Dentsu-owned 360i is well known for "earned" and social media strategies, but about half its revenue comes from paid media billings, search, and analytics. The agency has solved complex data problems for the likes of Capital One, J.C. Penney, and NBC Universal, and it's positioning for a future of ballooning analytics requirements.
EVP Jared Belsky spoke with AdExchanger about 360i's positioning, the need for more data in attribution models, and why some clients are taking a "pause" from Facebook -- in a good way.
AdExchanger: Describe 360i's media practice. What makes it special?
JARED BELSKY: We're a very balanced agency. Roughly half of our revenue is in media, search, and analytics. Because we don’t believe you can be great at everything, we've had a vertical strategy focused on retail, finance, travel, CPG and media. That just lets us be better.
A lot of agencies have white labeled, borrowed or rented every piece of technology they use -- their business platform, attribution, trend-monitoring tools. There’s no sin in that but we’re different. We’re half technology company, half agency; and that drives our ethos of driving our clients business forward through innovation, efficiency and data exploration.
As search and display comes under increased pressure, the most clear path of differentiation for agencies is analytics, and frankly it’s like the easiest way for us to move up stream and to be more important in our clients’ lives.
Facebook is doing more to embrace attribution tracking. What's the importance of this, do you think?
Facebook is driving more value than is provable via directly measured ads. It almost doesn’t stack up as a feature; rather it's an enabler. We think it's huge.
It's only for premium ads now; we're excited about all the other data available to bring into the attribution fold. That could be interactions and clicks on sharable links, interactions with pictures. There's so much rich data that’s not really in attribution models. Lets stop clapping for ourselves because we can do attribution now between search and display; let’s start hunting down more data and making that model even more robust.
I’ve got a client, probably our smartest client and one of our biggest spending clients, and they’ve taken a pause on Facebook just like GM did but not for the same reasons. They realize that they have to say, "How do we better prove to our CMO and to our board and to ourselves that Facebook’s driving value?" Their point is, we have to get to a better measurable.
Just to make sure I understand, this client shut off Facebook advertising to create a baseline or benchmark for performance?
More or less. I call it a pause because that’s what they do and I’ve had a few clients call it that. For a couple of our clients who’ve taken the pause, it’s the opposite of animosity. In fact it’s curiosity and excitement. It’s that they’re recognizing that they don’t want to just keep optimizing to the lowest common denominator, like maybe a sale or an XYZ conversion, that they want to use all the best aspects of Facebook.
What role does audience buying or programmatic media play at 360i?
It's playing an increasingly important role. Unlike a lot of agencies that rushed to create a programmatic buying practice or a trading desk, our approach was more methodical. The programmatic buying mentality is not right for every client, not just their business model but maybe their organization.
We've taken a very transparent route in our pricing. We have an algorithm that we’re proud of and I would also say that it’s a part of our strategy but not a singular or the only force of our strategy.
When’s the right time to bring data visualization into the client relationship?
It should be from day one, from the on-boarding. Right now it's usually brought in as a bell & whistle, something to excite a client during a pitch or when you need to reinvigorate a relationship. But data visualization has to be part of your reporting and optimization standard best practices. Biddable media budgets have gone from $5 million to $40 million and [oversight] went from a twenty-four-old media manager on the client's side to now a CMO, and the CMO needs to be able to visualize the patterns in the data better than just seeing rows of numbers in Excel or mind-numbing pie charts.
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