Learn best practices from three companies who are doing CRM well: Zappos, LOVEFiLM, and Victoria's Secret.
Learn best practices from three companies who are doing CRM well: Zappos, LOVEFiLM, and Victoria's Secret.
Niche social networking site A Small Word announced today that they are closing to new members on March 1.
A Small World is an invitation-only site that targets affluent customers. ASW already has a relatively small membership base and they appear to want to get smaller.
With MySpace recently attempting to reinvent itself, it will be interesting to see what direction A Small World takes.
Patxi's, a San Francisco pizza chain, cooks up an innovative ordering process
My local pizza restaurant just rolled out a new service that allows diners to select a pizza that's already in the oven, thereby cutting down the wait time. This restaurant serves deep dish pizzas that take 45 minutes to bake, so the advantages to the restaurant and to the diners are considerable. The diners get to eat sooner -- which for the target audience of families with children under 5 in my neighborhood is very important -- and the restaurant gets to turn over the table faster.
The diners view a tablet which shows the type of pizzas that are cooking and how long it will be until the pizza is ready. One of our tech savvy dinner companions wondered if the information was dynamically generated, while another friend who is a mother of two young children looked at the pizzas listed and she said "oh they must just figure that a lot of families eat at 5:30pm and you can't go wrong with a cheese pizza".
So I asked our waiter about the system when he returned with our pizzas. He told us they created an algorithm to determine what customers are most likely to order at any given day/time. The thing that stuck with me is that he said it took a year to launch.
I applaud their innovation in creating the algorithm, but I have to wonder - could they not have just used a bit of intuition to figure out that cheese pizzas sell well at 5:30pm? As they were gathering data and creating the algorithm, they could have been testing the pre-ordering system using a set of assumptions that they could test and validate. The risk of starting with testing would be some uneaten pizzas, while the risk of waiting a year to launch an algorithm is one whole year longer before you realize your goal of faster turnover.
How do you get an Oscar-winning actor to promote your brand?
Product placement has long been a tactic in the U.S. film and TV industry, but with the Netflix-produced show House of Cards (executive produced by Kevin Spacey), a new medium for product placement has emerged. In one of the first episodes of the series, Spacey's character Francis Underwood is seen playing with his PlayStation at home, then in episode four, there's this exchange:
Underwood: Is that a PS Vita?
Russo: Uh --
Underwood: Which games does he have?
Russo: All of 'em.
Underwood: I have a console at home, I play sometimes to relax. I oughta get one of these for the car. [Pause] So, Peter. We need to close the shipyard in your district...
That's quite an endorsement, and much more powerful than pre-roll ads on YouTube or Hulu.com.
It will be interesting to see how much product placement infiltrates other series produced outside of the traditional network and cable TV channels. If funding from product placement results in shows as good as House of Cards, it will be worth it. Perhaps executive producer Kevin Spacey is as Machievellian a marketer as Underwood is a politican.
Could Facebook hold the key to MySpace's successful resurgence? With their repositioning as a "social and music discovery destination", MySpace can target relevant Facebook users. In fact, they can cherry pick the demographics they want to lure back by age, gender, location, and interest.
However, since I don't "like" any music-related pages or bands on Facebook, and I am presumably slightly (ahem) older than their target audience, it looks to me like they are casting a pretty wide net. Still.. maybe it's time to dust off my old MySpace profile.
Symantec has jumped on the opportunity to advertise to customers who may be "concerned" or "uncertain" about Autonomy due to the recent scandal.
Check out their Google AdWords ads below:
(click to enlarge)
Benefiting from someone's demise...who else has done that?:
Though I typically work with clients at a more strategic level, from time to time, I like to "get my hands dirty" so I can can gain a deeper understanding of the fast-changing digital space. For instance, when I launched my first blog in 2003, I Iearned to hack a bit of HTML to get the blog to appear the way I wanted it. Now, the customizations I had to work so hard for are readily available as drag and drop options in most blogging platforms (kids today have it so easy!).
