If 2013 was the year of the selfie then 2013 was also the year of the self-serve in Media. We live in a DIY, customizable, controlled world and media buying’s self-serve trend is no contradiction to this new mentality. We create Nike shoes, Save the Date cards, and buy Facebook Ads all thanks to pretty user interfaces and unified payment systems (Paypal, Stripe, Braintree, Square). But is self-serve really that glamorous and cost effective for the power user/agency/trading desk/tech savvy client side marketing team? Joanna O’Connell beat me to the punch today and also is a bit more articulate than I, but here’s a blonde take on it:
Cutting the Agency Out…or not
One of the main arguments for self-serve is the presumption that by cutting out layers you cut your costs and drive up ROAS. What might be true if you look at a LUMAscape, but what we all know is not the ‘real world’ in media is that media doesn’t flow linearly and neither do markups. Let’s assume that Joe’s Shoes uses Media Guru Agency for their buying and does their creative work in-house. Let’s also assume that Media Guru Agency is part of a Biggy Big Holding Company. 50% of Joe’s Shoes goes through the Biggy Big’s trading desk, 30% goes to ad networks, and the last 20% goes to direct buys. I’ll let you do the math on the arbitrage here, but let’s just look at straight operational costs for leveraging self-serve in-house:
Assuming the agency takes a 15% markup on media spend Joe’s Shoes $250,000 Q1FY14 budget is planned for $212,500. Joe’s Shoes pays Media Guru Agency $37,500 quarterly or $150,000 annual to plan and execute their campaigns. For Joe’s Shoes to take this in-house it would be more expensive by looking at salaried employees (this does not account for benefits, free shuttles, and foosball):
Director, Programmatic Buying ~$110,000
Programmatic Display Manager ~$95,000
Paid Social Manager ~$85,000
Partnerships/Direct Buys ~$95,000
Marketing Business Analyst/Excel Monkey ~$90,000
Ad Ops Specialist ~$80,000
Joe’s Shoes would employ a team costing them $555,000 annually to do what their agency did for 70% less.
Workflow Shouldn’t Be Unified
Speaking of agencies, what some don’t realize is that self-serve media buying is primarily used by two totally different parties: Agency Trading Desks and SMBs. One services some of the largest agencies in the world with buying power even Bitcoin holders would find impressive while the other works scrappy and sends emails to an alias for buying support. Yet self-serve products try to accommodate both parties needs. One of the best examples of self-serve’s evolution to become less mass accommodating and more focused is the Facebook Initiative workflow roll out. Facebook took a step back to improve workflow and instead of everyone seeing the same bells and whistles they created a more streamlined and customized workflow depending on if the advertiser wanted reach, acquisitions, app installs, etc.
Features that aren’t important to the power user (Agencies) such as stock images, off the shelf reporting dashboards and standard attribution models are things SMBs need. Agencies looking for data export features, robust targeting and optimization functionality, and congruency with existing platforms they’re using (such as DMPs) can create product pipeline headaches. Moreover, while one would argue that self-serve should accommodate the power user first, SMBs collectively make up a massive amount of media spend (~$1.5BN in Paid Social alone). So where do you put your efforts? You could do what Facebook or even Google did and offer self-serve, but create an ecosystem of platform and vertical specialists (the Salesforces, Marins, Nanigans, of the world) that can be an advertiser facing layer that helps fully realize an advertiser’s spend. So now we’re creating another middleman by offering self-serve? Not really, just changing the way the advertiser interacts with the middleman. Instead of executioners they’re now specialists and platform advisors.
The Middleman Becomes the Specialist
I bet the majority of the volume going through self-serve today is for retargeting. Basic retargeting is like the Easy Bake Oven of self-serve tactics. Doesn’t require adult supervision. Advance to the Viking Gas Range with Prospecting and more dynamic retargeting tactics to realize the value of the ‘middlemen’. Self-serve across other mediums - connected TV, video, mobile, etc. are somewhat negatively impacted by self-serve because testing within self-serve is less frequent without the educational support for emerging media. Clients push agencies to think differently, test and trading desks should push their self-serve in the same manner. However, self-serve is just a tool - not a recommendation engine. Until it becomes that way, agencies need to leverage the self-serve provider as specialists into all inventories, platforms, and formats they access. Take your DSP for instance, the DSP sees the whole universe you bid through and therefore can give you a macro view of the marketplace dynamics, trends, targeting parameters and nuances of each channel (mobile, video, display, etc.) that it includes. What does this mean? DSPs should staff up on planners and people able to advise power users from a place of authority rather than be passive and just there to troubleshoot. Agencies can work with self-serve providers to make them bring more strategic offerings to them and their clients - private deals, data partnerships, alpha programs with Facebook/Google/inventory sources and best practices.
