Your state is much more than a place to call home. It’s also a brand. A very important brand.
This is one of the many things I learned at the Colorado Marketing Summit. After all, who doesn’t like the opportunity to get out of the office every once in a while and connect with like-minded marketers? I just had that experience when I attended the summit at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver.
It was a gathering of marketing professionals, creative agencies, media technology experts and community leaders. What was unique about this summit is that every company represented was based in Colorado. Some of the organizations that people will recognize include Western Union (an R&R Partners client), Arrow Electronics, Ball Corporation, UCHealth, MapQuest and HomeAdvisor. Those were rounded out with a few familiar folks in the food and beverage industry as well, including Smashburger, Qdoba, MAD Greens and WhiteWave Foods.
The summit was structured into eight panels and you were able to hear all eight without having to choose which ones to attend. Topics included leveraging smart data, social media strategies, content marketing, optimizing customer experience, meaningful digital engagement and others.
But the panel that stood out the most was called The Colorado Brand. Panel members included the chief marketing officer from the state of Colorado, the director of citywide marketing for the city and county of Denver, and the vice chancellor for strategic relations from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Impressive group − and all female. Girl power!
It’s no secret that Colorado is a great place to live. It’s consistently ranked in “best places to live” articles, including this recent first-place rank in U.S. News. More people are moving to Colorado now than during the Gold Rush in the 1850s. The panel highlighted that the Colorado brand is an amazing combination of outdoor activities, progressive lifestyle, entrepreneurial opportunities and a diversified economy. Colorado consistently ranks as a top-performing economy and currently holds rank No. 1 on the Forbes Best Places for Business and Careers list. The panel also highlighted that Colorado offers a great balanced lifestyle where people can truly work hard and play hard. To many outsiders right now, Colorado stands for one thing: marijuana. With the recent passing of recreational marijuana distribution and use, the panel pointed out that the Colorado brand needs to remind folks about all the other things Colorado stands for. Of course, that conversation can shape the brand, but it is important that we as a state build the right stories about the brand: Stories about its outdoor amenities, its art scene, growing chef-led restaurants, and the economic and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Colorado, as a brand, needs to continue reminding large companies why they need to do business here. In the 1980s, things were very different in Colorado. The town was mostly known for one industry: oil and gas; and there was the dreaded Brown Cloud pollution air-quality issue. Well, times have changed. A number of groups got together and created public/private partnerships to really change the future of Colorado and help diversify the industries. Brands start here and move here. There is a great, young, active workforce for these companies. Millennials are moving to Colorado in droves and that is changing the work ethic on a cultural level, but Colorado is embracing that change. There is a real understanding of having great pride and passion for work being done here, as well as equal balance with play time. One great benefit coming from this growth: new companies wanting to work with local agencies. This is a great opportunity for the R&R Denver office as we continue to build awareness and grow our footprint. We can be part of shaping the Colorado brand.
There is no doubt that the digital media landscape is constantly evolving. Consumer media consumption habits are becoming more and more fragmented (see image below) and to consistently deliver fresh digital media strategies, media planners and buyers must constantly learn new tactics and follow digital trends in the trades.
It is especially important for agencies like us to stay ahead of the digital game since brands now have more options for buying media; some brands are bringing these efforts in-house. Digital media companies are making the planning and buying process easier, challenging media agencies to stay relevant since the process is becoming more and more automated. This automated planning and buying process is called “programmatic” (fancy digital lingo). Programmatic is the newest buzzword being thrown around these days, and should not be taken lightly. Data and technology are becoming so sophisticated, yet so simple to implement into our marketing strategies, and will continue to be the centerpiece of any quality media approach.
Enter TubeMogul. Considered one of the leaders in the “programmatic” space, Tube(mogul) has made a name for itself by investing heavily in data and technology. Tube has successfully created a marketing platform with tools that simplify the planning and buying process. As our clients continue to expect more polished digital campaigns and transparency with their buys (as they should), we now need to find efficiencies in time-management as well as pricing. Problem: the digital media process is calling for more time and effort, requiring more emphasis on research, strategy, ad trafficking, execution, reporting, optimization, more reporting, and finally recapping it all to try and make sense of what the heck just happened. To say the digital planning/buying process needs to be streamlined is an understatement.