My latest endeavor was to launch an iPhone app so I would more fully understand the process. I know the limitations of my coding skills [read: severely limited], so I was seduced by a company called Appmakr which very prominently promises that no coding skills are required to build a mobile app.
Though that claim may be true, even with Appmakr, there are certain technical skills required. Their tagline stating apps are made "by people like me" might not be as accurate. Because people like me don't necessarily know how to deal with error messages from Apple about Bundle IDs. And people like me don't necessarily run OS X Mountain Lion (I use a Samsung, but borrowed a Mac for the app submission).
Nevertheless, it was a good learning experience, so I thought I'd share a few very basic tips that may help if you are about to launch your first iPhone app. Please add a comment if you have any other helpful tips for newbies!
I also learned many things that are Appmakr specific; feel free to post questions about that. I would suggested if you want to use Appmakr or any similar service, read the help forums before signing up. That will give you a sense of what issues you may run into.
H(app)ily, the app I built is now available in the App store. I built it on behalf of a client (who was fully aware of my aforementioned technical limitations!). Unfortunately, I have an agreement with them which prohibits me from linking to it. That's another learning.
Warning: This is what happens when you skip QA!
I guess I have become somewhat of a collector of "oops" email messages (see links below). It's become somewhat commonplace to send out an email with an error and then follow up with a correction. But make sure the cure isn't worse than the disease - check out this example from The eMarketing Association that was sent with the subject line "woops". There are three egregious errors in the first two sentences. Woops, indeed.
(Click to enlarge.)
I have bipartisan annoyance at the emails I have been receiving from politicians in the run-up to the election.
So, who gets my vote for dealing with email in the best way? My junk mail filter.
See below for example emails from Obama and Romney.
Related posts: How Obama and Romney are using Google AdWords
Obama and Romney are using Google AdWords in an effort to control the message online. But how effective are they, and which issues do they think are important enough to warrant online ad spend? Here's how they stack up:
Romney is capitalizing on the buzz that will inevitably precede his VP selection. Google "Romney VP short list" and you'll see an add promoting his new app.
Obama wisely doesn't have any ads if you search for "Obama VP short list" but if you search for "Obama Biden" the message is "we've come a long way, but there's still more to be done."
PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MOBILE APPS
Searching for "Romney app" leads to the ad shown further above, whereas Obama is promoting his own app to those searching for it.
IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID
What message are the candidates trying to push on the economy and unemployment? The Romney campaign has cleverly hijacked the search phrase "Obama on the economy" with their pro-business message "you did build it," along with a call-to-action to download a sign. If you search for "Romney on the economy" you'll find his message "Romney wants less federal spending and regulation," plus a call-to-action to donate money.
On the issue of unemployment, the Obama campaign is mum (at least on AdWords) where as Romney promotes his message of "free enterprise, hard work, and innovation," plus -- surprise, surprise -- a call-to-action to donate.
On the issue of job creation, Obama ads are again absent and Romney wants to "get America back to work" -- oh yeah, and "donate $5 now".
FOREIGN POLICY, GAY MARRIAGE, IMMIGRATION, GUN CONTROL
No Google ads from either campaign for these issues.
Obama is playing defense if you search for "Obama care" with his message "I'm proud of Obamacare - Because it works".
Search for "Romney care" and you'll find that Romney will "Repeal Obamacare as Quickly as Possible". However, if you search for "Romneycare" (one word) you will find...nothing.
For those looking for attack ads on either candidate, they'll find a pro-jobs message from Romney and nothing from Obama.
Score one the President when it comes to the first lady -- not only does the Obama campaign have an ad if you search for "Michelle Obama", but she gets top billing in the copy. Search for "Ann Romney" and you'll come up empty (in the ad space, that is).
So who is the winner in this online advertising battle between Obama and Romney? Why, Google, of course.
Related post: Obama, Romney, and Pelosi email marketing
A recent Harvard Business Review blog post suggested that sales reps should avoid customers who are ready to buy.
