Perfect is the Enemy of Good in Attribution
Brands want exact answers for a number of marketing questions: How much should they spend on marketing? When should they spend? What should the split be between brand and promotional messaging? What channels deliver the best ROI? Which placements and keywords are the most effective and efficient?

They expect answers from their advanced attribution systems but are often disappointed in the results.

The analytics industry deserves blame for overpromising and under delivering. No single solution is equipped to answer every question that brands have, but they are often sold as such.

But they should bother. Brands should not let perfect become the enemy of good. While no single solution can offer a perfect analysis, a combination of analytical tools and processes can lead to real incremental improvement.

The Problem With Analytics

Marketers still can’t accurately measure everything in a single system for perfect attribution, optimization and predictive scenario planning. The reality is, marketers do not have 100 percent visibility to every marketing stimuli that consumers are exposed to and the subsequent actions taken (or not taken).

It’s a problem that exists on both the brand and partner sides. Brands often lack visibility into their own sales data in a way that’s required for analysis.

Low match rates, cookie deletion and walled gardens leave gaping holes in digital media data. Mass media exposure is projected. And that’s extremely problematic for decision-makers held responsible for their marketing budget’s ROI when relying on a single analytic system.

A Current Solution

It’s true — analytics is unlikely to deliver a perfect solution that will improve marketing ROI by 100 percent or more. But marketers can get better. The following combination of analytical tools can drive 10 percent, 20 percent, even 30 percent ROI improvement:

  • Marketing Mix Model (MMM): The top-down view of marketing performance that informs total spend, optimizes channel level investments and enables predictive scenario planning. Used in CPG for decades, MMM is now applied across a wide range of verticals including retail, finance, automotive, telco and restaurant. These models are built with some sales measure as the dependent variable and are typically updated annually or quarterly.Think of MMM like you would your investment portfolio. Rarely is a portfolio perfect — it requires constant optimization to ensure it’s performing at peak levels.
  • Multi-touch Attribution (MTA): The bottom-up analysis of consumer interactions across digitized touchpoints. Algorithmic in nature instead of last touch, these models provide a more data-driven assessment of performance at the sub-tactic level to enable in-campaign optimiations. It’s applicable in any vertical with digitized marketing execution and a subsequent digitized KPI. These analyses are often done on conversion events and are updated monthly or as often as the volume of data will allow.Think of MTA like an conductor, keeping the orchestra on rhythm and in-sequence so that the combination of instruments delivers a harmonious symphony.
  • Within-channel Analysis: The custom analysis required to understand the nuances of a given channel in near real Keywords, audiences, recency and ad formats are a few of the many dimensions of data for this analysis that is primarily used to assess the relative performance between execution at the most granular level within a given channel.

While sales can be the primary KPI, often brands are optimizing to leading indicators such as viewability, completion rate or cost per site visitor, with the expectation that improvement against those metrics will lead to increased sales in the near future. These analyses are often visualized in dashboards for continuous learning and optimization identification on a weekly cadence.

Think of within-channel analysis like specialized medicine, requiring depth of expertise and continual trials to give patients optimal health in one very specific part of the body.

Even if it’s not perfect yet, these techniques can drive real business value when applied together. And that’s the goal. Don’t miss out on that because of an imperfect solution. Incremental improvement is worth the effort.

3 Tips for Brand Safety in Programmatic Buying
Programmatic buyers are worried about brand safety. And while it’s important to note this level of concern in the industry, the research just confirms what we already know.

The key is not to let concern turn into avoidance. Any marketer intimidated by programmatic media should consider the following tips:

1. Talk With Your Agency

In March of 2014, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) released a study concluding that half of surveyed marketers are concerned about the level of transparency with their media agency. Many marketers do not have access to the details and data behind their campaigns — from cost, margins and where ads run, to performance optimization efforts and detailed reporting about how audiences interact with the brand.

It’s critical to confirm if your agency’s solution is transparent — and to what level of detail. Some media buying agencies offer inventory, audience and optimization transparency through their own proprietary programmatic buying solutions.

2. Take a Second Look at Third-Party Data

Brands increasingly rely on third-party data providers, such as BlueKai and eXelate, to provide targeting lists for campaigns. These segmented lists might include people who are likely to apply for a mortgage, people who use a particular type of toothpaste or people from a particular economic group.