If self-serve is your ticket to cutting costs then think about the executional layer, billing, and technical aspects before you ditch your agency. If you’re providing the self-serve services - create a consulting layer. Not just a troubleshooting layer. Ok, now go read Joanna’s post because it’ll add additional substance to my position.
Social networks facilitate brand content distribution, creation, and ideation…and CMOs have no control. Utilizing UGC content in branded content and ads is a nightmare, but brands make little effort to control and monitor the content. Google a brand like “Levi’s Jeans” and Google Images will deliver over a million results. Much of them altered and copied without knowing which the original was. With additional photo-centric apps and sites like Pinterest and Instagram increasing the complexity of the issue – CMOs need to make external image management just as important as its own branded advertising. Social teams try to combat the issue with single logins, advanced tag management systems, and built in features to control content during ad creation workflow within key networks, CMOs need a viable enterprise level solution to gain control of the current uncontrollable risk in dealing with Social.
Photoshop fails and UGC pictures used in ads of origins unknown to the advertiser are the catalyst for PR nightmares. Social media monitoring tools have been out in the market for years, but image-focused controls are still not commonplace. If you look at most of the activity that happens among users across the web – 70+% is image driven. Images drive action and attention yet most CMOs are focused on the content and words wrapped around the image. It’s easy for any user to hijack an image with a save command function that even my grandma has mastered downloading Facebook pictures I look my thinnest in to show her friends over the years. Recent image hijacked campaigns include Shell’s Arctic Ready campaign and backlash from the community around Lana Del Rey’s H&M shoot as images of the original shoot were passed around the Internet.
Advertisers need look no further than their own consumers to recognize the importance of image control. First, the rumor that Facebook inserted user’s profile pictures into ads run on their platform caused mass chaos that they dedicated part of their own blog to debunking and later this year we had the Instagram Ts&Cs scare. The iconography of a user is personal and intimate and advertisers (and clearly platforms themselves) can easily violate the trust of a user. Social media users get savvier and savvier as the Internet matures by educating themselves on privacy controls and using apps like Snapchat if they really want to send pictures meant for only intended audiences. But what can advertisers use to keep their images from getting photoshopped, hijacked and other various brand-hindering activities done to them?
CMOs receive numerous reports on brand efforts, campaign performances, sales driven by channels, etc. yet there isn’t a precedent to update them on the status of image control and safeguards. Brands currently pull various levers that puts a bandage on the major gap in external image management with SEO, image tagging for Google crawlers, reverse image searches (made popular by Catfish and perhaps something Manti Te’o should invest in) and niche photographer software that’s more tailored for copyright and royalty regulation than enterprise advertising needs. Most solutions focus on content and image management internally, but not externally. Solutions that track externally are suspect and CMOs should ask tougher questions at solution providers since many external solutions only track the original image once it’s circulated throughout the Internet and not after the second, third or fourth iteration. Before an ad launches or a PR initiative goes out, the image control process should be clearly defined. What service or levers will be in place to monitor, control and mitigate risk?
As advertising campaigns become more integrated with user generated content, feedback and participation across multiple platforms – the need for control intensifies. Content copyright controls have been in place across organizations for years as a grandfathered system from the print era. However, the digital landscape highlights and exploits the weaknesses in a brand’s ability to control consumer perception from large to small by not being able to clearly define and execute their image control strategy. If content is king then images are gods and CMOs are starting to realize the importance of image management.
I went to Outside Lands this past weekend, and the number one thing in my news feed other than hipster; Coachella-esque face paint selfies were my friends wearing Esurance bands. A company called Tagstand, a NFC technology provider, powered Esurance’s Insider bands. Concertgoers used Facebook Connect to register for a wristband and picked them up at Outside Lands during the event. The interesting thing about the campaign was not that Esurance was aligning with a young, hipster audience but that they were capturing and foster a potential customer set that will pay off for decades and not just email, but their network, friends, pictures, music preferences, and social/communication style.
I hate saying that every Advertiser does something these days for data, but to overlook a campaign that incorporates tracking technology to create a unique user experience is a rookie mistake. Foursquare even realized that check-ins are a means to data and that their data was the value – not the gamification aspect of their platform. Advertisers are getting smarter with data capture and CRM building activities by creating experiences through emerging technologies that create dual value. Esurnace created an enhanced experience to Outside Land concertgoers and their friends just like how platforms have done for the past few years for monetization efforts (i.e. Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube, Pandora, etc.). Wearable devices are a new means to an end in this new gold rush – data rush era.
