Top marketers say data fuels brand safety, transparent media but there are challenges in knowledge

Integral Ad Science and Datorama discuss brand safety and data with top marketers

Marketers from Coca-Cola, Lazada, Zuji, Johnson & Johnson, Income, Fonterra and Skyscanner, agreed that data was key to making smart decisions, fuelling outcome-based metrics and driving the charge for brand safe and transparent media.

The brands came together to discuss the opportunities and challenges for digitally-savvy marketers, alongside Integral Ad Science and Datorama and, while the marketers were unanimous in agreeing the ability of data to power modern marketing decisions, many challenges were still prevalent.

Brand safety and transparency

The need to invest in brand safety and transparency measures has been well documented, with many brands starting to speak out about fraud, viewability and transparency. However, many brands round the table said sometimes it was hard to get measures off the ground, particularly with fragmentation challenges across the APAC region.

Arguably quite far ahead in this investment, Johnson & Johnson said a complexity can often come at getting decisions around data, brand safety and transparency into local markets.

Saumya Mohata, Asia digital lead for oral and wound care at Johnson & Johnson, says, “To get the organization to start measuring or start looking at brand safety, you look at market data in local markets, and budgets are typically in markets. The original conversations are, ‘I don't want to pay for this extra tech fee.’

“Getting people to understand the value is about showing that you are getting all of that, versus the way you're buying and not having the transparency. For example, let’s talk about bot traffic. If you look at our journey, most of the marketing team, have bought into that story. So for J&J, I think it's fairly standard as a practice that you want to start measuring these things.”

While Johnson & Johnson is making headway on implementing technology and strategies around brand safety and transparency, despite some local protestations, other brands are not as far ahead.

Graham Woodall, director of creative and media at global dairy brand Fonterra, says that he actually saw the lag in digital sophistication as a positive.

“We're at quite an early stage when it comes to doing anything interesting with digital. I look at that as a real positive in a funny way. Yes, it is sad that we are years behind a lot of the other contemporary brands but the good news is that you can actually look at what's out there and decide what you want to be. I think that's a real advantage.”

Outcomes and metrics

Across the board, all brands were dealing with issues around siloes and creating the business case to continue investing in new platforms, as the marketer is held more to accountable for the cost of media. One success that marketers had found was simplifying metrics or tying them to outcomes, which helped them move the decisions around technology investment up the food chain.

Integral Ad Science Southeast Asia managing director Niall Hogan, says, “It’s important to link data to real world outcomes and to keep testing until you have the right set up for your brand or service. For example, did a focus on viewability data shift more product or service? If not, why not? Maybe the MRC standard doesn't work or your campaign. Test the data. Maybe your ads need to be optimised to 15 seconds in view instead of one second in view to have the biggest impact on sales or outcomes. By testing different scenarios and linking these to real world outcomes, you can identify what works best for your business.”

For Skyscanner, which is one brand alongside Coca-Cola that has repositioned its marketers around the idea of ‘growth’, it has a ‘north star’ metric.

“In terms of metrics, Skyscanner has a north star metric, which we look at as ‘total value’. And that is all online, so there's acquisition, activation and retention. We follow that and because of that, everybody speaks the same language and everybody understands how different channels lead up to different metrics,” says Robin Lee, marketing growth lead for SkyScanner in Singapore.

It’s a similar story for Johnson & Johnson, as Mohata adds, “Where it gets challenging for us, and I think for others too, is that there's so many metrics out there, and it’s hard figuring out what’s driving the business, and what's to be put aside. You often have this dashboarding system that people get carried away with.”Mohata says the business has been able to look at key metrics and simplify, which is what’s helping them make decisions.

Jennifer Villalobos, VP and head of digital business and strategic partnerships at Singapore insurance giant NTUC Income, says that an issue in large traditional organisations taking such decisions can be a challenge.

Agency relationships

A key topic that surfaces when talking about media effectiveness, and topics such as brand safety and transparency within that, is the place of agencies. Likewise, newcomers to the scene, such as the e-commerce brands are becoming both big media spenders but also media platforms themselves, further adding complexity and opportunity.

In Southeast Asia, Alibaba-owned Lazada is doing just that and is speaking to brands directly about media and data.

Jason Huan, chief marketing officer Singapore at Lazada, explains, “We work with a lot of brands directly, and there's the fear of data. We’ve talked about brands having dashboards but, honestly speaking, they put up investment with media agencies (and that number is usually a four or five figure sum) but they don't really drive down into what the brands want to get.”

He adds, “we speak directly to the media agencies and there is a threat of us replacing them because we know which item is sold, at what time and to whom, as well as what kind of message drove it. Making every dollar count is necessary and it’s the number one topic for us and looking at these kinds of data actually goes up to the CEO. They look out how many orders we're pushing, as well as what's the cost of the order and the cost for acquisition.”

Brands are turning to the likes of Lazada for data because traditional suppliers, such as Kantar Millward Brown, aren’t creating the value they need, according to Coca-Cola’s ASEAN head of integrated communications Pratik Thakar.

“We still work with them but their pie is getting smaller and smaller. We start working with Lazada, Redmart and GoJek because they have data we can relate to that, we can take action with that data. It's more of a pure economic data discussion,” he said.

He gave the example of how the brand uses on-demand food service FoodPanda. The company is able to share with Coca-Cola when people buy the drink, what they bundle it with, what products they buy it with and what time zone people are in. “Some of those big platforms, we actually tell them, ‘Give us your data’ and we will analyse it and then we’ll come to you with a business plan. They are ready to share that data with us because we are actually giving back some business to them.”

Creative Ideas: that is what it comes down to

For all the importance of data for making strategic decisions and being more effective with media choices, a consensus was reached around how important creative ideas were. The lack of sophistication around marrying the technology and data provided by programmatic and the creative side of the coin was a big problem for brands, according to the group.

Mohata adds, “With data and programmatic being the mainstay of conversations in the media space for so long now, the one thing that really got left out in that conversation was marrying that with creative.”

Woodall agrees, adding, “A lot of marketers like to look at numbers, and they like to use one side of their brain constantly, because that's safe for them. I can look at a dashboard and I can make decisions based on that dashboard, but it's a real problem if I don't have this joker card which I can bring in and play occasionally. The joker card is the creative idea, or the media idea, which is at the other side of your brain. I think that that's a great lesson for any marketer.”

For marketers, the real ambition is to be able to combine great media and creative work that’s informed by data, in a way that is brand safe and effective on cost. While there are hurdles, such as education, silos and a complex structure of partnerships that can make this happen, successes are being seen when marketers have the right partners and measure against real outcomes.

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