However, if there is any first-party data available, it is typically more reliable and accurate than third-party data. But if third-party data is being considered, it’s important for brands and their agencies to evaluate how it was collected and how it will be used.

Our industry must continue to ask third-party data sources for their exact methodologies. Data aggregation is an inherently messy process. Getting third-party data providers to be fully transparent, and to explain that transparency in a client-friendly way, is arduous but necessary.

3. Be Wary of Viewability Issues and False Attribution

A majority of exchange-based ad impressions will run unseen by humans if left to the technology’s own devices. It is simple to prevent and control, but it’s critical to remember that the green button in your user interface telling you that ads are running doesn’t mean humans are seeing them.

Green does not equal seen.

Similarly, some providers are all too happy to purchase bottom-of-the-page, unseen inventory at bargain-basement prices to stuff cookies on as many potential converters as possible. They then claim the view-through credit for one of those poor suckers who happens to convert without having seen the ad. This can influence marketers to reallocate spend improperly — decreasing funds for demand-creating ad vehicles to invest in underperforming vehicles instead.

Programmatic Is Not Automatic

Yes, fancy math helps the machines make some of the more rote decisions in programmatic buying. But brands and their agencies still need to spend time ensuring the machines will run well, fueled by the purest data needed to operate effectively and efficiently.

The key to eliminating worry over brand safety is to get involved and to ask questions. The more informed marketers and their agencies are, the less likely they are to experience display fraud, click fraud, conversion fraud or cookie stuffing.

Taking Programmatic Buying In-House? Answer These Questions First
Fifteen of the top 200 US advertisers have taken programmatic buying in-house, per Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group.

When deciding whether your company should follow their lead, there are seven key questions you need to consider:

1. Does Your Organization Have Programmatic Buying Experience?

Have you dipped your toes in programmatic waters before, or are you new to the game? If you are not already a heavy programmatic user through some other relationship, I’d suggest not jumping right into the driver’s seat with an in-house solution. I make this recommendation for several reasons, but mainly because your organization must know that programmatic works to overcome the obstacles associated with the remaining questions below.

2. Are You Willing To Invest Significant Time & Money?

The amount of time and money you might be fronting depends on what you hope to get out of your programmatic solution and the level of complexity in your organization. If you are a one-brand, one-product company that just wants to take on your own site retargeting — the startup time and costs would be on the low end. If you are a multibrand, multiproduct organization looking to boost acquisition, conversion and retention across a range of touch points — the startup time and costs will be considerable.

Although total costs vary according to the above factors, let’s assume an average first-year startup cost of $100,000. You also need to hire a well-paid, full-time employee (FTE) who dedicates all his time to managing the initiative. Finally, you need to utilize 20 percent of existing FTEs’ time in the IT and marketing departments, and another 10 percent of existing FTEs’ time in the human resources and legal departments.

3. Are You Willing To Accept Some Ongoing Risk?

Building your own technology to tackle programmatic buying is a fool’s errand considering all the proven solutions that already exist in the marketplace.

However, with each of these solutions, you commit to some level of spending through their systems. If you fall below that threshold during one of your non-advertising windows, these solutions still charge their standard fees. Depending on the volume, the technology and the complexity of your organization, this could either be negligible or very large. For example, assume you will be required to pay a minimum monthly fee of $25,000 for using the programmatic solution to execute against committed media budgets of $250,000 or more.

4. Are You Willing To Build A Dedicated Team?

Humans are an integral part of a successful programmatic buying solution. People set the key performance indicators (KPIs), the strategy and the framework for the machines to follow. People also need to be responsible for making a variety of decisions and course corrections that algorithms are unable to handle (at least for now). Once you have committed to the time, personnel and risk listed above, you need to ensure a team is in place to keep the wheels on the tracks. If you only have one person working on programmatic buying, what happens if that person gets sick? Goes on vacation? Leaves the company?

At least a two-person team is recommended to handle your efforts — one FTE to get the programmatic buying system launched and take leadership of it, and another FTE to work within the system once it is built. This allows for some redundancy so that things don’t break should one of those two be removed from the equation; however, the larger the effort, the larger the team.

As it relates to programmatic advertising, another good rule is to staff one person for every $1.5 million spent through the system. Your organization’s staff count may be greater than that if the spending is diversified across many brands, products or campaigns, if there are multiple software systems to manage, or if you have a lot of turnover on the team.