Fitbit raised $43M, Nike created a developer ecosystem to develop off its Nike FuelBand, Jawbone is investing heavily in apps partnerships to enhance its UP band and Apple and Google are fighting over a watch and a pair of glasses as the next innovative piece of hardware we’ll all be wearing. I saw some Google Glass wearing concertgoers at Outside Lands, and I felt like Batman in a comic book scene fighting Zeiss. The Esurance bands created a temporary insignia throughout the event whereby friends were sending Facebook invites to their friends who weren’t wearing the wristbands so they could register thus creating a better user experience. Wearable devices for brands are only as good as the amount of users and their network that use them as well. The Nickelodeon/Fruit Loops sponsorship is a great example of how to leverage wearable devices. Send in your address and details with proof of purchase and you got a Fruit Loops Nickelodeon watch filled with green slime. Data capture + Green Slime Watch = Dual Value. As an awkward pre-teen, I was more than happy to have my mom send in all the Fruit Loops box bar codes I had hoarded for the past several months to score a piece of iconography showing how cool I was at school in the form of a $1.00 watch with green crap dripping out of every seam.
Although the media is obsessed with covering how advertisers will use iWatch and Google Glass – there’s a realized opportunity for advertisers to test wearable devices. Brands can be ahead of the pack before both devices hit the market by gaining learnings on how audiences use wearable devices advertisers offer as a vehicle for enhanced experiences and swag. Advertisers should leverage NFC in practical manners, be able to analyze and measure activity via Facebook Connect or other registration means, and leverage the data for future campaigns and activities going forward.
From my latest post on The Makegood:
Advertising is still obsessed with the young and the beautiful, but when it comes to their employees they expect certain tenure. ‘Paying your dues’ is par for the course in climbing the ranks of ad agencies, but savvy, young admen and women are finding bigger roles elsewhere thanks to the increase in startups in the media space. Now, we’re seeing a lack of strong mid-level agency folks and an ever-changing managerial structure within media startups. The industry is in a schism among the young workforce and the two parties involved can do something about it before it changes the industry for the worse.
I’m a Gen Y so I can say that we are an entitled, narcissistic, shameless generation. The hardest job I’ve done to date was managing interns and people my own age. Managing people older than me was easy. I remember one of my media planners telling me the reason it’s easy to manage people of his generation was because “we’re too old to know everything”. Although the young agency workforce has traits that aren’t conducive to the most seamless management structure, they are the first generation to truly be “digital natives”. I was born with a computer and TV in my room and remember bringing an RCA Lyra to school with a 32MB memory filled with songs I ripped off from Napster. My friends and I would pass around the earbuds during recess to listen to Limp Bizkit and Backstreet Boys. For my 8th grade Math project, I used my iMac G3 and the native Exel-esque software to create nifty charts and poll the entire middle school on their favorite shoe brand with mostly ‘skater’ shoes, Adidas, and Nike to see if their brands resonated with this audience. DC Shoes and Emerica won with Nike at the very bottom. I ended up sending the results to Nike with the recommendation (thanks to my teacher) to focus on this younger crowd that has fallen out of favor with Nike and opted for more ‘lifestyle’ brands. Moreover, that they should launch a lifestyle line for the alternative sports crowd. Nike mailed me back saying that they didn’t consider alternative sports a core value of Nike – that skate shoes were not something they’d be investing in, but thank you. I kept the letter.
The Onion put it best when the Publicis-Omnicom deal was announced, “Merger Of Advertising Giants Brings Together Largest Collection Of People With No Discernible Skills”. They did it to themselves. On a call between a director-level agency employee and a potential hire wanting to get back into the agency world from startup land the following was said, “You’re too young to make that much if you want to go back to an agency. Great experience; but just so young to be hired for this role”. Aside from the fact that there’s an HR violation with stating age, Agencies are turning down capable candidates. With media holding companies becoming more and more infatuated with startups in the space to invest in, consult, and introduce to clients – you’d expect the culture to change; to accept a workforce regardless of age to drive an agency with innovative, disruptive ideas and fervor.
Media startups are using agencies as their workforce farm league picking the high potential prospects (account managers and media planners). Agencies are becoming the ‘public sector’ of advertising – slow, low pay, and redundant workforce while startups continue to steal the innovation, creativity, and efficiencies that agencies used to pride themselves on. Like I said in a previous post on my blog – agencies are big (i.e. the hippo, elephant), and in order to attract and retain young talent they need to create a startup culture within each team. Be the middle school math class and allow the young workforce to change a big brand.
There’s a convergence in the space that everyone has covered before, but not fully probed. Media Planner roles are popping up left and right on adtech startups’ career sites. In an every growing venture backed, ‘programmatic’ adtech industry why would media planners be sought after in the space? Three reasons: 1. Relationships. 2. Built-in UX testers 3. Machines can’t do everything.
Media planners have connections to their accounts and other planners holding the purses to their respective accounts within an agency. They can talk the talk of other media planners and sell in ideas that are practical, fits the execution process of the media plan the adtech is fighting to get on, and also have perspective on who else might be responding to an RFP within the adtech’s remit.
