MICHAEL SCISSONS: The challenge that we see is, how do you help these big companies keep up with social networks and the rate of change? How do you help them measure consistently? Clients are looking at the techie-nerdy stuff to find ways to better understand the consumer and then to more effectively reach that consumer through paid media or through a Facebook post or a tweet or SMS message or whatever else is brought together around it.
Our challenge is to solve that and also to provide ways to help the client understand the business value of their marketing efforts in social. We look at how to measure the real-time aspects of the marketing performance, and connect that with research that better informs the business results of how clients' stuff is doing.
Do you see anyone out there as a major competitor, and how do you differentiate yourself?
There are a couple different types of competitors. We see the big IT companies coming into this space. Adobe does very well on the e-commerce side of the equation, without question, because if you've got Omniture installed, that’s an essential database. Salesforce is doing some interesting things primarily on the listening side of the equation, and we definitely see them, and that side of the business, going through a lot of evolution.
We’ve done particularly well in brand marketing. One thing that makes us different is that we’re the only company in marketing technology that’s not coming out of the IT side, but coming at it from the marketing side: from the CMO and for the CMO. We understand marketing measurement and the consumer brand marketing side, and we speak the same language as our clients.
What are the challenges for big brand advertisers that are interested in programmatic buying and RTB?
I would say they struggle with how to build strategic advantage in their approach to programmatic buying, and how to build a science around it. If all 12, 15, 30 big brand marketers can go out and buy media from the same programmatic people and creative was the only differentiator, what, as a marketer, do you do? They’re struggling to understand and think through that approach. You've seen P&G and some others launch their own trading desks and things, but I would still categorize that as being the Wild West.
What do you think of the changes Facebook is making to its PMD program?
From a PMD perspective, you have a market that’s changed dramatically. If you look at the Google playbook, it started wide and got narrow. For managing the big brands and connections, there’s one set of partners and processes. And for managing the long-tail, which obviously Facebook believes is a big huge business, as do Twitter and others, there’s ultimately a different set of partners and how they think of that monetization. They’re going to have to rethink that program on a continual basis.
Are clients particularly interested in mobile ads on Facebook?
In terms of mobile, I don’t really see clients making distinctive decisions to be on mobile as a percentage of spend. A lot of the mobile ad revenue is that the box is checked for "allow my ad to be shown on mobile," and it goes out, and it’s effective. Yes, it's great, but most clients don't have mobile websites, so it is just a reach and a frequency thing, a channel to be where consumers are. Whether it’s on desktop or mobile, who cares?
Twitter took some time before it launched its ads API. Do you think it was smart to be a little slower with that for them?
They tried to learn as much as they could from what worked and what didn’t work with Facebook from the early days. Twitter has a long road and a huge opportunity ahead. While Twitter is still at the earlier stages of monetization, Facebook is reaching maturity, with renewals and up-fronts getting bigger. For Twitter, those ads are effective, but marketers are still grasping to understand how to plan in the budget, how to manage the content, and it’s changing the work processes.
Twitter is also approaching the long-tail opportunity sooner, harder, and faster than Facebook, in terms of how they think about local monetization differently. You'll see a lot more programs around that long-tail user faster than we saw from Facebook, which had a bigger brand strategy for the first few years.