5. Are You Willing To Forge The Right Partnerships?

Part of the reason you need one FTE from the get-go is that a lot of his time is spent determining the right partners of the moment for your organization. While almost endless, some of the key partnerships include:

  • Data management platform (DMP)
  • Demand-side platform (DSP) — if separate from the DMP
  • Third-party data partners
  • Tag management partners
  • Attribution partners
  • Ad serving partners
  • Verification partners — for viewability and brand safety

Once you have the right partners in place, it’s necessary to revisit other options on a regular basis, as new companies and technologies evolve and mergers and acquisitions reshape the marketplace.

6. Are You Willing To Learn From Data Gathered During Programmatic Campaigns?

The promise of programmatic advertising isn’t just performance. It is performance plus insights. Information gleaned from the fast data of the programmatic world can lead to discoveries for product development, consumer segmentation, creative messaging, capital investment and more.

However, all that data requires regular analysis and communication throughout the organization. Add some extra time (about 5 percent of existing FTEs’ schedules) to the plates of product development, consumer research, brand management, creative development and executive management.

Some people in the industry (myself included) argue that organizational learning is the only reason to take programmatic in-house as a brand. Otherwise, there are plenty of solutions that deliver performance at an acceptable price. If that’s all you need — hire them!

7. Are You Willing To Maintain The Investment?

All the points above become ongoing prerequisites after the first year. Plus, there is one final requirement: Regularly seek outside consultation to make sure you are following best practices and not missing anything that could be a game changer.

Because of the reams of data involved, programmatic is a breeding ground for false truths. It is necessary to consult with outsiders on a regular basis to debunk myths, offer a fresh perspective and get important updates on what others have learned while conducting their own programmatic efforts.

Considering all the points above, can you consistently commit to the following?

  • A dedicated two-person (or larger) team
  • 20% of existing FTEs’ time in IT and marketing
  • 10% of existing FTEs’ time in HR and legal
  • 5% of existing FTEs’ time in product development, consumer research, brand management, creative development and executive management
    • $3,000,000 or more in programmatic spending annually
    • $50,000 in ongoing consultation fees

If your organization answers yes to all the above, then bringing programmatic advertising efforts in-house could be a wise decision.

4 Ways Programmatic Buying Boosts Media Plans
Programmatic buying’s value extends beyond the obvious cost and time efficiencies. Its true beauty is that it allows marketers to customize individual campaigns according to each brand’s specific objectives.

Combining consumer data and programmatic methods, advertisers can purchase specific audiences and environments to gain insights, retarget users and extend reach. They can layer audiences and environments, and they can optimize plans in real time for better and faster results — no matter the campaign objective.

1. Capitalizing On Available Data For Audience Buying

Programmatic buying gives marketers access to multiple exchanges, mass inventory and a tricked-out dashboard; however, quality data is the real fuel of every programmatic buy. Brands should start by taking advantage of their own data, also called first-party data. This information is collected through the brand’s website, newsletters or offline purchase data. That data is used to match and target those specific users online. When serving an ad to someone who already knows the brand, or is perhaps already interested in its products or services, the ads become much more relevant and meaningful.

Marketers should also take advantage of third-party data gathered from online and offline sources. It includes credit card user data, purchase data and data around users’ online activities. By purchasing specific audiences using third-party data, advertisers are targeting behaviors at a much larger scale than they would if they just used first-party data.

Finally, adding behavioral data into contextually relevant environments increases ad relevancy. This is located nowhere else on the media plan. Contextually relevant environments can be easily added by selecting categories, keywords and interests that most identify with the brand.

Behavioral and contextual targeting enhances the brand’s relevancy with consumers. Programmatic buying allows advertisers to analyze what behaviors and environments their users are engaging with most in real time. This lets marketers quickly choose and optimize those behaviors and environments to hone in on what’s working best.

2. Using Programmatic Buying As An Integration Or Enhancement

If the overall online and offline media plan includes direct publisher buys, private marketplace (PMP) deals are a great extension or integration. By negotiating a PMP deal, marketers’ ads appear in premium content at a much lower cost than if they were purchased directly. As the programmatic buying space continues to grow, publishers are even offering homepage takeovers, site-specific buys and roadblocks.