The rationale is that customers who are too far down the purchasing funnel are probably just using your business for a benchmarking exercise – they most likely have already chosen their intended supplier. According to the article, the better opportunities lie in finding "customers who are going through change and will be open to new ideas...where demand is emerging but not yet established, where they can shape customers' needs, rather than react to them."
While the article is geared towards traditional sales people, it makes sense for agencies as well. Agencies put a huge amount of time, effort and top talent (often at the figurative if not literal expense of existing clients) towards responding to RFPs. So why not task those business development folks with creating opportunities instead of getting invites to yet another crowded party?
Now that I live in the land of Silicon Valley giants and future billion-dollar startups, I see more companies looking for marketers that know how to get scrappy - i.e. find ways to acquire new customers and/or get the word out about their product or service with minimal budget.
For small businesses, startups and solo-preneurs, the need for low-cost solutions isn't going to go away, but as I've stated before - there is no silver bullet. However, I wanted to share something that caught my eye.
Murray Newlands, who runs a meetup for Bloggers in San Francisco, is launching a course on Udemy. His course, PR for Startups and Small Business, costs $49, but he has reached out to his blogger community and offered the course for free to the first 100 people who blog about it.
If you have not heard about Udemy, it is a website that facilitates online learning. You can take, or more importantly for marketers, create a course on any subject - and charge for it (or offer it for free). While it may not have the academic rigor as a course on Coursera or Udacity, Udemy does tap into the trend for online learning (for more on this see this recent NY Times article) and may be worth adding to your content strategy.
I often get asked "what's the next big thing in digital marketing"? Scores of articles and blog posts continue to be written about this; conference seminars have titles promising an answer to this milllion- (ahem, these days make that billion) dollar question; social media "rock stars" sell their clients on the idea that they can predict it. Chances are, they can't. If they could, they'd invest in that big thing, make a wad of cash from the IPO and retire.
Socrates had it right: "“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” The key is to listen, learn, be involved, be curious. Take the Socratic approach that "wisdom begins in wonder". You can't possibly read or even find every blog post, article, Twitter feed and Facebook post about digital marketing, nor should you*. But you should let your curiousity guide you to continue learning about your field.
The real value you can bring to your clients is not about saying "I was the first to discover x big thing", but in being able to help them integrate that thing into their marketing mix in a way that makes sense for their customers and supports their business objectives.
*Hat tip to my friend Joel Shapira for the link.
Sorry, sorry, sorry!
Nothing tests the limits of your marketing team's speed more than realizing that there was a mistake in the email that was just sent - whether it was a broken link, an invalid voucher code, or just a mess of foreign characters where text should be.
As I've highlighted previously, the best thing to do is to just admit the mistake and address it as quickly as possible. If you find yourself in this situation, you're in good company. For reference, here is what other brands have done to address their mistakes. (Click images to enlarge.)
Issues with foreign languages and characters
Note lastminute.com's issue with foreign characters in the subject line. To rectify this, they removed the quotation marks and replaced them with single quotes.
They also fixed the more egregious error of a missing apostrophe. The original email copy also came through as gobbledygook, but sending a corrected email as quickly as possible afterwards limits customer service issues. However, too many mistakes can lead to an issue with brand perception (not to mention pink slips for the QA team).
Citrix sent out an email German to its UK audience. The problem: the wrong database was loaded. Since the recipients should not have received the email to begin with, sending an updated email in the correct language would not have made sense. Their only option was to send this explanatory email.
This OMMA Social session attempted to answer two questions: How do you prioritize, coordinate, and manage engagement points ranging from your Facebook page to email to the in-store experience? And how do you evolve your product-centric organization to one that is customer-centric?
Razorfish, Loyalty Lab, and Virgin America discussed results of their proprietary research found in Liminal: 2011 Customer Engagement Report. In their research, they confirmed what every CRM marketer should already know: “Engagement isn’t just about a channel. It is about the consumer’s relationship with a brand, his or her ability to choose how and when to engage, and the value each channel represents.”