Built-in UX testers
As an AdExchanger post recently sited – self serve is becoming more and more requested by agencies and clients and who better to test product than people that were once their target audience. Media planners help advise Product on the natural workflows of media planners and agencies as well as areas of saturation and barriers to change. Does an adtech company care to understand how an agency operates currently or does it want to disrupt it so traditional workflows of a media planner shouldn’t matter?
Machines can’t do everything
Media planners are still required even with the increase in agency trading desks. Media planners fill the gap that programmatic can’t – gut check/nuance/intuition skills that machines just can’t deliver (yet). However, hiring Media planners can also mean either your predictive analytics driven platform sucks or that your startup is scaling faster than your technology is built for. Traditionally, the day to day of a media planner changes media plan budgets and optimizes as per the client’s direction as well as advises on ad hoc requests for media POVs and such. Do media planners within adtech companies now become those tactical and consultative services that a client leans on their agency for?
Given all the reasons why an adtech startup would hire media planners – I’m curious to understand where the line between an agency and an adtech company lie as adtech companies add on adops, media planners, and client services. Do they compete with agencies? Do agencies see them as competition? How do platforms treat them – as partners or another agency? I see adtech companies as niche or specialty agencies almost. If an adtech company isn’t paying on a SaaS model then they’re on a slippery slope to playing in the agency space and there’s nothing wrong with that, however agencies have strong MSAs in place with clients – out dates, resource allocation, commission/retainer structures that adtech companies historically haven’t secured. Curious to hear thoughts on whether or not the media planner fits in the space.
After reading the commentary – I’ve aggregated some of the themes people are talking about and included my POV and reality check. Comments welcome.
Facebook & Google
Small & Independent Agencies
As I’ve stated before, Social is not a channel. With that in mind, let’s discuss how Social can give CMOs more clarity and definitive answers to multi-channel attribution. Social answers both the ‘why’ and ‘how’ for marketers looking to validate their cross channel ad spend. First, let’s look at the issues currently in the market keeping advertisers from measuring this:
30% of internet users delete their cookies at least once per month. This stat actually hasn’t changed much since 2007 based on comScore studies. This stat is also based on a 400k user panel so take it for what it’s worth.
Cookies in Mobile – more specifically in mobile apps are restricted and being phased out by Apple (which holds 39% of the smartphone market share). Apple has recently rejected apps that use cookie based tracking methodology and is focusing efforts on standardizing tracking via its “Limit Ad Tracking” setting within a user’s iPhone settings.
Speaking of Apple - Apple announced UDID’s sunset in 2011 and is not supported on iPhone 5.
Only tracks users that are logged in. This is also something that Facebook has strength in thanks to its native mobile apps and Facebook Connect.
Tracking offline is tedious, finger in the air, 50s style stuff still with a methodology that can be summarized as “we have people outside with counters clicking each time a person passes one of your signs”. For digital offline tracking comes in the form of wifi tracking to get at in-store traffic, triangulation via your cell network, SIM based and hybrid of a few of the different techniques mentioned.
Over time, conversions become less relevant. That’s the standard
- So many times I’ve seen the “we only take 35% of all VBC” problem is that’s 35% VBC regardless of it’s a 300x250 on the home page of CNN or a 468x60 at the bottom of a blog post so advertisers have started requested for only “viewable impressions”.
- - - Social answers the “why” to the user action. A user types in a brand, product, current event, etc. Social drives that intent, but attribution models don’t take that into consideration: Social > Organic Search.
Social impacts both the technical and perception side of multi attribution models. It relays less on a cookie methodology and more on true identifiers via single login. It also helps add story to otherwise fragmented data sources and inferences.
Social Methodology could look something like this:
User logs into FB desktop > sees organic content from friend of auto video > goes to auto site to see new car > checks back to FB > retargeted with auto ad > makes an organic search of nearest auto location > Few days later User sees an ad for new car on TV in the middle of Real Housewives of New Jersey > after work the next day User gets directions on his phone for close auto dealership > User test drives car and one month later decides to buy > User posts picture of new car on FB via Instagram so filter can show off the best lines of new car
The goal is to connect all those touchpoints and be able to answer questions like “how much did that initial organic video in the user’s feed impact his end purchase decision?”, “We want to run a digital campaign, but our goals aren’t in-session based and our sales are primarily offline – how can we track this and optimize?”, “How can I track my TV audience to my digital audience?”
In the near future, Social helps to close the gap on multi attribution models by connecting the intuition of the marketer and the validation of the data. Moreover, as Facebook Connect network grows and people sign in through a single ID making cookies less important in the equation - the impact on the scale at with a marketer can take into account multi-screen variables will only complicate the model. Social can add clarity and context. Lastly, Marketers are getting closer and closer to realizing the true power of Social as not just a advertising platform, but a measurement, analytics, and data platform – which in the long run may prove to be more valuable than the former (especially when you’re dealing with verticals that don’t relay on in-session conversions).