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Navigating Marketing’s Turbulent Waters

26 Oct

waypointHaving choices can certainly be a good thing. But an overabundance of options carries its own set of challenges. Thom Browne, the American designer once said that: “When people have too many choices, they make bad choices.” 

While an apt description of the $560 billion global advertising industry or not, the expansion and fragmentation of the advertising sector, fueled by rapid advances in technology has complicated things for many of the industry’s stakeholders. Consider the following:

  • In addition to traditional TV, there are over 100 streaming services available in the U.S.
  • According to Internet Live Stats, there are 1.7 billion websites on the worldwide web
  • Fast Company estimates that there are over 525,000 active podcast shows
  • Author Scott Brinker identified 7,040 MarTech solutions in his 2019 Marketing Tech Landscape
  • Agency Spotter indicates that there are 120,000 ad agencies in the U.S., 500,000+ worldwide
  • Inc. Magazine has identified 700,000 consulting firms across business functions globally

As the plethora of options have grown, so has the level of angst and uncertainty among marketing practitioners and suppliers alike. For an industry that has always prided itself on its ability to adapt to change, the current environment is somewhat unsettling.

Complicating things is the consumers growing disdain for advertising, which the New York Times profiled in a recent article entitled: “The Advertising Industry Has a Problem. People Hate Ads” in which it chronicles some of the attitudes and behaviors being exhibited by consumers that could have a profound impact on the industry. In the article, the Times referenced a recent report from Group M, which put forth the proposition that these are “dangerous days for advertisers.”

Let’s face it, there are few “tried and true” approaches that marketers can fall back on to guide their strategic and resource allocation decisions in this environment. Further, given the rate and rapidity of change from a legislative and technology perspective there are simply not that many industry guideposts to assist marketers in effectively charting a course forward or in evaluating progress.

While we believe that there will be a contraction in the supply chain, marked by a consolidation of agency brands, consulting firms, martech solutions providers and media outlets, we don’t believe that this suggests a return to simpler times.

To reduce the level of dissonance, marketers will likely seek to streamline their “world” by rightsizing their agency networks, clarifying roles and responsibilities among their suppliers, transitioning certain work in-house and taking a more considered and cautious approach to the adoption of “shiny new objects” whether related to technology or messaging options.

Given the continued focus by their C-Suite peers on marketing performance, CMOs will maintain a dual focus on driving revenues, while achieving efficiencies across their supply chain to boost working dollars as a percentage of total marketing spend. This is not an either/ or option. Recognizing this “reality” an advertiser’s agency and consulting partners can provide critical support by focusing on the identification of waypoints on the path to performance, rather than pursuing a grandiose focus on future-think outcomes. In the words of 17thcentury Japanese shogun leyasu Tokugawa:

“Let thy step be slow and steady, that thou stumble not.”

 

 

Work from Home or Not at All. The Evolving Role of Perks in Attracting Talent.

12 Oct

Ping pong table, rackets and balls in a sport hallThe ping-pong table sat idle, covered with stacks of paper, the modern day version of an in-home treadmill as hanging plant holder. Once considered an important perk and a reflection of a firm’s employee-centric culture, ping-pong tables in the workplace may have seen their halcyon days.

The marketing industry as a whole is wrestling with the issue of attracting and retaining talent. So much so in fact that the Association of National Advertisers’ CMO Growth Council made “talent and capabilities” one of its five core pillars for “driving business growth and societal good.” Globally, business leaders are working with their counterparts in academia to help attract young people to the marketing profession, while aligning curriculums with the emerging needs of a fast evolving industry to better prepare students for a marketing career. Additionally, consumer marketing companies, advertising agencies, media firms and others within the marketing sector have stepped up their on-campus recruiting efforts in an effort to identify and secure the next generation of marketing practitioners.

Thus it was with great interest that I read a recent article in Knowledge@Wharton entitled; “Wither the Ping-Pong Table? Which Perks Matter Most to Employees.” The article focused on the role that perks play in attracting and retaining employees.