Razorfish asked the question “How do we take a bottom-up, customer-centric approach to prioritize channels?” Their answer was to define six Engagement Elements that should be the starting point for brand interactions with consumers.
Brett Billick of Virgin America said they have renewed their focus on the traditionally engaged. For Virgin, email remains the 'bread and butter' channel for interacting with Virgin's high value customers. They endeavor to consistently improve based on customer feedback in order to ensure that they are sending the right and relevant content. An important note was that they found protecting the cadence of their email communications improved their metrics.
Virgin has a different communication stream through their social media channels. They serve the “socially savvy” with special promos. Though their socially connected users are a small percentage of their user base, they are highly valuable customers. For instance, they’ve found that customers who check in to their flights on a social networking site have a dramatically higher spend than their base loyalty program members.
A presentation at OMMA Social
Justin Kistner's presentation:
Fortune 100 companies had an average 23.02% drop in traffic between Nov. 2009 and Nov. 2010. This is adapt or die.
Facebook fans vs. monthly site visitors: if only 10% of Coke's Facebook fans were active in any give month, there would be 10 times their current monthly web traffic.
Fans are customers looking for deals, news, and community. 84% are existing customers. 83% want exclusive offers and benefits. 36% buy MORE after becoming a fan.
Think of your Facebook fan page as a loyalty program that nurtures existing customers.
After first month, 1 to 10% of fans visit Facebook store once a month.
Wall post best practices
Facebook stores engage visitors
Success as an ecommerce channel requires great stores and great marketing. Consistent wall posts dive traffic and awareness and build an organic base of users. Early adopters will be rewarded with a long-term, meaningful ecommerce channel.
Eric Ludwig's presentation
"Be a scientist, challenge believe systems and be agile (or choose to have a lame career."
Facebook looks like the most amazing database marketing platform ever developed. CRM is back!
You can have two-way conversations - if you have the wrong customers for your brand [as fans], they are typically the ones that will post non-positive comments.
Tips for testing and sales growth
Facebook advertising tips:
At MediaPost's Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) Global Conference yesterday, the website's Editor-in-Chief Joe Mandese led a panel discussion about whether ad agencies are positioned to "tackle the opportunities and challenges" of social media.
At issue was whether the big guys can stave off competition of specialist agencies - something the industry failed to do during the first stages of the digital revolution which witnessed the birth of pure-play digital agencies and the created a major fragmentation in the way that clients' marketing and advertising needs were managed.
Antony Young argued that agencies must partner to adequately navigate through the social space - whether that is with their clients or other agencies.
“Social media isn't just this land grab that one agency ought to own. Everyone should contribute to how to expand social platforms. One important thing to not do is to say 'this belongs in one agency's court'. Every agency should bring a social prospective to their discipline.”
In regards to whether it is the agency's or the brand's role to manage the presence in social media, Young thinks clients and all their partners all have a role. “Everyone's got to bring a social lens to their role in communications – it shouldn't sit with one person or department.”
Marita Scarfi agreed that social is pervasive within an organization. “This is not just a marketing issue. This is a sales issue. This is a retail channel issue. It touches every part of the organization. We as a single agency can't solve all those problems...You have to partner. You need to know what the best strategy is and then partner with others [on behalf of] your client.”
Learn from the past
Big agencies were slow out of the gate in terms of integrating digital into their core offerings. Many struggled - and still do - with how to fit digital into their corporate structure and processes. I also believe that many agency teams become myopic and spend too much time focusing on the immediate needs of their clients, or the brief that just crossed their desk, rather than spending (unbillable) time learning about new technologies and trends that impact their industry.
“If you look at the creative agencies, they were slow to jump into the digital world. That's why a lot of digital agencies found their footing,” Young pointed out.
Scarfi feels that “it was a big mistake for agencies to separate media and creative into separate agencies...We shouldn't separate media and creative - they inform each other too much.”
Young countered that “collaboration is important [between media and creative agencies]…but you don't have to be sitting in one building.”
Brands face more challenges than just figuring out how to manage social media internally (covering the needs of sales, customer service, marketing, etc.) and how to manage their marketing programs across sometimes multiple agencies.
