The Flaw Of Averages & Risks Of Non-Transparency

AdExchanger recently published an article discussing the risks of averages and non-transparency within our space. The article uncovers the flaws of complacency within campaign results, where the average KPI of all tactics falls within goal, and yet individual tactics are outside the desired range of performance. The article also lends great advice for Media Planners on how to proactively structure campaigns to ensure transparency into the strategies they propose. While this advice is sound, digital marketing is still in need of a tool to help marketers easily determine where their dollars are being utilized correctly, and where they may be able to trim the fat.

In an industry where testing is common, it is reasonable to assume that at any point, a media plan could include tactics which bring down performance. This is accepted within our space, so long as the end result is a smarter, more efficient campaign. The risk however, is when a partner on a plan isn’t specific – to a delivery level – with the tactics they are running. In these cases, while the average performance of the partner could fall within the KPI goal for a campaign, complacency can lead to less than optimal tactics remaining on the plan for longer periods of time, and thus wasted media dollars.

VISTO™ holds a significant advantage for performance marketers, giving them a clear view into every piece of their campaign, not just an attractive top line stat.

Take for instance the following example:
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The KPI goal for this campaign is a .3% CTR. In aggregate, all tactics under this campaign strategy have hit the KPI, and the client is happy. More often than not, however, there are multiple tactics that a partner will run in order to test new strategies, segments, or utilize incremental budget. Below is the same media plan report, except with full tactic transparency provided by the VISTO™ platform.

Targeting Tactics

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Of the four tactics running, only two are hitting the client KPI goals. With this extra level of insight, it becomes clear why advertisers need a deeper, more transparent view into their media plan. Further, when offering managed services in running a campaign, we provide transparency into all changes made by the optimization team. See below example:

Campaign Optimizations

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The transparency level of VISTO™ makes monitoring of the “flaw of averages” a less tedious task. Allowing marketers to be more proactive across their plan holistically is invaluable, and can only lead to more efficiently spent marketing dollars.

To quote the article:

“Just like averages can hide the true picture, failing to have a full view of investment can damage the effectiveness of performance media.”

Read the full article here

Are Vendors Driving Your Campaigns? How To Keep Control

Today’s digital marketers must invest in the best tools available to manage their campaigns and drive measureable results. However, marketing technology tools require significant investment, not just in dollars, but also in data and labor. Marketers spend hours and thousands of dollars setting up campaigns in technology stacks that they’ve either purchased whole or cobbled together. They “strategically invest” in point solutions that don’t always turn out to be advantageous.

Marketers get stuck using these platforms because they’ve simply invested too much time, money, and data. They become entrenched in the solution they’ve implemented, effectively trapped by the technology partners. Post implementation, it’s not cheap or easy to switch, even when it’s clear that better options are available – or when campaign goals and workflow requirements change dramatically and unexpectedly.

What happens, then, if the provider of the technology stack suddenly decides to change policies about inventory access, data ownership or privacy, or suddenly raises prices or fail to disclose the hidden costs? Marketers are in too deep to just switch solutions. In effect, they’ve lost control of their campaigns.

This scenario has probably happened to most marketers. For instance, Google’s decision to remove YouTube inventory from outside ad exchanges impacted thousands of marketers – many of whom may have chosen a specific network because it offered YouTube pre-roll.  The elimination of DMP tags from Google was also an unexpected blow. Changes in algorithms, tagging regulations, or ad specs may seem minor to a platform provider, but to marketers the impact is stressful, time-consuming and often expensive. Yet as our industry matures and consolidates, experiences like this seem to be a common occurrence for marketers.

How are marketers meant to handle these challenges? What do they do next when they’ve suddenly lost access to ad inventory, but are still beholden to the partner they’ve chosen? For marketers with their budgets invested in one type of video solution and thousands of iterations of data-driven advertising creatives, simply “moving” the ads to another platform isn’t as easy as it sounds. More often than not, marketers won’t even have the technical expertise to make such a move.

What marketers need is an unbiased, knowledgeable partner who can help guide the way. The ideal partner understands the ecosystem, has experience with the technology, and is unbiased in their choice of point solutions. This partner isn’t a person on the marketing team or an agency, and it’s not some technological ninja or matchmaker.

It’s a marketing system integrator.

That’s what marketing technology needs: system integrators with complete platforms. They need solutions that bridge the walled gardens with a focus on building successful campaigns. These integrators aren’t typical agencies that solve problems through services and expertise. They build systems that are more flexible and that integrate with multiple technology partners, making it easier for marketers to adapt. Typical agencies may also work directly with these marketing system integrators to expand their own options.

If a system integrator isn’t a person or an agency, what is it? The best system integrators build platforms that are open to diverse, quality partnerships. Salesforce is a good example. They don’t prevent marketers from working with Marketo or Hubspot, despite the fact that they own Pardot. Salesforce will integrate neatly with Constant Contact or MailChimp, and allow you to bring in any solution you like. There are other CRMs, MAPs and CMSs that are good system integrators as well. Marketers aren’t forced to change partners to work with the solutions these integrators build. They are unbiased, foundational platforms, open to integration with any quality partner.

The walled gardens are the fly in the ointment, since they tend not to play nicely with systems they don’t own. That’s indicative of the problem the whole industry faces, though. Those big platform players, the keepers of the gardens, are so focused on their own interests that they have driven the industry to become platform-centric. The advertising/marketing technology industry is looking out for itself, not focused on marketers and target customers.

As a result, marketers are forced to make sacrifices every single day. They have to choose a specific partner because that’s the partner that integrates better. They lose visibility into campaign results because dominant players change the rules, or they have to set up a second (or third) reporting interface because some partners won’t play nicely with the marketer’s existing solution. This cuts into a marketing team’s time and productivity, and ultimately impacts their results and the end-user experience. If we’re here to serve marketers, this needs to be fixed.

It’s time for marketers to take center stage. When we start to focus on building successful campaign systems for marketers, the industry will thrive, grow, and evolve in a way that’s good for everyone in the ecosystem. Until then, marketers will continue to struggle as they fight to keep control.