One of the principal benefits of perks is their appeal to “top performers,” that small percentage of a firm’s employees that drive disproportionate value. Modern day perks range from paternity leave to flex time, unlimited vacation, on-site gyms and dry-cleaning service. Equally as important as their appeal to top talent: “Perks are symbolic of valuing employees, and people will give more when they are in a culture which is supportive and caring.” This according to Nancy Rothbard, Professor of Management at Wharton,

For the marketing and advertising industry, which has increased its efforts to replenish its ranks of energetic, knowledgeable professionals across a range of functions, perks play an important role in their talent sourcing efforts. Aside from helping to attract newcomers, perks also play a vital role in helping to energize a work place, build comradery among co-workers and reinforcing a firm’s cultural identity.

According to the Wharton article, perks that emanate from an organization’s culture tend to resonate with its employee base in a way that yields significant symbolic value. One example cited by Sigal Barsade, Professor of Management at Wharton was the offering of pet bereavement days, which can reinforce the notion that a company’s culture traits include “affection, caring and compassion.”

So what perks will provide the greatest value for your firm? Unlimited vacation, while appealing, is also quite costly. Perhaps goat yoga will yield the same results, with lower costs to the organization. Either way, the role of perks, rather than a reliance on the escalation of salary dollars, cannot be underestimated in winning the talent game.

Clean Up in Aisle 12. Sponsored by…

28 May

Asian grocery noodle aisleSome of the world’s largest retailers have their sights set on garnering a larger share of the ad market. And why not. Amazon is expected to generate $11 billion in advertising revenue this year, growing to $15 billion in 2020 (source: eMarketer).

So it comes as no surprise to learn that other retailers have taken steps to shore up their ad platforms. In April, Walmart acquired Silicon Valley-based Polymorph Labs and their content sensitive digital ad serving and analytical capabilities to help strengthen its Walmart Media Group and Target is rumored to be interested in acquiring WPP’s Triad Retail Media unit to support its Roundel media division. All three retailers are actively courting advertisers and their agency partners to pitch the media and product sales benefits of their data driven advertising offerings.

On one hand, one might question why is this even newsworthy? Traditional retailers have long been in the ad business, selling advertising to the brands that they carry on in-store media, in weekly ad circulars, in price-item television and radio spots and in OOH. Thus the expanded focus on sophisticated, data-driven digital advertising solutions should come as no surprise.

That said, the potential to integrate target audience information with web browsing data, shopper data and location data to serve up relevant ads in an environment where consumers can immediately click-to-buy and receive their merchandise in a day or two has the potential to revolutionize the retail ad industry.

As retailers refine their offering and simplify platform use, they will quickly cannibalize traditional search and digital display advertising activity. Factor in the ability to tap retailers omnichannel databases, with the goal of refining ad targeting to drive digital media efficiency and the appeal of retailer digital ad platforms increases exponentially.

Consider Walmart Media Group’s pitch to advertisers; with “90% of Americans shopping at Walmart every year” and “160 million visitors” in-store and online every week, Walmart Media Group helps brands to “reach more customers at scale and measure advertising effectiveness across the entire shopping journey.” 

On the surface this evolution of retail advertising certainly appears to be a win-win for the industry. Retailers benefit from a new, high margin revenue stream that is largely technology driven, relying on automated platforms. For the agency community, specialist agencies are already coming to the fore that focus exclusively on assisting brands in assessing and realizing opportunities associated with these retailer digital ad platforms. And, from a brand perspective, serving up targeted ads in a brand safe, fraud free environment with the potential to immediately convert consumer interest to sales is a compelling value proposition.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for manufacturers as more retailers join the fray, will be to balance the ongoing need to strengthen their brands and for some, to build their own direct-to-consumer offerings, while funding their participation in retailer digital ad platforms. Make no mistake, while a brand may be able to build a solid business case for investing with their retail partners, retailer leverage over brands to influence whether or not they buy-in and at what level will be real as the balance of power pendulum continues to swing in favor of omnichannel retailers.

 

 

 

 

Things Are Looking Up for Marketing

26 Apr

What do these seemingly disparate items have in common?

