RSS FeedArchive for the ‘Marketer’s Note’ Category


Why I’m Finally Paying Real Attention to Rocket Fuel

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

I don’t think I am alone in saying that the digital marketing ecosystem has always had mixed feelings about Rocket Fuel.

From a performance standpoint, I’ve heard buyers (whether marketers or agencies) say it’s always been a solid, often great, player. And that matters. A lot. It brings buyers back time and again. From a business model standpoint, however, it’s faced more suspicion and criticism.  As its programmatic media brethren – MediaMath, Turn and the like – have increasingly weaned themselves off of “managed service” deals - programs run, for all intents and purposes, as black box ad network campaigns of old – Rocket Fuel has continued to operate primarily as a managed service company. So while it’s often referred to in the industry as a demand-side platform (DSP), I’ve always argued that this is wrong – a platform that isn’t accessible to the end user for direct management of campaigns is not a true DSP (something I formalized through the DSP Wave several years back, while still an analyst at Forrester). And I’ve not been alone in this sentiment. Calls by agencies and, more importantly, marketers for “transparency” and “control” in their media management get louder by the day.

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Defining PII: A Moving Target

lizziekomar"Marketer's Note" is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. This week it is written by Lizzie Komar, Associate Analyst, AdExchanger Research.  

Over the past few weeks, I began conducting research for my upcoming report,  “Defining PII,” a title that is proving overly simplistic, perhaps, as PII (or personally identifiable information) is a complex and unwieldy concept, for the definition of PII is ever-evolving in the face of new technologies and consumer data streams.

It’s impossible to research PII without immersing oneself completely in the study of “privacy.” Even more evolutionary and contextually dependent is the idea of privacy, that which gives us control over what information we share and with whom we share it. And in today’s world of uber-connectivity, privacy has never been more important.

I spoke to a privacy product manager at a large technology company who viewed privacy not only as a competitive advantage, but as the competitive advantage for marketers.“ He said:

“The companies that win in the long term will be the ones that consumers trust the most with their personal information, and as privacy is the basis of trust, determining what privacy means to consumers and adhering to that in all practices, products, and communications is of tantamount importance.”

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Garbage In, Garbage Out: Why Smart Trafficking Matters So Much

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

Last week, I had a wonderful conversation with an interactive lead at an independent agency as part of my ongoing “When and How to Take Programmatic In-House” research (for which I’ll be presenting the findings at our September Programmatic I/O conference), which reminded me of the hugely important, but wildly undervalued, importance of well organized operational efforts in effective media programs.

What do I mean by that?  Well in this instance, I’m talking specifically about naming conventions in campaign and placement set-up.  What this agency executive told me was:

“Analytics and operations are inevitably tied together. The operations side of it is super important: what you traffic in is what you get out. You must be really methodical in how you traffic things – you’ve got to be able to codify it in some way shape or form – which publisher, what placement, which audiences. We have an ability to meta-organize the data because of the way we have folks setting things up.”

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Time To Grow

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.

So many fascinating questions, trends and technologies to research, so little time!

Thankfully, I’ve now got some help. I’m pleased to announce that Lizzie Komar has joined the AdExchanger Research team as Associate Analyst.

Lizzie was most recently with Forrester Research, serving Marketing Leadership Professionals and focusing on best practices in search and email marketing. She also has research experience in digital media buying, advanced digital measurement, agencies, mobile advertising, and social marketing.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled to have her on board.

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Let’s Not Lose Sight Of The Real Power Of Programmatic

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.

Call me naïve but I believe in the open exchange model. I always have. Something about the battle of wits it promises always spoke to me: The buyer who actively seeks out data, and who knows how to make sense of it, will make the smartest real-time bidding decisions – whether it’s bid/no bid or a really smart pricing decision – that add up, impression by impression, to the most optimal media spend, beating out its competitors in the process. In this model you don’t have to be the biggest agency or marketer to succeed; you simply have to be really hands-on and smart. Whoever is smartest with data wins.

I’ve keenly watched, therefore, the evolution of direct programmatic deals over the last several years, with a tinge of sadness, I admit. Sadness, because these deals are not so much about intelligence driving competitive advantage as they are about buying clout ruling the day, i.e., the biggest buyers can bully sellers on price because they control big piles of money – programmatic, then, just serves as the transactional mechanism. In this model, the bigger you are, the “better” you’ll do.

I’d argue though that simply getting the best rates isn’t enough. That’s media buying circa 2002. We’re smarter than that now, and we should act that way. I don’t dispute that there are many, many large buyers who are also smart – they are bringing proprietary data (or data models) to bear on those direct deals to help them make the most intelligent decisions possible. But I would bet you there are plenty of big buyers who are still primarily focused on price – on banging programmatic sellers down on rate and calling it a win.

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Who’s Really Winning If CPA Programs Rule?

