Problem solving: how to target and understand your customer

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

“I know half of my adtech costs are wasted… I just don’t know which half…”

A regular scenario in my meetings with prospective clients is that I make a cheap gag about the number of 3rd party tags that the client has on the homepage of their website – frequently over 60 in number, and growing – and then they ask me why it is that they’ve got themselves into this pickle.

I tell them that, effectively, they’ve been sold the illusion of maximum benefit for minimum investment – one more tag, and I’ll finally solve the mystery of digital marketing. Only, 60 tags later, they are none the wiser…

In a slightly different and more precise example, I recently reviewed a client’s media plan that included charges for Comscore (flat fee), ad serving (charged a cost-per-1000 impressions (CPM), Facebook ATLAS pixels (CPM), Adobe pixels (CPM), audit verification tool (CPM), an ad management platform (CPM), a set of trafficking fees and an additional set-up charge.

The fees for these tools and services were greater in total than the agency’s “planning and buying” fee, and they excluded the margins applied to the programmatic buying tool (a DSP, typically charged at 10-20% of spend).

A convenient way to segment Adtech can be to divide it into two buckets: auditing tools and targeting tools. By auditing I mean everything from counting the delivery of impressions to verifying inventory sources. By targeting I mean making possible the tailoring of ads to audiences based on some insight.

In my view, both are important, but the first of these buckets is aimed at protecting value; the second is aimed at adding value. Both are important, but let’s face it, what we all really want from the digital revolution is the ability to show the right message to the right consumer…

The idea that much of the revolution – and cost – is focused on proving that we haven’t been defrauded is cold comfort. Especially when we’ve paid a planning and Comscore fee to identify the ideal media placements already…

Brands know that they need protection from fraud and domain-spoofing, but these tools have been shown time again to be failing to stop brands’ media investments being lost to bots and fraud.

The solution to this is surprisingly simple: focus on truly understanding and targeting your customers, and your analytics will tell you where your media investments are well spent.

Work with quality publishers to ensure that you will only get invoiced for verified bona-fide impressions. Ensure that your programmatic buyers mandate that you only bid on ads.txt and ads.cert inventory to ensure that you are buying the verified inventory that you paid for.

The Ozone initiative here in the UK and TrustX in the US have been established for this very reason – to provide advertisers with access to inventory from high quality media owners who have verifiable distribution that quality brands can rely on.

In mobile, the network Mobkoi has exclusive partnerships with high quality publishers to serve video ads on their mobile inventory. And it should be noted that in terms of verifiable inventory, Google, Facebook and Amazon also can be trusted to be reliable because it is managed within a closed adtech ecosystem.

Once you do this – whether you are buying in-house or through a media agency – you can start to have fun with your advertising again. You’ll be using your knowledge to serve customers with more relevant messages. Instead of focusing on whether your media buying is being scammed, you can shift your attention to measuring the effectiveness of your campaigns through reliable A/B tests which are not possible when you are spraying impressions across multiple networks.

In short, if you are paying large fees for planning and insight, then you should be using buying tools that give you a direct link to the inventory and focus your energies on analysing the results. Media sources that don’t generate sales and engagement are clearly not working and should be cut. Media sources that are generating sales should be given investment in creative testing to generate better results.

And success can start to be measured in greater sales rather than just cheaper media and higher adtech cost.

Richard Wheaton, managing director, Fifty-five London

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