3. Using Programmatic For Retargeting

While prospecting and targeting specific audiences is important, gathering a list of consumers already interested in the brand and retargeting them through programmatic buying is a smart, efficient tactic. Marketers are more likely to get a desired action or conversion if they target consumers who have already displayed some level of interest. Programmatic buying allows advertisers to bid slightly higher to guarantee they hit their already interested users. Brands can even use programmatic buying as a retargeting tool for other online partners on the plan, all by placing a simple pixel on their website.

4. Using Programmatic For Reach Extension

Extending the reach and forcing a campaign to find new eyes is extremely important. By adding programmatic buying to a media plan, marketers have better control of frequency capping, which limits the number of times a user sees an ad in a given time frame. By managing frequency capping in the buy, brands extend reach and control how often they want to message their target user.

Programmatic buying adds value to a media plan. It may be the most efficient way to purchase impressions, but it also gives advertisers the opportunity to gain insights and learn about their online audience. Programmatic buying is dynamic; it allows marketers to use data to target many audiences and gives them the tools to optimize in real time. It’s the best way to test-and-learn audiences, enhance campaigns and extend the reach of media plans.

3 Programmatic Buying Myths
While some big brands are familiar enough with programmatic to take it in-house and create private trading desks, mid-sized brands are still in the process of applying programmatic buying to their media plans.

As a result, it’s important to dispel some of the more popular myths that have emerged. Applying a larger brand’s scenario to a mid-sized brand creates issues that impact the adoption of programmatic buying. Here are the ones heard more frequently:

Myth #1: There’s No Transparency In Programmatic Buying

Because of how programmatic campaigns are executed, many marketers cannot confirm their agency is efficiently targeting audiences with the most relevant brand message. As a result, they’re uncertain of their online spend’s efficiency.

This level of uncertainty is why marketers remain wary of and intimidated by programmatic buying.

Years ago, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) released a study that concluded half of surveyed advertisers are concerned about the level of transparency with their media agency. This means that advertisers do not have access to the details and data behind their campaigns—from cost, margins and where ads are running, to performance optimization efforts and detailed reporting about how consumers interact with the brand.

And these concerns are rising—42 percent expressed increased concern in the past year, with only 13 percent experiencing a decrease. It’s also important to note that 40 percent of these advertisers claim little to no awareness about programmatic buying.

But as the programmatic buying landscape expands, some media buying agencies are taking steps to allay the uncertainties surrounding inventory, audience and optimization transparency by developing proprietary programmatic buying solutions. It’s critical to confirm if these solutions are transparent and to what level of detail.

Myth #2: Programmatic Is Just For Online Media Planning

The automated buying specialists use to execute and optimize programmatic advertising can be utilized across channels like display, social, video, audio, mobile and out-of-home. Less than 10 years ago, this was impossible.

To facilitate the use of programmatic for mobile advertising, app developers are looking at how the consumer data they collect can be used for better ad targeting.

One example of how programmatic buying is successfully expanding to mobile platforms is the Twitter acquisition of MoPub, way back in September 2013. The ability to use someone’s Twitter handle to collect browsing information across devices, instead of a cookie, is a definite breakthrough. Cookies can easily be deleted, thus removing a consumer’s interest history from the browser.

MoPub serves up ads that are relevant to interests across devices without relying on the ever-unpredictable cookie. Antonio Garcia, the creator of Facebook’s real-time bidding ad exchange, describes the importance of the Twitter-MoPub partnership beautifully in his post: “Why Twitter Buying MoPub is a Very Big Deal.”

And Twitter is just one example of how programmatic buying is expanding to the mobile platform. Similar innovations are taking place across television, video and out-of-home.

Myth #3: Standards Have Evolved Enough That The Future Of Programmatic Is Clear

While brands and their media buying agencies help evolve programmatic buying, there are still vast amounts of processes and structures that need to be standardized.

According to a Winterberry Group White Paper, managing security and access to the data that provides audience insights is one of the most important reasons to create powerful strategies and management platforms. This task isn’t easy because continued data availability is threatened by government regulation, internet browser privacy standards, lapses in data security and other factors. As a result, marketers, publishers and third parties must work together to:

  • Maintain an evolving map of customer information and how it’s handled.
  • Develop a unified data strategy that includes best practices and regulatory guidelines.
  • Build an infrastructure of technology and personnel to support marketing data use.
  • Value and promote the growth of the data culture through continuous learning and improvement.