With so many people trying to get a piece of the pie, and everyone from their customer service reps to Board members asking why the brand hasn't tried tactic XYZ with the latest flavor-of-the-month social media channel, brands need the confidence to stay the course.
“Brands have to be fanatical about sticking to their strategy and plan,” noted Joshua Spanier.
Scarfi agreed. “You must start with your brand experience. A lot of tactics get out there and it just makes things worse.”
Creating the right content is a challenge facing agencies.
“Creatives today are not good at coming up with long-form programmatic ideas," according to Spanier. "They are trained in short forms [banners, etc]. That is a challenge for creative agencies.”
“Long-form content is really key to social. That is the big shift for most of us...You have to understand that it's a relationship more so than it ever has been,” added Scarfi.
So CAN the big agencies integrate social? Joshua Spanier's opinion sums up the agency point of view nicely: “It's so complicated, we don't need more silos.”
Media agencies face a struggle to stay relevant
Lousy photos taken with my iPhone.
It's Complicated image courtesy of Wikipedia.
A panel discussion on mobile CRM at OMMA mobile
What does mobile CRM mean?
For a panel discussion on mobile CRM, it was telling that the panel didn’t even agree on the definition of mobile CRM. Some of the panel members simply think it means communicating to customers who have opted in to SMS messages. But CRM isn’t about one channel – CRM is about all of the touch points you have with your customer.
“Mobile CRM is still evolving. It’s not a stand-alone medium. It’s really important to start segmenting who's who to effectively engage and create pleasant relationship with customers,” argued Ben Davis, Co-Founder of Phizzle.
Chris Wayman, VP and General Manager of Merkle Interactive, agreed stating that mobile CRM provides a “wealth of data capture opportunities…Brands that are multi channel should be capturing all the data and storing it in one database.”
Is mobile changing customer relationships?
Wayman: “The customer has already changed the way the brand needs to respond. It’s up to us to find a way to deliver personalized content to customers. Sending generic alerts is not enough - mobile is personal.”
David Wachs, President and CEO of Cellit: “The brand is forced down mobile path to create a more customized experience. They have to come up with a strategy for mobile.”
Davis: “What's really important is to gain trust, not just bombard customers with offers all the time. Take time to approach customers, find out who they are, provide valuable content. It’s a long-term commitment. Once they [brands] do it and they have that commitment and trust, that database becomes gold.”
Don’t be content with the same content
Davis advised that content for the mobile medium is different than content generated on Facebook or Twitter. “Facebook and Twitter allow your consumers to generate the content; mobile gives the brand and content owners the power to create the dialogue.” This is something that brands who are gun-shy about social media should keep in mind.
Patrick Collins, CEO of 5th Finger: “The channel may be different, but the same customers are using it. Victoria’s Secret’s mobile database contained the MOST loyal customers…Treating mobile CRM channel as standalone is dangerous thing to do.”
Alex Campbell, CEO of Vibes Media agreed: “Don't forget the content. You should not have an SMS message that is the same as your email message – they need to be different.”
The mobile database
Collins: “Victoria's Secret had hundreds of thousands of members on its mobile database.” They found that the “mobile database had 95% of their loyal customers on the database – they were already loyal; it wasn't a tool to make them loyal. That insight changed how Victoria’s Secret communicated with users. Instead of pushing offers and announcing products, they sent messages that got customers engaged with the brand. When Victoria’s Secret launched the Incredible Bra, they asked quirky, whimsical, fun questions to their mobile database over a week.”
Campbell: “When you have a loyal customer base, they are expecting to be engaged, not just pushed content.”
Wachs: “Babies ‘R’ Us has built a program called ‘Ages and Stages’ – it starts during pregnancy and continues on to when the consumers are buying toys. It is not targeted at loyal customers, it’s targeted to super excited moms - and they are signing up in droves.”
Unique with mobile
Campbell: “Time, location, and interaction are the three key variables that differentiate mobile. Good campaigns use at least one if not all three of those variables.”
