A Different Type Of Industry Confession – Or A Rant?

There has been a fascinating and brilliant series of secret confessions taking place over on Digiday, and everyone from a ‘startup CEO’ to a ‘junior copywriter’ has had their turn. Some have criticized what seems to be mostly negative commentary that paints a picture of everyone being unhappy, underpaid and cheating their way through the display workdays.

I see it differently; I see it as the tough love this industry needs to be able to grow at our full potential, and the smart ones of us will be listening and learning.

Like ‘Undercover Boss’, this is our window into what’s happening on the ground, and whilst we might not like all of it, we can use it to our advantage.

So my confession is that I am frustrated by what I see – but I am also listening and really want to make this industry even better than it is, because display media works great when done right, but we need to invest in educating marketers so they understand the truths and can spot the BS.

Let’s Get Real – The Search & Display Industry Is Still Young

As an industry we are more reliant on technology than advertising has ever been before and with that is a false impression that we are more sophisticated than we actually are.

As an example, I was in with a retailer client who talked about their DMP (Data Marketing Platform) and DSP (Demand Side Platform) setup, and how they build cookies in one and pass to the other for targeting.

Amazingly, this process still takes place by one platform emailing a CSV file of cookies IDs to the other platform, and it occurs once every 7 days. Approximately. And when they remember.

The outcome is that the targeting segments are out of date always, and additionally that the DSP is limited in its ability to be intelligent – it can continue to bid on a segment that is working, or stop bidding on a segment that is not.

We talk a lot about targeting individuals in digital, but what seems to be happening is targeting ‘smaller groups’ than other methods.

Not all setups are like this of course, but the fact that many are reveals one of the fundamental problems – we think of our industry as being more mature and sophisticated than it really is. And that’s ok, but marketers get confused about what is really happening, and who can blame them?

Not All Search & Display Media Tactics Are Built Equal

When done right, and by a specialist, some tactics like search retargeting are actually about individuals – in our case (Chango), those individuals are selected using the searches they have carried out primarily on Google, Yahoo! or Bing and then matched against the keywords that a client is looking to target.

As a methodology,  there is little that comes close in terms of granularity, combining the accuracy of SEM with the added scale that display media offers.

In a recent meeting, an agency told me that all their prospecting buys are doing some degree of site retargeting, some up to 70%! That means significant overlap and lots of wasted dollars, yet because it’s become ‘usual’, then it has also become acceptable. Prospecting should mean prospecting, and that should not include site retargeting!

The agency wants to use our search retargeting because it’s 100% prospecting and 0% site retargeting – without being ‘salesy’ here, isn’t that the logical and right way to be?

Search retargeting has primarily been used by direct response marketers, but is now growing in popularity with brand marketers too, looking to position their message in various parts of the funnel. Display became thought of as DR only, which is a big mistake, and so this trend is very positive and one we should continue to advocate.

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics

I really hoped 2012 would be the year that we solved campaign measurement, but sadly a lot of marketers have not  yet achieved that – attribution modeling is still rare, and marketers are not taking advantage of the measurement techniques available to them (see: 3 Simple Alternatives to Attribution Modeling for Search Marketers).

I had a situation with an agency client recently that is dealing with the typical problem of site retargeting taking claim for most conversions in DoubleClick (because DoubleClick only reports on last touch) and was de-duping our results reducing the number of conversions we were driving (1,200 in Dart versus 8,650 in Chango’s own system).

The agency understands why this is happening, we understand why this is happening and their client understands why this is happening, and so I was expecting a positive call in which we would measure effectiveness in another way, such as unique conversions. Instead, the client themselves came on the call and told us to heavy-up on impressions per individual to try and grab last touch more often – if we didn’t, we would be cut.

WTF! Read that back – the client was acknowledging that we were doing great prospecting and that Dart’s limitation was the only reason it looked any different, but that their own processes and reports were so static that we had to fit into them, even if it meant wasting part of their media spend to do so.

How To Conclude?

I admit, this is a rant. It’s a rant driven from a passion to make our industry better. So my appeal is for you, our loyal readers, to examine every aspect of your campaigns and decide how can logic be applied. It may seem impossible to cut through the sales messages and find the reality, but with some effort and an open mind, impossible can become possible.

If you are  search marketer, use this to your advantage. Don’t be dragged down by the established ways of working. Challenge them and develop a media plan and methodology that makes more sense to you.

Normal service will resume next month :)

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display | Search & Display


About The Author: is the Chief Strategy Officer at Chango, the solution to programmatic marketing and "big data", and is based in San Francisco and London. You can follow him on Twitter @DaxHamman.

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