Along with my colleague, Kris Cichoski, I recently attended a conference hosted by Tube called TubeMogul University, or as we ended up referring to it, TubeU. The conference took place at Lake Tahoe’s beautiful Hyatt Hotel and included some of the top media folks from agencies and brands across the country. TubeU touched on the most relevant topics being discussed in today’s digital media conversations. Of course, they used this time to showcase their DSP (Demand Side Platform) and marketing tools designed to help make our lives easier, and campaigns more successful – a goal each and every one of us should prioritize. There was plenty to digest during TubeU (including some awesome meals on the beach, accompanied by an overzealous fireworks show to close out the event), so we are recapping the most relevant and key learnings from the conference.
It’s the year of mobile. Or was that last year? Mobile is getting bigger by the year so it’s only natural for it to continuously be the topic of conversation. In 2015, mobile surpassed desktop and became the #2 mode of media consumption after TV. As much as our industry is fascinated by mobile usage, there is still a huge gap in time spent on mobile vs. ad spend on mobile. Total internet ad spend in 2015 was $50 billion but mobile ad spend only contributed 25% of that. So how do you find your audience on mobile and where should you increase your mobile ad dollars?
How to find your audience:
Match desktop cookies to mobile device IDs and retarget users across multiple devices
Apply user registration/email data to do look-alike targeting off current customers
Utilize 1st party data from partners with registration info
Use partners with software development kits (SDKS) implemented across a network of apps to track user engage/behaviors on their mobile devices
Reach users who have been or are currently at a specific geo-location or those who visit multiple locations identifying them as your target audience
Where to spend your mobile money: In-App
ROI & Attribution
Attribution is one of those new buzzwords many marketers are still trying to wrap their head around. In a nutshell, attribution is a methodology we use to better understand how our media is working relative to a specific objective such as an online purchase. It helps paint a clearer picture, giving credit to media partners that are playing a key role in a customer’s path to purchase (or established KPI/objective). For instance, a pre-roll video may be responsible for introducing a prospective customer to a brand, while that same person may end up purchasing your product after being exposed to a display banner. Prior to attribution modeling, media analysts would give that credit to the display banner, not acknowledging the fact that pre-roll may have played a vital role in creating intent to purchase.
Why is this important? Attribution can be used to help us understand the most ideal media mix and strategy, giving us a better chance for driving positive ROI. Now whether that ROI is truly measurable is another discussion; that is why it is so important to be on the same page with our clients with regards to definitive success metrics and KPIs.
TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson said it plain and simple:
Correlation does NOT = Causation
Attribution should not just be placing a cookie on a user that was going to convert anyway. But how do we avoid reaching and paying for impressions against people who are going to purchase our product regardless of seeing our advertisement? Answer: TEST, TEST, TEST. There are many different types of tests we can apply to find efficiencies. One in particular that we found interesting was a placebo test. A case study was presented showing the results of a brand running fake/placebo ads (creative that had nothing to do with their brand) in conjunction with actual creative against similar audiences. The results showed many conversions coming from people that ONLY saw the placebo ad! This may raise more questions than answers, but ultimately, what this is telling us is that we need to be more cognizant of our audiences and frequency, and ACTUALLY APPLY learnings from insights we gain from reporting. If we do this, ROI should increase, making us and our clients all happy people.
There are a growing number of things we must now think about if we want to remain a digital-forward agency. That is why we are now in deep discussions with Tube and other programmatic platforms about bringing their tools in-house. Solution: this will help us not only streamline the whole process (win), but leverage more efficient media rates (win). Not to mention, having a DSP in-house will certainly help us in new business pitches #WINNING. This would cut out the middle-man, and give us the option to NOT have to RFP 10 media partners who do the exact same thing (ultimate win!) Overall, TubeU was an eye-opening experience, giving us a glance into the future of digital media planning, and how it is finally growing up. Needless to say, it was a breath of fresh (Lake Tahoe) air…pun intended.
The month of May is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for brands and ad agencies. During this time, media companies announce direction for the coming year. The digital NewFronts were recently created as a means for publishers to gain greater attention and steal share from the television industry, which still commands a majority of ad dollars spent.
I was fortunate to attend a variety of the NewFront presentations and identified some key themes that emerged.
