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In 2023, a successful Q4 means prioritizing outcomes, not channels - here's why

IPG Mediabrands


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October 3, 2023 | 7 min read

As the vital, advertising-intensive Q4 looms, brands are scrambling to optimize ROI from stretched budgets. Kinesso's SVP of outcome-based solutions, Glenn Ifurung, says the key to success is de-siloed marketing channel orchestration, prioritizing business outcomes, not channel metrics.

We’re approaching the business end of the commercial year and nailing fourth-quarter campaign strategy is crucial to brand success.

The period between ‘back to school’ and the turn of the new year is characterized by major spikes in consumer activity. Last year, for example, Cyber Monday saw year-on-year growth of 5.8%, breaking $11bn for the first time, while on Black Friday, e-commerce alone generated a record $9.12bn. For many brands, a good Q4 means a good (or at least solid) year.

This year marketing performance in Q4 is taking on even greater significance because there are clouds on the horizon. First, online retail sales over the period are slowing – up just 3.5% in 2022 year-on-year. Second, marketing budgets and marketing functions are being squeezed.

Gartner’s 2023 CMO Spend and Strategy Survey indicates average budgets are down from 9.5% of company revenue in 2022 to 9.1% in 2023. Three-quarters of the CMOs polled say their enterprise expects them to do more with less, while 86% say they’re under pressure to make major marketing changes to achieve sustainable results.

But what kind of change are we talking about? I want to explore a growing opportunity for brands – one that can help them extend their marketing impact, optimize ROIs, and enhance CX well beyond Q4. How? By shifting their campaign focus from channel-centricity to an orchestrated, holistic, and outcome-based approach.

Orchestrate for clarity, orchestrate for agility

Picture the scene: you’re at a concert where half the musicians are playing Mozart while the other half play James Brown. Even though both groups play beautifully, the overall results are sub-optimal to say the least, and the audience is disappointed.

This is the marketer’s challenge.

You’ve got multiple channels – each with their own performance metrics – not necessarily aligned to or complementing each other, their interactions and interrelations often indistinct or unmapped. The risk: high performance against every channel metric, without a corresponding impact on overall business outcomes.

The way forward? It’s now possible to form an orchestrated, holistic approach that de-silos individual channel performance into a coherent whole with common cost per acquisition or action (CPA). Through unique identity recognition capabilities, you can understand peoples’ channel preferences and interactions across a holistic campaign. This reveals a clear path to conversion, along with each channel’s impact and interrelation.

As well as campaign clarity, this cross-channel orchestration enables real agility. If a certain mix of channels is influencing a more efficient path to conversion, the campaigns can be adjusted mid-flight to garner better outcomes, in real time. This means budgets are allocated to maximize conversions and people also receive brand engagements in the forms and formats they like. You get cost effectiveness and enhanced customer experience in a single hit.

A quick example

Let’s take a rising star in digital marketing – connected TV or CTV – to illustrate the point. What does it mean to be agile in CTV, and what does orchestration look like in practical terms?

Addressable CTV buying means you can react in real time and quickly adjust delivery to more effectively meet objectives and outcomes. You can use specialist partners to provide clarity on activation success and assess the incrementality that CTV brings beyond linear. This reduces the duplication of efforts, provides savings, and brings holistic control.

With clarity, agility, and orchestration, you can test for optimal CTV frequencies, reduce publisher overlap, and reinvest budgets to (or away from) CTV depending on effectiveness. Assessing your full path to conversion helps evolve the media into a harmonious activation that caters to your most prominent audiences.

Focus on strategic business outcomes

With all the channels working together in harmony, it’s vital they’re pulling in the right direction. This means ensuring they’re delivering not on channel metrics, but on business outcomes.

This will usually be some flavor of taking people through the funnel from awareness to conversion – conversion being the outcome. Thereafter, it’s about broadening and deepening the relationship for future conversions. At the right price. Over the right timeframe.

Where marketers are being tasked with getting more from less, an overarching CPA aligned to business goals is key. Of course brands will typically have a CPA goal in mind. But as their investments increase and their media plans become more diverse, it's important that marketers have the control to ensure their CPA isn’t negatively deviating from their target.

Managing campaigns in real time, with multiple partners and activation teams makes it difficult to track and maintain CPA fidelity. Under the intense competition and spotlight of Q4 advertising, CPA ‘drift’ is an easy trap to fall into…if campaigns aren’t being managed holistically. You can control CPA performance by de-siloing activations across all channels and enabling a fluid reactive budget that can be pivoted in real time.

You can also leverage a source of truth that provides clarity into the entire conversion path and deduplicate conversion credit. This goes far beyond the achievable scope of marketing mix modeling (MMM) or even multi-touch attribution(MTA) systems. Right now, even the more sophisticated MTAs that use artificial intelligence to model touch point attribution are limited to delivering probabilistic data. Your brand needs (and can now access) harder numbers.

You can even take advantage of a media buying model that prevents your eCPA (effective cost per acquisition / cction) performance from fluctuating beyond the mutually agreed upon CPA rate. Effectively this ensures you’re only paying for unique generated conversions rather than individual media channels. This prevents ‘double-dipping’ attributions – paying for the conversions twice across overlapping channels.

The art of the possible is evolving fast

Holistic, omnichannel activation driven by unified insight can be achieved by shifting focus to outcomes-based campaigns. This is how you rise above the noise to deliver against strategic business goals, optimize ROI, and to ensure agile engagement tailored to your audience’s preferences.

As complex as it might seem, wrangling MTA models and MMMs into single, accurate CPAs and ensuring campaigns maintain an outcomes-level altitude is quite achievable. It’s being done right now. What’s more, practitioners in this space are continually pushing back the boundaries of what they can offer brand marketers – bringing greater clarity and greater control.

As with so many things in our business, the secret is often to find the right partner to help your business manage the process and help it evolve. But it’s worth the effort. With an orchestrated, agile, outcomes-focused approach, Q4 campaigns can be approached with optimism.

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