These are just some of the myths that consistently pop up when discussing programmatic buying with clients and the marketing industry. As time and processes evolve, myths will dispel and programmatic buying will continue on its path of being a critical component to a broader media plan.

The 6 Elements of Snackable Content
When asked to define snackable content, many marketers will use the infamous quote: “I know it when I see it.”

That’s because the definition of snackable content lacks defined parameters, which allows for subjective interpretation. I’ll define it here in simple terms: Content is snackable when it is designed for simple and flexible audience consumption.

The content’s overall design makes it easier to consume and the audience more likely to consume it. It extends from the story and includes how the content is transmitted and shared. But that’s not it. The reality is that six different factors can make content snackable. And while all six aren’t required for content to be considered snacakable, they are all part of the broader content experience.

1. Story

Does the article tell the audience a story or sell them a product? Even the most basic story framework (beginning, middle and end) can help ensure useful content is created for the audience.

2. Headline

A good headline grabs reader attention — not to mention Google’s. Timely headlines that are informed by the editorial strategy are key. Other best practices from Outbrain include headline word count, headlines asking readers a question, using a colon in the headline and serving up an odd-numbered list of tips on a topic.

3. Visuals

Research shows we process visuals faster than text. In addition to helping reduce word count, visuals draw the reader in by grabbing their attention and creating interest in learning more. Visuals also help the content stand out when it’s being shared over social networks. Whether an article has a relevant photo accompanying it, or the visual is an infographic and the focus of the article, visuals help generate click-thrus. While BuzzFeed exemplifies many of the snackable factors we’re identifying here, a quick visit to their site will tell you that photos are part of this “viral content machine’s” recipe for generating reader engagement.

4. Sharing

According to ShareThis, more than 5.5 million GB of content is shared daily. Earned content syndication through sharing is critical to content marketing success. Sharing that’s responsive to any device should be standard, making it dead simple for users to pass your content along to its network. Minimizing the steps required to share is also critical — one click too many may prevent the audience from sharing it at all.

5. Graphic Design

Even if the best content is armed with the above items, without good graphic design, it won’t matter. A site can make content look its best by applying a mix of aesthetic and utility to attract readers, making it easy for them to browse and consume. Recall how Twitter joined Facebook in making its news stream more flexible. Instead of having to leave the site to watch a video or view images, everything takes place in stream.

6. Flexible

Responsive design makes it easier than ever to be compatible across platforms. But you can’t rely on this when it comes to publishing content. If you’re not testing the mobile experience first, you risk missing the largest window you have with an audience — downtime. From the daily commute to unexpected delays that take place throughout the day, a quick read on the smartphone tends to be the way to optimize this time. Your content must be ready for these moments.

Even Long Form Content Can Be Snackable

You’ll notice I never mentioned the length of an article as an ultimate consideration as to whether or not it’s snackable. Consider a new breed of stories like the New York Times’ “Snow Fall” or Memphis Commercial Appeal’s “6:01.” These long-form stories are designed to serve as a meal in several courses instead of a buffet. They keep readers’ attention with individual pieces of content, including large visuals and video backstory, while leading them through the larger story.

More than ever, good content is multifaceted — representing the convergence of editorial, design and development. Considering all three when it comes to content creation — snackable content in particular — is critical.

3 Reasons Agencies Should Work with Startups
Startup activity in the United States has grown well beyond the coasts, as cities nationwide see the impact start-ups have on local economies.

This invention ecosystem is particularly lively in my hometown of Cincinnati. As a hub of branding and marketing, there is a unique opportunity for startups based in Cincinnati to tap into world-class consumer marketing talent.

My agency, Empower MediaMarketing, has been working with startups for years through The Brandery’s nationally-ranked accelerator program. Below are three reasons why we continue to invest time, talent and funds in the startup community:

1. Collaborate To Win

Startups in The Brandery program have four months to prepare themselves for the scrutiny required to warrant a venture capitalist’s investment. This requires speed, flexibility and a broad range of collaboration with different companies. The program’s outcome reminds us that there is opportunity in disruption and that a collaborative approach is more effective than a competitive approach every time.

2. Fuel A Culture Of Ideas

Startups are free of processes, history or perceptions to curb their thinking. With few resources, they’re also forced to think creatively. This mix of freedom and constraint fuels fresh thinking that creates value.