Wachs: “Follow the rule of ones [for ongoing campaigns]: no more than one message a week, no less than one message a month. If you neglect customers for one or two months, they will opt out in droves or they will forget they opted in.”
Collins: “There are lots of variables that drive opt outs; frequency is only one of them.”
Mobile CRM challenges
Collins: “Mobile is still being treated as a silo. The brand already has a customer database [which is not linked with the mobile database]. It will be an interesting evolution. Mobile is more of a delivery channel than a platform or specialty. It should go back to core CRM database - let customers select their preferred channel.”
Wachs: The original SMS programs of text-to-win or text-to-vote had “no integration with process the of bringing consumers to point of purchase. Email CRM drives online purchases – it’s easy to track. Mobile drives in-store purchases - without making investments at cash register to track these transactions, companies can't close that loop.”
Quigley: “Mobile has disrupted path to purchase. Most brands were caught with their pants down.”
In response to my blog post “OMG! Can only young people do social media? The Levi's Guy thinks so”, I got a lot of feedback from people in the field who are (gasp) over 30.
While a few thought that a brand’s social media team should include people of all ages, some thought age should not be a factor at all.
“Digital native is a lazy term. Handling issues in the real world is actually quite an edge when things heat up online. At my agency, we advise clients that the right Community Manager is one that naturally exhibits the same personality and values of the brand itself."
"I want people with experience, who can work outside of the box, and who love the digital space...Age has no effect on experience.”
The dangers of inexperience
"Too often we have placed in the hands of the relatively inexperienced too much responsibility and the end product suffers for our clients," reported Global Marketing Executive Barbara Kittridge (@kittrdg)
"We see staff struggle with strategy or with just plain old selling ideas into clients. When met with resistance guys like [The Levi's Guy] say 'Well, they just don't get it.' I say that's B.S. - it means that you didn't do a good enough job explaining and selling in your ideas."
My guess is if you asked him how to monetize and determine the ROI of social media to rationalize any budget investment his jaw would probably drop and he would start to mumble."
Indeed at the Social Media Week panel, when asked about ROI, The Levi's Guy said he thought it was too early to measure the ROI of social media. The other panel members didn't agree.
"My message to companies is to forget the medium - anyone can be taught how to use it - and focus on the marketing.
If you want to market to twenty somethings, then maybe the person doing your social media marketing needs to be a twenty something. But if you want to market to me, you'll stand a much greater chance of success if the person doing so is a peer.
It goes much further though - in order to even begin to market via social media, you need to strike up a real one-on-one relationship first, unlike using conventional advertising. That becomes much harder if there is a huge disparity in age and outlook between the two parties."
Brands should hire based on expertise, not age
"Chronological proximity to the start of a phenomenon doesn't mean expertise. Expertise means expertise," argued Jay Ferrari, Vice President of Content Marketing & Creative Services for PeakTwo.
So if you're looking for someone to manage your social media, ask them what they've done for other brands. Ask them how they think social media should fit into the big picture for the brand. Ask them how they would go about measuring ROI. But don't ask them their age. It shouldn't be relevant. Besides, as any lady over 30 will tell you, it's impolite.
At today's Social Media Week panel on "Ushering Your Brand into the Social Era", attitudes towards age were revealed.
The panel included Gareth Hornberger, 23 (according to his Twitter bio and ankle-revealing jeans), who started as a contractor at Levi's two years ago.
Now Levi's Social Media Marketing Manager, a.k.a. The Levi's Guy, he advocated "putting young people at the center" as the solution to the challenges brands face in meeting the competing demands of customer care, marketing, PR and other departments. His advice was to "inject digital natives (who he'd already referred to as 'young people') at the core of the process".
Joanne Wan, a Senior Digital Strategist from Ogilvy Public Relations, added that most people who understand social media are younger.
Though it can be hard finding the right people for the team, the best predictor of success is the candidate's own social footprint, she contended. While I agree that to understand the social media you have to be active in the space, what about the candidate's experience or achievements on behalf of their clients? Successfully promoting your band on Twitter does not necessarily translate into the ability to develop a stategy to communicate effectively on behalf of a global brand.
