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Three Challenges Agencies Face While Orchestrating Creative Messaging

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Media agencies know how to find the right person at the right time, thanks to the growth of programmatic. But they’re still trying to pin down how to send the right message.

“You want the media to recognize where they were, but you also want to recognize where they were in the conversation,” said Zimm Zimmerman, VP of personalization at Merkle.

Sending a consistent message across platforms and devices requires a detailed and accurate cross-device ID graph. Even then, a campaign needs hundreds of creative assets to yield results and ROI, and agency silos and competing incentives create competition that can lead to dysfunction.

Here are three challenges facing agencies as they try to orchestrate brand messaging across platforms.

The Cross-Device Conundrum

To message a consumer across devices, a marketer must first be able to identify that consumer across devices.

Cross-device identity matching has long been a goal of the digital ad industry. Now some agency holding companies are getting into the game by pinning all of the data they have on consumers across their networks to a universal ID associated with an individual.

At WPP, that universal ID is mID, which brings together data from its entire network, including known household and shopper data from Wunderman and Kantar. Dentsu Aegis Network taps into Merkle’s M1 identifier, which ties Merkle’s known offline household data to a consumer’s digital data in a privacy-compliant way.

“ID resolution is going to make the [creative] marketplace interesting for people like us who have algorithms and infrastructure [to support it],” said Seth Solomons, North American CEO at Wunderman.

Merkle, for example, is using ID resolution to help brands incorporate consumer product associations with creative messaging. If a customer buys a lot of Diet Mountain Dew, for example, parent brand Pepsi should put Diet Mountain Dew at the center of its messaging to that consumer, Zimmerman said.

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“Today, with the amount of data you have on a person, the brand has to get more personal at an earlier stage,” he said.

But most agencies don’t have the infrastructure or privacy skills to support ID resolution. Even those that do are still in the process of helping clients stitch together their siloed online and offline data sets, Zimmerman said.

“Most clients are still trying to connect their cookie data to their own customer interactions across a digital environment,” he said.

Big Brands, Big Bucks

Creative orchestration is expensive because it’s difficult to measure unless a brand is willing to test large campaigns with hundreds of creative assets.

“Testing requires a sample size, a control group, decontamination, multiple exposures and a sequence of motifs and calls to action,” said Oscar Garza, global director of media activation at Essence. “That can be expensive.”

Some agencies and clients are up for the challenge. Wunderman, for example, helped a large hotel chain develop 300 digital creative assets through DCO platform Jivox, and worked with GroupM agency MEC to build test logic around the campaign. It also created dynamic landing pages to keep the user experience consistent with the client’s owned environment.

But for a smaller or less sophisticated agency-client combo, the yield might not be worth the cost.

“The methodology is sound, but it needs to be aligned with the economics of the business and there needs to be enough incrementally to warrant the complexity,” Solomons said. “There are some industries where this level of complexity may not yield.”

Brands willing to buy in can use multitouch attribution to measure how different creative exposures led to varying conversion paths, Garza said. But multitouch attribution is easier when there’s a direct-response outcome.

“In direct-response campaigns, it’s easier to contribute a conversion rate from the exposure to a different creative,” Garza said. “For a brand, it’s more difficult because there’s no luxury of a real-time response.”

To minimize some of the complexities of creative orchestration, Merkle is helping clients approaching it first at the audience level. By creating messaging for different audience segments, brands can begin to build up their creative arsenal to save on costs.

“It’s a very step-and-grow-type program,” Zimmerman said. “Start with evergreen images we can grow upon. Create more general [assets] and grow into that one-to-one offer.”

Who Conducts?

Agency structures can create bottlenecks when trying to orchestrate creative, because siloed departments have competing incentives which get in the way of consistency.

Creative orchestration requires agencies across creative, media, digital and CRM to work closely together. But their skills and responsibilities often clash.

Media agencies are paid to buy the right audience at the right price, while creative agencies are set up to develop big ideas but lack optimization skills. And CRM and digital agencies often don’t share their analytics with either party.

“You have disconnected ecosystems,” Solomons said. “Those four don’t talk in most cases. That makes it really hard.”

While brands are starting to compensate some agencies for strategy and technology, creative shops usually aren’t paid to test, develop and deliver on cross-platform messaging.

“The biggest issue for ad agencies is this is not how they make money today,” Solomons said. “It will take them a long time to transition to a different set of skills to be able to deliver.”

In the end, it will be the agency that knows the most about a marketer’s audience that spearheads creative orchestration, Garza said.

“The agency that chooses to put the consumer first before media and creative will be best,” he said.

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