Over the past year, Hybrid Theory has delivered results for dozens of brands across various industries. The trading team, at the core, values its clients. Which was apparent when the jury of The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries USA awarded it the Best Trading Team/Desk accolade earlier this year.
The Drum chats to James Gillies, trading and operations director, Cedrick Yancey, senior trader and Patrick Johnson, global chief executive officer on their award winning team.
What are the most important factors in building a successful trading team?
Gillies: The most important factor is client satisfaction. We put this front and center, as client retention is our primary business metric. We achieve this in a few ways, such as:
- Ensuring competitive performance against a client’s core KPIs
- Delivering high levels of service with campaign management and reporting
- Enabling clients to better understand their audience through deep insight and analysis into customer behavior
- Consistently exceeding industry ad quality benchmarks
- Empowering traders to ask clients deeper, more meaningful questions. For example, instead of asking, “what’s your CPA goal?” We’d ask, “what results are you trying to drive overall?”
Our trading team works with our commercial team and clients on one side, and with our internal product and engineering teams on the other. This enables us to align our business priorities with our clients’ priorities and constantly innovate our business to meet client demands. Client needs are directly addressed by our traders, and we maintain an agile approach to ensure each of our clients receives a managed service, trading desk experience built to their needs.
You don't "shove your trading team into the back office", as you put it. So, what do you look for in people and how do you work together as a team?
Yancey: We truly seek out well-rounded individuals to join the team. Traders not only have to be comfortable with analyzing data to make optimization decisions, but also have to be willing to form meaningful professional relationships with our clients. Technical and analytical skills are necessary but not sufficient alone. We also look for individuals with excellent communication and presentation skills, and who are comfortable professionally consulting with clients to ensure campaigns are planned in an achievable way and delivered to a successful outcome.
You have an 85% client retention rate. What do you put that down to?
Yancey: The cornerstones of talent and technology combined with great teamwork. In both areas, we challenge our team to think bigger and solve both media delivery and marketing problems. We just won the Best Trading Team of 2020 at the Drum Digital Advertising Awards, which is a testament to the intelligence of our team not only in media trading but audience creation. Our tech teams are always thinking about how client data and our data can be unified and best applied. Our commercial teams think about the best creative environments to align with client goals. Each part plays an invaluable role.
We also try to form true partnerships with our clients. Rather than wait for a media brief, we like to have a seat at the table early in the planning phase. The more we can help our client’s close business, the more those new business opportunities flow to us.
Let's talk more about your clients. What's the work you're proudest of? Tell us about the brief, and your response.
Yancey: We work with a leading insurance brand with a big foothold in the auto insurance space. As a new partner, we were under considerable pressure to deliver both great incremental performance for them, establish a trusting relationship, and highlight our clear point of difference–our use of proprietary data to find key audiences.
We started with utilizing our data network to identify unique insights to help with campaign planning and audience creation, specific to the brand. It allowed us to showcase our data-driven approach to the client before even delivering our first ad impression for them. From there, we aligned our targeting and media trading approach with the client’s goals and measurement framework, as well as offering up our own suggested measurement methodologies, including incrementally lift KPIs.
By being insight- and data-driven in our communications with them, we were able to engage the insurance brand in weekly optimizations and decisions on audience creation. We also completed each major campaign with a deeper look not only into media performance but also existing and new audience behaviors. Alongside their own measurement framework, we would offer our own data to prove incrementality via our split test framework, the underlying data for them to review and access to our data science team for support. This approach allowed us to deepen our relationship with the brand and directly impact more long-term media strategies and tactics across digital devices.
What kind of outcomes have you seen from working in this manner?
Gillies: There are a number of key results we can attribute to our trading methodology. We’re able to deliver fresh audience and media insights for our clients, which frequently lands us at the top of the plan for performance campaigns. We consistently receive high client satisfaction scores and positive feedback from clients. And lastly, our trading system enables a streamlined approach across internal departments, minimal conflicts, simple resolutions, and faster responses to our clients.
Transparency is evidently a huge issue for clients right now. What's the key to giving them peace of mind that their budget is being spent appropriately and wisely?
Gillies: There are many moving parts in this, but it is essential to involve clients in the process, providing as much visibility into the audience targeting criteria, media delivery, and creative decision making so that they can realign against their goals. Added to this is utilizing feedback to inform other parts of their business. This approach is a win-win for everyone involved.
The judges expressed how impressed they were with the results from a small team and with the diverse categories you work across. Can you talk about how the team manages the expectations of the clients and why you choose the clients you work with?
Gillies: Our technology is category (or industry) agnostic. Behavioural targeting resonates whether it is targeting decision-makers on high-value items with targeted audiences or mass-market sectors such as retail. The technology does a lot of the heavy lifting. Our teams are ambitious and like good challenges both on performance campaigns but also full-funnel opportunities. We also have a culture of pragmatism and openness where obstacles may lie, and we explain this in plain language. I believe this resonates with clients. We can’t always solve any client problem on day one, but we can partner extremely well with clients and provide a flexible team committed to helping clients achieve campaign and strategic goals.
You ran a campaign with a global pizza chain and beat their CPA goal by 70% during the Covid-19 outbreak. How did the team come together to deliver the results in these unprecedented times?
Yancey: We were hit by the double impact of our client being directly affected by COVID-19 and our own teams having to rapidly adjust to working remotely.
We started by assessing the clients’ needs both at a team level and wider business level. The client’s marketing team was incredibly short-staffed due to layoffs brought on by COVID-19 and were challenged by the rapid shift to online ordering. We brought creative production in-house to take the cost and resource burden off the client. We also shifted our programmatic buying approach to direct response tactics to ensure all media was working hard to deliver ROI outcomes for the client.
Our own internal communication approaches were rapidly evolving, and we quickly organized ourselves around new remote working routines and processes. We increased our contact with the client to provide reassurance and quickly notify them of changes being made on our end to address the evolving landscape. By doing so, we were able to ensure the right pieces were in place on the client’s side to improve the transition to online ordering and ensure their programmatic media was being as efficient as possible. We’re proud of the way we were able to quickly build around the new normal and that the ROI positive results had a direct impact on the client’s bottom line over an unprecedented and uncertain time.
Johnson: Our trading team is living and breathing the key values of Hybrid Theory: being a smart operational team, making data-driven decisions, and being agile in the way we operate. This is the true reflection of our overarching strategy and our brand promise to clients. We look forward to serving more clients with our renewed and unique offering.
Hybrid Theory won at The Drum Awards Digital Industries USA 2020. For more information and how to enter The Drum Awards, go the the events website.