Digital video is where it’s at. Publishers are focused on creating new online video franchises to compete for TV ad dollars. Depending on the publisher, advertiser opportunities range from custom co-branded videos to product integrations to sponsorship to pre/mid-roll placements. Publishers are investing in talent and quality production to swoon advertisers.
Examples of new video franchises include:
Big Problems/Big Thinkers – Bloomberg (@BloombergTV): Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and journalist Terre Blair have paired up to create a series with major politicians and leaders to discuss major world problems and potential solutions.
Chance – Hulu (@hulu): Hugh Laurie (House) will star in a psychological thriller as a neuroscientist.
Time 100, The Influencers – Time: Through interviews of unique pairings, such as President Barack Obama and ballet dancer Misty Copeland, influencers react to the impacts of each other’s work and accomplishments.
Virtual reality is the next big thing. While details are scarce at this point, publishers are ready to tap into the immerse experience that VR can provide.
Key announcements include:
Hulu enters into a partnership with Live Nation (@LiveNation), where they will make select concert performances available to VR users.
Time Inc. (@TimeInc) will begin releasing VR content on behalf of its brands such as Time, People and Sports Illustrated…including the fan-favorite, SI Swimsuit franchise.
Live streaming expands. Key announcements were made with regards to live streaming, either as a platform for TV content or general entertainment.
Hulu will offer a new platform for live sports, news and events in early 2017 (price point has yet to be announced).
Yahoo is focused on live streaming sports free, without authentication. They will stream 400+ events in the next year, including a focus on MLB and NHL.
In the case of Buzzfeed (@BuzzFeed), utilizing Facebook Live has finally reached TV-like viewing scale. As of late April, the rubber band/watermelon experiment saw 800k+ concurrent views and 10MM+ total views. Live streaming will invite hiccups though, as many witnessed with the Facebook Live event with President Barack Obama. Some technical glitch on Facebook cut the live-streaming interview short, but thankfully they were simultaneously streaming on YouTube, so all was not lost.
Note, I attended presentations for Buzzfeed, Bloomberg, Hulu, Yahoo, Time Inc. & YouTube, so examples are drawn from those presentations. For a full recap of the highlights, please see Cynopsis Media’s wrap-up from May 16th (here).
I recently had the good fortune to attend and speak at the iMedia Agency Summit in Lost Pines, Texas. It was here in the vast back country land outside Austin that a few hundred agency executives and media sellers joined forces for four days of discussion centered on this question. The conference was billed as “The Modern Agency’s Survival Guide” with the topics centered on “who manages what” in the blurred landscape that is today’s ad industry.
Kicking things off Sunday morning was an agency-only, all-day session geared toward getting agency executives in a room to discuss current-day issues that we’re all facing. As part of this, we had a guest speaker from a large national drug store chain join us. Bringing both agencyside and clientside experience, he gave some straight talk on what clients are looking for. His talk focused on a few things:
The three departments you need to keep happy are finance, legal and procurement.
When it comes to social media for a brand, always think: would we, should we, could we.
When pitching your agency, lay off the smoke and mirrors and bring more substance.
Understand the business and category that you’re pitching.
Independent agencies have a shot at large clients; just don’t fight the same battle as the holding companies. They have more offices, a larger global network and just as many big ideas. Instead, push your value proposition when it comes to billing − various models (commission, fee, hourly, project, etc.) − smaller markets plus cheaper rent/salaries equals more dollars for advertising.
Data is important, but don’t die by Infobesity. Focus on what matters.
Next up was a chat on the always hot topic of training. It’s something that large and small agencies seem to struggle with. The main issues revolve around not having enough time to implement a structured training program, slim margins dictating overloaded employees, and who is going to do it. This one has always shocked me in that your agency is only as good as the employees, so why wouldn’t you take the time to train, either in-house or with seminars/conferences? I’m proud to say that the ownership at R&R Partners are firm believers in training and continued education. I shared a few examples of our rrMIT media classes and Superstar program and people were amazed, and I’d like to think envious of what we have built around this topic.
Day two started with a great panel discussion led by industry veteran John Durham @thedurham. He navigated a great talk with agency CMOs from SapientNitro, Rockfish and MRY. Lots of great thoughts emerged on the consulting companies like Accenture and Deloitte getting into the agency business over the last few years. These guys already have an established line of communication into the C-Suite and now they are buying agencies as if completing a checklist, offering a one-stop shop for clients. The next frontier in my opinion will be the move to start buying data companies and trading desks, effectively making advertising a commodity and devaluing good creative along the way.