We have helped two startups look at data differently to create ad retargeting pools. This collaboration has created new opportunities for our clients to test, learn and ultimately further their businesses. Agencies connecting startups and clients can create value for all three parties.

3. Enable Stories

Storytelling is the marketing and media industry’s primary gross domestic product. We’re reaching out to startups for a new layer of media technology to enable storytelling for our clients in a way that engages rather than distracts consumers.

Get Smarter — Together

While some startups are leery of working with agencies, we think clear communication around inputs and outcomes help avoid any issues. I think about Dónde, a former startup we once helped, and how they once asked what we wanted out of our collaboration. My answer was, “I want us to make each other smarter.”

There will be some immediate wins for the startup and the agency. But we believe the long-term relationship is the biggest benefit. In some cases, many of the startups we’ve worked with will become partners or clients.

Simply put — working with startups is a smart path to success and benefits all parties involved.

5 Powerful Ad Retargeting Techniques
When it comes to customer acquisition, the next best tactic after search engine marketing is retargeting. But the concept of retargeting is much larger and more complicated than what many brands expect.

On a macro level, we’ll use this definition of retargeting: to serve an ad to a consumer that has taken an identifiable action related to your brand. This definition will guide our discussion of five micro-level tactics:

  • Site retargeting
  • Search retargeting
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) retargeting
  • Engagement retargeting
  • Contextual retargeting

Site Retargeting

This most common retargeting method takes advantage of website visitors. Successful site retargeting tactics segment visitors based on their experiences to date with the brand/website, catering specifically to that experience. For example, a visitor who hits a store locator page should be served messages related to local in-store promotions for her home store, while a visitor who puts something in his shopping cart without checking out should be enticed back to finish his transaction with specific online offers related to the product placed in his abandoned cart.

Site retargeting can have a 10-times lower cost per acquisition than tactics targeting consumers that haven’t yet interacted with your site. It’s a logical, efficient place to start boosting conversions.

Search Retargeting

This tactic relies on consumer search activity related to a brand or category. For example: When someone searches for “Sperry shoes,” she leaves a data trail behind her based on what she clicks on and where she ends up. Either a brand’s search terms can be directly used for retargeting consumers with display ads (when they click), or widgets that live on the pages they land post-click can identify consumer interest based on the search that brought them to the page.

Because the consumer has indicated his in-market presence by conducting the search in the first place, this tends to be a very successful tactic to widen the net beyond what you can capture with site retargeting alone. A retailer we work with has found that search retargeting is five-times more effective than other acquisition tactics.

CRM Retargeting

Leveraging your mailing lists can also be effective when done correctly. This requires a data partner that matches postal and email addresses to an online cookie pool through a privacy-compliant, secure environment. Any segmentation strategies in direct/email marketing can also be carried through to display tactics once the segments are matched.

One successful deployment of CRM retargeting by one of our e-commerce clients uses the matched cookie pool of current customers as a filter for other acquisition efforts, increasing the chance that promotional ads are served to prospects that aren’t already buying from the brand.

Another successful deployment by a retail client leveraged CRM retargeting to bring lapsed customers back into the store. A test/control design found incremental return visitation from the test group that had been passed through to CRM retargeting versus the control group, driving significant return on investment for the brand.

Engagement Retargeting

This tactic leverages interactive creative to identify consumers that have taken some action on a digital advertisement, segmenting them accordingly based on that action. It is very similar to site retargeting, but takes the concept to the consumer rather than requiring the consumer to come to the brand. Interaction rates are 10-to-50-times higher than standard click-through rates, so this can be an effective way to expand the pool of those interested in the product or brand, but not yet interested enough to visit the website.

The best deployment for engagement retargeting uses image pixels on ad panels that only fire (and cookie the consumer) when that consumer has taken deliberate action on the ad to get to that panel. Otherwise, the engagement retargeting pool is stuffed full of accidental actors that are not any more likely (and may be less likely) to convert than the next consumer you might reach with that impression.

Contextual Retargeting

Another tactic very similar to site retargeting — indeed, it is site retargeting — but differentiated by the environment in which the consumer is first tagged. Creating content is a great way to capture consumer interest in a broad category before driving them to the brand. With content marketing, sometimes it is the brand creating the content, and sometimes it is a third party. In either case, when that content doesn’t live on the brand’s site but allows the brand to identify visitors for future ad targeting, that’s contextual retargeting.