Building Momentum Clock Time Words Moving Forward

  • According to Gartner Research, North American and UK companies will spend 11.2% of corporate revenue on marketing in 2019.
  • Nearly two-thirds of CMOs are expecting to see marketing budgets rise this year.
  • The recent IPA Bellwether survey indicates that UK marketers saw an 8.7% increase in the size of their advertising budgets during the first-quarter of 2019.
  • Martech budgets will account for almost 30% of marketing expense budgets in 2019.
  • On the strength of its break-through brand building efforts Burger King is “cool againproclaims INSEAD.
  • Former Anheuser-Busch InBev CMO, Miguel Patricio is promoted to CEO of Kraft Heinz.

In short, organizational confidence in both marketing and marketers appears to be on the rise and zero-based budgeting (ZBB) has helped, not hindered marketing’s resurgence.

By way of background UK marketers, including Unilever and Diageo, have been at the forefront in adopting ZBB, AB InBev is a ZBB organization, 3G Capital, which owns Burger King and Kraft Heinz has employed ZBB. And finally, martech budgets are soaring because organizations have driven out marketing budget inefficiencies, applying savings to fund productivity enhancing research and innovation initiatives.

Over the last decade or so, marketers had to renew their focus on demonstrating that the marketing function could in fact drive business, including both top line revenue and net profit. Importantly, marketers had to do this at a time when companies had shifted their focus to cost management and categorized marketing as an expense… not an investment.

The message sent to marketing was clear, budgets and the success of the CMO would be tied to achieving quantifiable results that supported the organization’s goals. For many firms, ZBB was an integral part of this process. ZBB provided a framework for eliminating unproductive costs and identifying areas, which better supported firm strategies and that were worthy of financial support.

At a time when “faster, better, cheaper” has become a guiding principle and where big data and technological advances are driving dizzying rates of marketplace change, building a successful marketing infrastructure has become increasingly difficult. Yet, there are numerous indicators that would suggest things are moving in a positive direction. The structure, processes and accountability that is part and parcel of a ZBB process appears to have aided marketing’s resurgence.

In the words of American economist, Emily Greene Balch:

The future will be determined in part by happenings that it is impossible to foresee; it will also be influenced by trends that are now existent and observable.”

 

 

 

 

Heritage or Baggage. What’s Your Perspective?

2 Apr

ddb-content-logo2-2019-1320x660Two different agency holding companies, with two different perspectives on the value of brand heritage and the role that heritage will play in their respective cultures moving forward.

In late 2018, WPP made the announcement that it was going to merge J. Walter Thompson, the world’s oldest agency brand with Wunderman. The new agency was christened Wunderman Thompson. This came on the heels of WPP’s decision to consolidate digital agency VML with Young & Rubicam renaming the combined entity VMLY&R.

Make no mistake, we are proponents of the holding companies moves to consolidate their brands to streamline operations, improve accountability and to simplify marketer access to agency services. That said, for the nostalgics among us, it was sad to witness the disappearance of two of the industry’s most venerable brands.

Thus, we were pleasantly surprised when Omnicom introduced its new corporate identity for DDB in March. The firm chose to leverage its heritage, adapting its original logo and paying homage to its three founders Ned Doyle, Mac Dane and Bill Bernbach by incorporating the agency’s original name, Doyle Dane Bernbach into its new identity.

A spokesperson for the agency stated, “As other agencies are commoditizing their agency names and turning away from their founding principles and visions, DDB is doubling down on the values that Doyle, Dane and Bernbach founded our agency on – creativity and humanity.”

In the words of Bill Bernbach: “Getting your product known isn’t the answer. Getting it wanted is the answer.”  

Don’t Confuse Data-Centricity with Customer-Centricity

2 Apr

online mediaAd agencies and consultancies alike continue to focus their acquisition and consolidation strategies on “data” firms as they build-out their future service offerings.

One only has to consider Publicis Groupe’s recent advances toward Epsilon or note Interpublic’s 2018 acquisition of Acxiom and Dentsu Aegis’ acquisition of Merkle in 2016.

