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Is modern media ripe for a marginal gains mindset?



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March 24, 2016 | 5 min read

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As a supplier in an industry that is both fast-paced and crowded, we are often asked what makes us unique. While TabMo can answer that question comfortably (combining programmatic buying with customised creative tools and access to exclusive audience data as well as support for native mobile ads, for example, are just some of the features that are exclusive to our mobile programmatic video platform), it’s an issue that gets us thinking.

Is an unfair premium put on striving to be constantly unique in an environment where nothing is unequalled for very long? Is there too much emphasis put on being unique for the sake of it, rather than looking at the benefits this drives? Wouldn’t it be more productive, and more useful for customers, if businesses put the focus on being better; consistently better across every element of the operation?

Let’s not also forget that a lack of uniqueness has not deterred some of today’s global brands. Facebook for example launched when MySpace and Friends Reunited were the social networks of choice, Google when Lycos and Ask Jeeves were well-established search engines and Spotify when Napster was the go-to choice for streaming music. Today, Uber being seemingly ubiquitous hasn’t put Lyft off taking on the taxi market.

To that end, the principle of ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ comes to mind. The approach taken by Sir Dave Brailsford when he became the performance director at British Cycling and then general manager at Team Sky, its ethos is that the cumulative effect of making small enhancements to each component part of a process is a significant improvement in the overall outcome.

No-one can doubt the effectiveness of Brailsford’s insight. From being described as ‘a laughing stock’, Team GB has won 16 gold medals for cycling in the last two Olympics and British cyclists have won the Tour De France three times in the last four years.

In fact, so successful is the ‘mindset of marginal gains’, it is being adopted by the corporate world as a way to gain competitive advantage. Google for example found, through running 12,000 data-driven experiments each year (designed to identify small elements that were ripe for improvement), that slightly altering the shade of blue used on its toolbar, clickthroughs increased and revenue went up dramatically.

So how does this methodology relate to the digital advertising world? When it comes to programmatic mobile advertising, we recommend that advertisers ensure their technology platform delivers on each of the following checklist points. Getting these right will translate into marginal gains that, added up, will drive significant improvements in overall campaign results:


There is no shortage of highly engaging ad formats. But to be effective the ad needs to be seen by the person at whom it’s targeted, at a time when they are receptive to it (ie in the right context and place). That requires having creative and programmatic under one roof.


There is no shortage of data in today’s digital environment, whether that’s first, second or third party. But this ‘big data’ is only valuable if it’s combined with tools to build accurate customer segments that enable brands to reach their target audience.

Brand safety and transparency

Although platforms may build their own tools, there is no substitute for independent verification when it comes to brand safety. Platforms should offer this without question.

Like-for-like reporting

In a multi-channel, multi-platform world, advertisers need to report and measure on a like-for-like basis, across all channels. Platforms therefore need to work side-by-side to make this industry standard.


The pre-set KPIs on which a platform optimises a campaign need to be meaningful. High clickthrough and view rates are important for example, but brands need to measure what happens beyond this in order to understand post-campaign, and long-term brand engagement.

In conclusion, uniqueness is great – it drives change and innovation. But it shouldn’t be pursued at all costs and is not necessarily the right question to ask. In many cases, being a bit better at everything is more beneficial for everybody’s business.

Chris Childs, Managing Director, UK, TabMo

Tel: 07432 640 324



Twitter: @TabMo

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