An example we’ve used that showed twice the effectiveness of other acquisition tactics leveraged content that was created specifically for broadening the top of the purchase funnel to get more people interested in a client brand’s service offering. Users visiting this brand-neutral environment not only found the content helpful but also became more qualified retargeting prospects, showing a higher likelihood to convert.

Retargeting Improves Acquisition

Of course, there is a natural ceiling to the amount you can invest in retargeting that is directly related to the amount of consumers taking any of the above actions in the first place. Once you’ve reached a 20-to 25-times frequency against any of these pools, you’re likely to do more harm than good with that particular audience, and you’ll need to shift focus (and budget) back to getting more fresh prospects into those pools.

Deployed effectively, the above retargeting techniques can significantly improve acquisition rates and drive incremental profit margins — while showing a positive return on investment.

Storytelling: The Single Currency for Media & Marketing
Content has become the official currency of the media and marketing worlds, displacing the traditional “interruption” model of paid advertising and even the “annoyance” model of most online promotion. This convergence to a single currency is disrupting many of the beliefs that have underpinned each industry for decades.

Shared Perspective

The University of Missouri’s Strategic Communication Department (advertising, marketing and PR) once hosted an event where students, faculty and guests from the marketing field shared perspectives on this disruption. The central theme from the discussions was clear: Marketers are behaving like media, and media organizations are behaving like marketers. In fact, marketers are becoming publishers and creating their own media properties. And media is now starting to tailor its content creation abilities for marketers.

Marketers have long known that people prefer content that’s personally relevant to them, but historically, few have tried to produce it. Many are bypassing traditional media outlets in favor of blogs, social media, on-demand programming, etc. Marketers are now being forced to consider the audience’s preference in their content creation.

New media outlets and technologies have given marketers the opportunity to offer content that people want and need — news and entertainment that may be overtly sponsored or that may involve content of interest to customers and prospective customers. Traditional news organizations are also applying the lessons of data and analytics to identify story types and forms audiences want to generate larger, more loyal audiences.

Better Storytelling

At its best, content — or storytelling — is not a slick endorsement of a brand or product. It provides authentic information an individual can use in his or her life presented in an accessible and interesting way. But modern storytelling is requiring a constant stream of insights around audience preferences and an endemic understanding of how technology is influencing how stories get shared.

This is forcing marketers, media and academia to innovate. It means that the next generation of content creators will need enhanced writing and storytelling capabilities, even in an age of 140-character messages. They must be empowered with contemporary philosophies, methodologies and skills for success.

The Proof Reported

Digiday Editor-in-Chief Brian Morrisey wrote, “Aggregation and the page-view-driven digital ad system are disrupting the relationship between marketer and media.” He explained how some journalists are moving away from a “story-centric worldview.” The stories are becoming fuel for other stories and are getting repurposed, just as Paid Content repurposed Digiday’s story.

These changes in the media model may be the best explanation for why many print and broadcast news organizations are finding it hard to adjust. The newspapers that are poised to survive this convergence are embracing how digital is influencing news reporting and distribution. One may argue whether this is quality storytelling, but the fact remains that media and marketers are keen to understand the interdependent nature of story in the very social, digital space.

Data Driving the Story

Data associated with audience behavior is defining this new model for the media and the marketer. Morrisey’s piece also points out how Business Insider has successfully harnessed “fast data,” or the residual information produced by consumer behavior, to more efficiently produce relevant stories and to effectively lower the “cost of production per page view.” This fast data reveals how audiences cluster in ecosystems.

By analyzing and mapping the interactions between audiences, news sites and social media, digital publishers are optimizing their storytelling. As these publishers aggressively work to lower this critical media metric, it opens the door for even more marketers to enter the media creation space, efficiently producing a far more objective form of quality content and capturing their own appropriate share of the audience.

Deep, Focused Pockets

Who should subsidize storytelling? For generations, the process has been quite familiar. Marketers bring the bag of money to the table and hand it to the media. The media has been quite confident in its ability to generate the appropriate audience. But as media’s ability to generate that audience profitably erodes, it’s in need of more content, which is threatening quality. Lowering the barrier has not just opened the door for marketers, it is now forcing them to seek direct access to higher quality content creators.

