Media strategy: how to avoid 'trader shoulder' and lime green rubber scarves

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The lime green rubber scarf represents the worst of current digital advertising administration processes.

Sharon once walked into the office holding a long, lime green neon rubber scarf.

It was a muscle stretching aid, procured on doctor’s orders.

“Trader shoulder… it’s a thing,” she told me sagely, when I stared in curious disbelief.

Sharon had just joined us as a media strategist at The Studio by CtrlShift, helping clients manage and execute campaigns within the increasingly complex world of digital advertising.

People like Sharon – and there are thousands just like her around the world – make up the unseen army pulling the digital levers, which ultimately determine the brand content that consumers see on their screens every day. Take a moment to consider why Sharon needs a lime green rubber scarf at the office. Or why her teammate Novem spends thousands a year on a chiropractor.

For a brand to reach a digital consumer, a typical path involves multiple intermediaries. Every media dollar passes through the media agency, the DSP, the ad network, the publisher and additional layers of technology providers that provide value-added services before an ad is served to a single consumer.

From an operational perspective, a single digital campaign involves a manual and tedious execution setup that involves at least five different platforms, different workflows, methods and interfaces. That’s a complex system to navigate, requiring the quantitative talent of an actuary combined with the instincts of a stock floor trader. And yes, that’s a lot of clicks and fields to fill out.

The rapid evolution of digital advertising has enabled vastly improved targeting and effectiveness, but this progress comes at a cost. The resulting hodgepodge of technology tools inevitably slows the completion of tasks, with excessive time taken away from activities that do create value.

Get real

The laborious means by which digital advertising is executed today demands that stakeholders gain honest clarity into just how much time is spent on none value-creating tasks. It’s time for media agencies, ad ops and trading teams to take a good look at how long it takes to complete the unceasing minutiae of tasks that collectively contribute to the big picture outcome.

According to a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, an analysis of agency activity shows that, on average, there is only one day of value-creating activities in five days of campaign process time. And in a process flow that spans planning, activation, reporting, optimisation and billing activities, more than 25 pain points can be identified.

Most notably:

· Duplicate data entry in planning and activation tools.

· Multiple activation tools owing to client legacy or performance preferences.

· DMPs and analytical tools not linked to reporting platforms or activation tools.

· Reconciliation of discrepancies in performance results.

· Manual data consolidation and formatting.

Today’s digital media traders, knowledge workers by default, are currently shackled to a day-to-day existence that parallels tedious factory work. It is a waste of their raw acumen and expertise.

The most valuable thing about a programmatic trader today isn’t how fast he or she can click and fill up campaign forms – it’s the depth of knowledge they hold about how these massive and complex systems operate. The know-how to get the most out of each platform’s unique quirks and coaxing incremental gains out of each successive campaign.

The right tools for the job

Giving someone the right tools to perform their work efficiently has never been more important.

At CtrlShift, we’ve built a platform called The Hub with people like Sharon in mind, driven by a simple mission to enable streamlined workflows that result in, ironically for the advertising industry, fewer (executional) clicks.

When we talk about The Hub, we talk about efficiency gains, creating a single source of truth for media investments, real-time reporting and long-term knowledge management. These are things that the platform genuinely does, that really move the needle for brands.

What we don’t always talk about is how a streamlined workflow makes Sharon’s life easier and ultimately; makes Sharon’s bosses and clients’ lives easier. And maybe we should.

How so? Because if Sharon doesn’t need to rinse and repeat the campaign setup process five times over for five different buying platforms, that frees up her time – and brain. She can afford to strategize and bring her experience to bear in ensuring the best possible outcome for a client’s objectives.

If she can collate and generate harmonised reports with a few clicks instead of needing to merge multiple spreadsheets from multiple sources into a single coherent report, campaign insights won’t arrive days later.

Right now for Sharon and her peers across the industry, “talking shop” includes intense discussions over the best chiropractor packages and what physiotherapy treatments the company insurance plan covers (or doesn’t).

Given the 30% staff turnover rate the industry famously has, a positive contribution to higher retention rates could very well stem from offering a better way to work.

These days, Sharon’s scarf lives in her bottom drawer; she hasn’t needed it in a while. And Novem has not renewed her package with the chiropractor. Naturally, we like to think that using The Hub to execute their work has helped – well, at least a little bit – but we know it’s more than that.

Ultimately, it is the emphasis we put on leveraging Sharon’s experience and knowledge of how the programmatic ecosystem operates, rather than the hours spent endlessly clicking through platforms and filling in forms to set up campaigns. Running a campaign across multiple disparate platforms is a necessary step for digital advertising today but the process by which this is achieved, need not be an equally disparate one.

Let’s be honest, there’s only room for one lime green neon rubber scarf in the advertising world – and Sharon already owns it.

Kar Wai Low is the regional lead, trading and ops at The Studio by CtrlShift

Are you a Programmatic Trader or Trading Desk/Ad Ops Lead? Take our trader survey and shine the light on your issues!

This survey is an attempt to put some hard data behind your stories and shared experiences. We want to get a quantitative glimpse of the nitty-gritty realities of programmatic trading. The closing date for responses is 15 January 2019 so please take the survey today.

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