No one questions the importance of data analytics and its role in key aspects of the marketing process from target audience segmentation and enhanced digital media performance to optimizing lifetime customer value. However, adopting a data-centric mindset that focuses on lower funnel conversion tactics to satisfy advertisers’ near-term revenue generation needs should not be mistaken for a customer-centric approach to addressing the problems facing advertisers today.

To the extent that data immersion yields intelligence and insights that help position brands in a relevant and compelling manner to make it easier for consumers to associate themselves with those brands that is good. But if the focus is to forgo brand building in the hope of driving results through the creation of on-demand experiences with the goal of driving conversion, the risk is that marketers may simply annoy consumers and not endear their brands to their target audience.

A fundamental question to be addressed is: “Why is it that in the age of “big data” customers are becoming less brand loyal?”

Perhaps the focus should be data analytics ability to generate insights that inform brand strategy, boost a brand’s emotional appeal, build its value proposition and build an emotional connection with the consumer.

To this end, it was with great interest that I noted one of the key findings from PwC’s recent Retail Survey; “Consumers want benefits, not surveillance

2018 | Articles That Piqued Our Readers Interest

31 Dec

WTop 5ith 2018 now in our rearview mirror and all of our attention focused on the coming year, we thought that you might be interested in learning what our “Top 5” blog posts were over the past twelve months, according to our readers.

While familiar issues such as; trust, transparency and brand safety continued to be at the fore of advertisers’ attention, new topics including programmatic audio, AI-powered personalization and federal privacy regulation crept into our field of view. Click below to access 2018’s top posts.

  1. 3 Keys to Strengthening Client-Agency Relationships
  2. 4 Keys for Optimizing Direct Labor Based Remuneration Systems
  3. Agency Compensation: The More for Less Trap
  4. Advertisers: What Does the DOJ Know About the Ad Industry That You Don’t?
  5. Will Programmatic Ever Address Advertiser Concerns?

One Hundred Years Later. Has Anything Really Changed?

27 Dec

Sears Catalog CoverWe’re all familiar with the old adage: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Strange as that may sound, the notion behind this saying is simple. No matter how complex a situation may appear, nor the rate or nature of changes that we may be dealing with, there tends to be an underlying corollary that remains constant.

To test this hypothesis, I spent some time browsing through the archives of Duke University’s John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History to gain a perspective on what marketers were dealing with at the beginning of the twentieth-century. As importantly, I wanted to compare their reality with the environment in which we operate today.

Surely the fundamentals facing marketers had to have changed, I reasoned. There have simply been too many advancements and technological improvements for the aforementioned adage to hold true. However, a quick review of some key events then and now might suggest otherwise… you be the judge:

Then

  • 1915 – Millions of dollars are spent on advertising and public relations to stimulate consumer demand
  • 1915 –  Modern market research begins, resulting in ads being increasingly targeted to specific audiences
  • 1915 – The first transcontinental telephone line opens from NY to San Francisco
  • 1916 – Self-Service retailing is invented by the Piggly Wiggly chain of grocery stores
  • 1916 – U.S. automotive and truck production exceeds one million new units
  • 1918 – The New York Times begins home delivery
  • 1918 – Ad legend James Walter Thompson sells his namesake agency to Stanley B. Resor and partners
  • 1918 – The Federal Government takes control of the nation’s telephone and telegraph systems
  • 1921 – Badly hurt by the depression, Sears, Roebuck & Company Chairman Julius Rosenwald pledged $21 million of his own funds to bail the company out

Now

  • 2018 – Billions of dollars are spent on advertising and earned media to stimulate consumer demand
  • 2018 – AI aided market research and predictive analytics allow marketers to better chart the consumer journey
  • 2018 – Number of worldwide mobile phone users expected to pass 5.0 billion
  • 2018 – Amazon Go unveils revolutionary check-out free convenience stores
  • 2018 – U.S. Plug-in-Electric Vehicle sales estimated to eclipse 400,000 units
  • 2018 – The New York Times achieves 2 million digital only subscribers
  • 2018 – The J. Walter Thompson brand is merged with Wunderman to form Wunderman Thompson
  • 2018 – The Federal Communications Commission repeals net neutrality rules
  • 2018 – Sears files for bankruptcy, closing 140+ stores, Chairman Eddie Lampert submits $4.4 billion bid to buy the chain and stave off closure

While the size and scale of the issues that our industry was dealing with are certainly different, the fundamentals are actually more similar than not. Whether in the context of advancements in retail models or modes of media distribution to the impact of emerging product sectors and government regulation or even developments related to changes in agency ownership, there is a certain “sameness” to our industry… even after an eventful 100 years.