Joanne also said that the right personality was required - someone who is willing to say "Hey guy who's 10 years older than me, do you need some help with that?".
Looks like The Levi's Guy is just the right fit then - when the moderator inadvertantly referred to him as Blake Cahill, a fellow panelist and Principal at Banyan Branch, he quickly corrected her, pointing out that there was "about 10 years difference" between the two. I'm sure Blake took it as a compliment; based on his LinkedIn profile The Levi's Guy was off by another 8 or 9 years.
What do you think? Do all brands need a twenty-something at the heart of their social media activity?
Sites like Twitter and Foursquare know that the number of registered users is not nearly as important as the number of active users. So, it's important for these companies to communicate with users to ensure they stay relevant.
Twitter now has 200 million users, but how many are active? One year ago, RJ Metrics reported that only 20% of Twitter's users were active (then 15 million out of 75 million users). Twitter sends emails to users infrequently, so it's surprising that this one was rather uninspiring. First, it's a "Happy New Year" message that was sent on February 1 - did this email spend three weeks getting internal approvals?
(Click to enlarge)
Spotted on the LA Times website: Bing is paying Google to advertise its free music service? I think my eyes are going to spotify.
Do clients still need a media agency?
How long before all agency media teams are replaced with trading desks and robotic tool sets that replace all of the grunt work?
That's the question the San Francisco Bay Area Interactive Group attempted to answer at this morning's "Robotic Media: The Launch Of The Automated Agency" event.
There are a range of tools available to help clients automate their media buying and dynamically develop their display ad creative. But media agencies still think they have a place. Here are a few of the reasons put forward by the panel, along with my thoughts.
"Commodity ad stock is driving awareness but does not drive sales"
This is a warning call to clients. Why? Clients expect sales; particularly from their online ad buys. Beware the media agency that simply measures the effectiveness of your campaign by "impressions".
Commodity ad buys will not prevail in the "last click wins" battle. Therefore it's important for clients to consider their objectives when buying these ads.
If awareness is the objective, then metrics should be put in place to measure the effectiveness of the ad. This should go beyond the number of impressions - after all, how many banner ads have you ignored today?
If generating sales is the objective, then don't pay per impression. Pay per click, or better yet pay per sale.
"It's too overwhelming for clients to get up to speed"
This is true, too a point. The industry is changing rapidly, and clients should be focused on their core business, not trying to keep up with the explosion of tools from an ever-growing list of technology vendors. However, two things could happen. The pace of change could slow, enabling time-pressed clients to catch up. Or, they could simply hire someone with the expertise to bring the media buying capabilities in house.
"Automated creative can be powerful but it can't tell a story"
As the social contract with brands evolves, customers are expecting more dialogue and fewer monologues. Brands with a powerful story and those who effectively act as curators of content are proving that "content is (still) king". However, I don't see media agencies as being equipped to be the story tellers.
Clients need their agencies to be connected to their brand story, to be knowledgeable about their customers and to be able to tell their story in a way that cuts through the clutter while honoring their social contract with their customers. In my experience, traditional ad agencies and digital agencies are much better at doing this than media agencies.
There was some discussion about how difficult it is to find people who have the skills to pull insights and opportunities from data. Direct marketers have been doing this for decades. Now it's time for the media (and digital) folks to play catch up and help their brands make use of the immense amount of data that's available to them.
Adapt or die
As the changes in the marketplace necessitate changes to clients' marketing departments, agencies will have to adapt to stay relevant.
Many years ago, DM agencies used to manage the print buying process for clients (i.e. commodity buying). This was a service to clients - it meant the agency could handle the campaign from end to end. But clients began having to answer to procurement departments. Was the agency really adding value by being a commodity buyer? Now clients generally have a list of preferred print suppliers who they have negotiated with directly. Will the same thing happen with buying ad space? Media agencies will have to make sure they are bringing more to the table to ensure their survival.