The discussion shifted to the disrupters who are making waves among the Fortune 500, companies like Uber and AirBnB who are new to the game and have a different business completely from the legacy models. The largest companies in the world will need to continue to evolve, constantly shed their old skin, and embrace the new landscape as Silicon Valley is not going anywhere.
After a few more sessions, it was time for the one-on-one meetings. Think speed dating for agencies and publishers. I had 10 sessions, each lasting 10 minutes, all back to back. Don’t be too jealous! My goal with these meetings was to focus the majority of them on companies that we have not worked with in the past, allowing for new opportunities to blossom. While you can’t get too in-depth, you can get a great understanding of their offering and know right away if it makes sense to continue the conversation once you’re back in the office. Lots of focus this year on the DSP/DMP (demand-side platform/data management platform) model, which screams a sea of sameness, although a few stood out, especially with ingesting real-time social data to bring better insights to your buys.
Day three started off with a great presentation from Susan Borst @susanborst with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Susan focused on native and ad blocking, both hot topics these days. It’s interesting to see the industry say native is the answer to ad blocking, and yet a few months later reverse course and say the opposite. Both are areas that are evolving before us, with a little help from the FTC who has issued guidelines, in addition to the IAB. With consumers seemingly wanting more content and brands willing to provide it, native opportunities will only continue to grow and blur the lines between advertisement and editorial. Susan boiled native down into three areas:
Next up was Roy Spence, co-founder and partner of GSD&M. Roy gave a freewheeling, energetic, off-the-cuff speech titled “The Power of Purpose in Business and Life.” He drew on life experiences from starting his agency to current day. One of the better stories was the time he met with Sam Walton to pitch Walmart. Roy went alone to the pitch and when asked by Sam where the rest of his team was, he got nervous and just said, “One riot, one sheriff, what’s your problem.” Mr. Walton liked it so much, he hired him on the spot. While a great story, certainly not something that would happen today.
A few great quotes from Roy’s speech that stood out to me include:
“We will never solve anything being on common ground, be on higher ground.”
“Don’t spend another second being average at what you’re bad at; spend your time being great at what your good at.”
“Marry the doers and the dreamers at work, great things will happen.”
“We are uninvited guests in people’s lives; make it count.”
While a tough act to follow, the presentations shifted to mobile marketing with a focus on your intentions. Jeff Malmad @1od, head of mobile at Mindshare, along with Dan Brough @danielbrough, head of agency business at Waze, took us into this space. The biggest thing that stood out to me was the conversation around new demographics, with the question being, “Are content and intent the new demographics that we as an industry should be looking at? Does age really matter or should we be looking at behaviors?” While I would argue that it’s important to have a core demo, it’s becoming just as important to look beyond your core audience and find various niche targets that only social data can show you. Where else do your clients have opportunity to grow their business?
Wrapping up the large presentations was the CEO of Epsilon, Andy Frawley @AndyFrawleyCEO. Andy spoke about the industry having an identity crisis and what the agency model of the future is. Epsilon is considered a “new agency model,” or maybe better yet, a faux agency. Starting in data and email, it has added other disciplines, such as creative and media, by snatching up smaller shops as if they were on a grocery store checklist. Andy’s speech was highlighted by seven points.
Get enterprise involvement from your clients; be OK with the c-suite and various department heads sitting in your marketing meetings.
Operate as a solutions integrator, because if agencies can’t, consultants will.
Stop with the hyperbole; clients hire us to produce outcomes, not buzzwords.
Don’t separate advertising from the full customer experience. They need to inform each other.
Know the consumer; insights without audiences are in-actionable.
Hire nontraditional agency talent to breathe life into your organization.
Learn how to build IP, but don’t destroy creativity.
After I moderated a panel on finding and retaining talent, it left me with one last round of 10 rep meetings to close things out. All in all, the conference was great for two reasons. First, it’s a gathering of truly smart people who are happy to discuss any industry topic. You can’t help but come away feeling energized and a lot smarter. Second, it really showed me that we at R&R Partners are moving in the right direction. From training, to culture to our work, we not only can compete with anyone, but we are often light-years ahead of other agencies when it comes to these areas, including the big guys.