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

I was inspired by this week’s AdExchanger comic, which features “Mr. CPA” on the top of the mythic Mr. Universe winner’s podium, to comment on the market’s continued obsession with CPC and CPA programs.

When I was a media planner and buyer back in the mid-2000’s, and I had a very aggressive direct response client who demanded high volumes of sign-ups and high expenditures of budget, I found myself laying down vast amounts of money to dozens of ad networks at a time to meet my client’s requirements. CPM, CPC, and CPA programs were all in the mix. I really had no idea what was being done behind the scenes, I just knew that I was meeting my client’s goals. Of course, when they asked me why something was working, or, why all of a sudden something wasn’t working, I had no idea.  I had no visibility and no control.  Who knows, maybe one of my CPA partners turned remarketing back on to up their performance, even though I’d told them not to, or one of the ops guys managing my campaign went on vacation and left no one at the helm of my program, leaving it to tank.  Frustrating, yes, but this is what was available to the buying community at the time.

Today, we the buyers have platforms that allow us to accomplish many of the same things, without necessitating the use of CPC and CPA programs. We can access wide swaths of inventory – through both open exchanges and direct publisher deals – point our technologies to optimize toward specific campaign goals, and make as many real time changes as are warranted, all with an eye toward driving meaningful conversions which are being carefully tracked using an advanced attribution system. (Yes, I said it!  Down with last click!) In fact, ideally that post-attributed data is then being pushed right back into the buying platform to create a closed feedback loop of buying, optimization and performance assessment.

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Why I Worry for Agencies

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.

Is it just me, or are there an awful lot of great folks leaving their agency jobs these days?

  • I followed the news closely when (my former boss) Curt Hecht left his role within the Vivaki Nerve Center, a division of the Publicis holding company, back in 2012 to join his former agency colleague David Kenny at the Weather Company.

I think it’s safe to call this a pattern.

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Customers First, Company Needs Next, Individual Agendas Last

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

I had a wonderful conversation with Renee Horne, AVP, Social Business at USAA, at last week’s Merkle CRM Summit, in which she noted something that could make a great guiding principle for us all – she said, “We focus relentlessly on always putting the member first. We are mission-based: it’s about serving our members.”

“I like to use this framework to think about it: think about the member first, then think about the company’s (e.g. USAA’s) needs, then it’s about the individual teams - all the individual agendas come last,” said Ms. Horne  But here’s where the rubber meets the road when companies follow that model – as she puts it, “There is not an option other than to work collaboratively, which we do very well at USAA. We have to bring enterprise-level stakeholders together to make it all happen.”

As David Williams, Merkle Chairman and CEO, aptly bemoaned while speaking to the broader group (there were several hundred of us in attendance – mostly marketers), “This industry needs to stop buying capabilities. There’s too much focus on capability, capability, capability. Everyone is getting bombarded by ‘capability’ companies. In reality, it’s not a capability game anymore. The capabilities are there. [The real issue is] people not creating real operating leverage from all the capabilities they have - the operating model of the organization needs to change.”*

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Publishers, Let’s Talk Programmatic CPMs

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

I just had a very interesting conversation with a reporter who’s trying to understand why so many publishers link “programmatic” to declines in ad revenue and/or profitability in their quarterly earnings statements. I have strong suspicions on what might be happening, but I don’t yet have a firm answer on what’s really happening, at least not yet. 

Certainly, publishers will indicate that the volume of impressions they sell programmatically outstrips the revenue associated with those impressions (at least that’s what I found in my State of Programmatic Media report). But that isn’t a surprising statistic, nor is it a new phenomenon.  Certainly, this was the case when publishers relied on ad networks for indirect inventory sales.

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The Second Party Data Opportunity

joannaoconnelrevised"Marketer's Note" is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O'Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

I had an interesting conversation about the “second party data” opportunity with some senior level publishers not too long ago, and it got me thinking about this subject anew.

I’ve always seen these kinds of relationships – where a marketer (or agency on a marketer’s behalf) has a direct relationship with a publisher where data is the thing being negotiated over (e.g. second party data… Get it? The marketer is the first party and the publisher is the second party) – as a huge opportunity to be explored. Back in the early agency trading desk days we had the idea that, within the walls of our agency, we could create symbiotic marketer to marketer data relationships (in this case the second party provider is another marketer, rather than a publisher). Think of a travel company with flights to tropical locales and a retailer selling resort-wear. But at the time, the tools that would enable such relationships just weren’t there.

Today, they are, at least if leading DMPs are to be believed. Just look at the recent panel I moderated, during AdExchanger’s inaugural Industry Preview conference, where second party data was heralded as the big opportunity to be explored in 2014. (Side note: AdExchanger got in on the fun just about one year ago today, with this comic strip on the subject: “Come on in to the data party, publishers!  It’s great in here!”)

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