, how does your team avoid spending the same minute twice?

      Michael Cohen is the EVP, finance and operations at Whistle Sports.

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      The tide is turning in the retail industry. Where brand manufacturers and suppliers had previously fought retailers on shelf space, cooperative advertising prices, and transparent data, there is now a shift where the balance has shifted the other direction.

      So, how did this happen? And, what's changed?

      The value of brands

      While most retailers have jumped on the private label bandwagon, they've also seen that brands still matter a lot. In a recent Nielsen study, private label grew significantly from 2008 through 2011, but the growth has since flattened out. According to Nielsen's SVP of consumer and shopper insights Todd Hale, brands have just "done a better job of innovating and connecting with shoppers who mattered."

      Target learned this the hard way. During the recession, Target tried to appeal to low-cost buyers, but the company ended up competing directly with Walmart and Amazon. With a dip in revenue in 2013, the company had to move quickly into turnaround mode. Target found that it needed to showcase "higher quality and premium branded items," explained Target's chief merchant Kathryn Tesija during an earnings call.

      More distribution options

      Brands had previously relied heavily on retailers, as there were limited distribution options to get products out to customers. With the growth of ecommerce though, that power dynamic has shifted as brands have a wider range of options and therefore more negotiating power. For example, beauty brand Urban Decay was limited to only distribute through department stores and beauty retailers like Sephora. Today, it sells direct-to-consumer from its own website, through Amazon, and through hundreds of small ecommerce sites.

      As Mark Yeomans of Ernst & Young's supply chain advisory unit told the Financial Times, "in this global economy, the power of the brand and the brand owner is increasing at the expense of the big retailer. Because the big retailer has got to carry more products to fill its space, and the consumer is bypassing the big retailers."

      And, the distribution channels continue to proliferate with more brands going direct and selling through non-traditional platforms. As Gartner research director Kirsten Newbold-Knipp suggests, many more brands will go direct-to-consumer this year. Even consumer-packaged goods players like Kellogg are looking into the direct-to-consumer space -- a trend sure to strike fear in the hearts of grocery executives. On top of that, platforms like Pinterest and Facebook and even publishers like the Huffington Post are adding "buy" buttons to its websites.

      Increased transparency and collaboration

      The power shift is manifesting itself with increased transparency from retailers and more opportunities for collaboration. Retailers, who had previously didn't share data with brands, are now reluctantly opening the kimono in order to engender loyalty with the brands. For instance, Conagra was able to increase data transparency with small grocers, who are facing stiff competition from behemoths like Walmart.

      As brands threaten to decrease distribution, there will be demand for more visibility from the retail partners. And, unless retailers are able to regain the upper hand, brands will require more from the partners to keep interest high.

      What's next for retailers

      To combat this trend, retailers need to constantly innovate in areas such as operations and marketing to shore up demand and stay competitive. For example, Amazon continues to strengthen its grip on customer loyalty by rolling out one-hour delivery in Seattle. The company's ability to leverage its operational excellence keeps brands tied to its platform.

      Meanwhile, Walmart has taken its shopper marketing data to create its own advertising platform. While a brand may increase direct-to-consumer sales,  it will never have as much data as retailers. By cultivating and activating this data, a retailer can turn this into a core driver of influence with the brands.

      The balance of power is in the brands' favor now. Retailers looking to survive in this new world must innovate and they must to do it now.

      Robyn Foo is head of marketing at Boostable.

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      Jonathan Adams has been in the media game for over 20 years, working with clients like Coca-Cola, Toyota, American Express, and Kraft Foods. He's currently the chief digital officer at Maxus Global and holds advisory board posts with Google, Microsoft, and AOL. Jonathan will be speaking about the new breed of ad agencies at Mobile Media Summit's Mobile Minds @ Art Basel, Dec. 1-2 in Miami. iMedia Connection readers receive a 50 percent discount on tickets when using code iMedia50. In this Q&A, Jonathan gives his thoughts on the agencies of the future.

      At Mobile Minds @ Art Basel, your panel will discuss how digital (and mobile in particular) changed advertising agencies into something new. Can you give us a preview of your thoughts on the topic? 
      Agencies have been in evolution for decades. It's our function to get ahead of the market and lead change for our clients. Next year the pace of change will continue to pressure-test the agency model and every agency had better be guiding their clients through the evolving media, ad-land, data, and tech ecosystems.
      Building on that, how do you see mobile transforming major media agencies?
      Mobile is challenging media agencies to think more about both new datasets and new walled gardens -- datasets not just in terms of your current location data, for example, but also where you are headed, at what speed, and via what method. Walled gardens -- like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat Discover, and Twitter Moments -- will continue to push agencies to embrace new crevices to align and adapt to with marketing and content.
      What's Maxus' point of view on how the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality devices such as Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift will change media?
      When The New York Times (via its new NYTVR app) and The Wall Street Journal start publishing and creating for a VR world -- and they both have now -- one might think VR and AR have hit mainstream. Both are getting there, and we are surely heading into exciting times. We are already talking with clients about embracing both platforms with custom experiences, and 2016 is bound to bring a lot more on this front.
      As for IoT, just tell me you don't speak to Siri or your Google app. Everyone does. It's amazing how fast we've seen voice enter the mainstream. Expect voice to double in use again in 2016 and to find its way into cars and appliances -- and marketing will be there.
      How do you build an organization that takes advantage of ongoing change? For instance, what type of skills do you look for in a new hire, and how does that differ from 10-15 years ago?
      Curiosity is the answer, hands down; but is that different from 10-15 years ago? Not really. Bright minds are always curious. You look for people who have always been curious, you hire them, and then you do your best to encourage them to follow their passions. At Maxus, one good example of this is our Maxus Mavens.
      The Maxus Mavens are six specialty groups of bright minds (including teams for the Internet of Things, Mobile Futures, and Performance/Data Futures). We allow everyone as they come through the door to self-select into one (or none) of these groups, and then attend conferences, meet with partners, and keep our entire agency informed. Everyone wins!

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