“Marketers should focus on quality, not quantity,” said Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi in this piece. Pulizzi’s right, but his thinking doesn’t necessarily account for where the marketer is in its evolution as storyteller. The reality here is that whether you’re a marketer or media, we’re all striving for more and better content. But because the vast majority of marketers aren’t deriving their very existence from content creation, they may have a competitive advantage in quality. Marketers will have to learn how to remove themselves as the main character of the story for this to work.

The Blueprint

Since its founding in 1908 as the world’s first journalism school, University of Missouri has offered advertising (now Strategic Communication) and the famous Missouri method of “learn by doing.” This means students work at real media and agency arms of the school like NBC affiliate KOMU, NPR affiliate KBIA, the Columbia Missourian and three strategic communication agencies. Those agencies are Mojo Ad, specializing in the youth and young adult (YAYA) market for big brands, AdZou, serving clients both large and small and YAYA Connection, providing content, insights and information about the YAYA market.

Learning by doing offers opportunities for the media and marketing communities to collaborate with academia and help students better prepare for this new age of storytelling.

  • As storytelling becomes an even more important skill in strategic communication, there are opportunities to more closely integrate the agency’s planning experience into the journalism curriculum. The objective is to help the marketer think more like the media and the media to think more like a marketer.
  • As content marketing helps define how marketers are the media, there is also opportunity for more cooperative integration between academia, marketing and media.
  • Lastly, there is an opportunity to better map the journalism curriculum to the converging industries it’s serving.
Empower Builds Out Content Studio with the Addition of Terry Dillon and Wally German
Award-Winning Writer for America’s Top Comedy Show and Classically Trained Visual Storyteller Bolster Creative Department.

CINCINNATI (July 09, 2019) – Coming on the heels of successful commercials produced for TriHealthDremel and Formica, Empower continues to invest in its content studio with more talent to keep up with the growing demand to ideate, direct and produce content. Spanning 3,500 square feet, Empower’s studio is fully equipped with onsite video, photography, lighting, sound space and an editing suite.

Terry Dillon joins Empower as creative director charged with bringing idea-led Creative solutions to clients. Wally German brings his visual talents to the agency as lead photographer and videographer.

Dillon was born and raised in Greater Cincinnati, where he learned the ropes at independent agencies before heading west to L.A. to work for Warner Bros. He became a staff writer for top comedy show Two and a Half Men after assisting on That ‘70s Show and The Big Bang Theory. Other career highlights include working for Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour and Comedy Central.

“I saw how much Cincinnati had progressed over the years. It’s a great place to enjoy family while fulfilling creative ambition,” Dillon says. “I was impressed by Empower’s competitive edge: bringing media and message together under one roof.”

Also a Cincinnati native with national clout, German’s artwork was recently featured on the TODAY show. “I’m a MacGyver when it comes to creating things and felt compelled to join Empower after meeting the talented Creative team and being exposed to the agency’s deep media roots,” German said.

“It’s a fun time to be working at Empower,” explains Chief Creative Officer, Tinus Strydom. “We’re producing Creative for some clients, driving Media strategy for all and trailblazing a path for Creative Media solutions for progressive organizations like TriHealth. “With the addition of Dillon and German, Empower’s ability to create on the fly is stronger than ever,” Strydom said.

About Empower Media 

America’s largest woman-owned media agency

Our advantage is simple: Clients first – not shareholders.

From the day we opened our doors in 1985, Empower has always challenged the media status quo.

Empower is a highly awarded and respected media agency. We are a multi-year recipient of “Agency of the Year” from MediaPost and Campaign US with honors from Ad Age and Adweek.

Our senior and experienced integrated team of Communications Strategy, Media Innovation, Media Planning and Buying, Creative, Marketing Scientists, Influencer Marketing and Data-Analytics work in collaboration on our client’s business daily.

Empower’s client tenure rate is unmatched–3X the industry average. Our clients include Tempur Sealy, Wendy’s, Brooks Running, Fifth Third Bank, Gorilla Glue, O'Keeffe's, E.W. Scripps, Jack Link’s, VTech, Bush Brothers, Zaxby’s, GNC, Famous Footwear, Ashley, LIXIL, O-Cedar, Rust-Oleum and RoC Skincare.

Empower Media is woman-run (67% female) and woman-owned – making it the largest woman-owned media agency in America.

Our offices are in Chicago, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New York, Houston and Palm Beach.

Find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and online.