Hopefully we can find comfort in the aforementioned adage and confidence in the fact that our predecessors were able to successfully navigate the challenges which they faced to help create what has become one of the world’s most stimulating and dynamic business sectors, advertising and marketing.

As we reflect on the passing of another year and contemplate the challenges and opportunities that will present themselves to us in 2019 all of us at AARM would like to offer up an old Irish toast to each of you:

May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future. May your troubles be less and your blessings be more and nothing but happiness come through your door.

Marketers: Are you Optimizing Your Data?

16 Aug

Vision MissionWith the dramatic expansion of data availability and the explosion in marketing technology solutions ranging from Data Management Platforms (DMPs), Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and A/B Testing Platforms to name a few, the opportunity for marketers to optimize the data available to them to improve execution has never been greater.

Yet, too few marketers and their agencies are fully utilizing these tools to synthesize this data to drive marketing insights that can boost the efficacy of their marketing investment. Mass personalization, the mapping of customer journeys and the ability to improve the organization’s responsivity to competitor actions and market conditions are all possibilities if these tools are properly deployed.

If you feel as though your company could deliver greater value from the investment it has already made in martech, you will want to read this article from McKinsey & Company entitled; “Making the Most of Marketing Technology to Drive Growth.” Read More

Life in a Post-GDPR World

28 May

GDPR LogoWhat can advertisers posit from the early market indicators in the wake of the May 25, 2018 enforcement of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

There are three takeaways that would seem to portend the near-term challenges for the ad industry:

  1. Consumers aren’t that interested in allowing companies to use their personally identifiable information to target them, contact them, monitor their online behavior or to profit from the sale of that information.
  2. The advertising industry as a whole was not prepared for the onset of the GDPR.
  3. Limitations on access to consumer data could greatly impair the efficacy of programmatic media.

The results of poll recently announced by TopLineComms found that 41% of those surveyed were “planning to opt out of current email subscriptions” with 82% indicating that they were “concerned about how companies use their data.” Many believe that the news surrounding the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has helped to fuel consumer concerns about data privacy protection. Either way, consumers increasingly want their privacy protected and both marketers and publishers are going to have to find ways to deal with that concern and the growth in global regulatory actions in this area.

Adopted in April of 2016, the advertising industry had a two-year transition period too ready for the May 25, 2018 date, when the GDPR regulations would become enforceable. Unfortunately, too many companies proved to be lax in their preparations. According to a global study conducted by SAP Hybris, “49% of companies either have no plan for compliance or have not yet implemented one.” Readiness was made more complex because of different regulatory compliance burdens for data controllers and data processors and the role of third-party data processors. Gaining clarity among stakeholders as to who was responsible for what and how they were progressing on their compliance readiness proved challenging at best.

While early in the process, since GDPR went into effect, ad exchanges have seen dramatic drops in ad demand, with exchange volumes dropping up to 40%. According to digiday.com, “some U.S. publishers have halted all programmatic ads on their European sites.” In turn, this has led to a drop in publisher inventory in Europe. Of note, many within the industry are blaming Google for its lack of preparation and the company’s inability to vouch for whether or not its third-party exchange partners were compliant or not heading into May 25th. Unfortunately, Google did not notify advertisers of this issue until May 24th leaving them little “time to change media-buying tactics or inform clients.”

In addition, Google, Facebook and a couple of other internet portals have been hit with complaints and potential legal action by independent consumer advocacy groups over “forced consent,” claiming those entities threatened service cutoffs or restricted access if consumers did not consent to Google and Facebook’s privacy and data usage terms.

Near-term, organizations will have to focus on complying with GDPR. Looking ahead marketers, publishers and ad tech providers will need too ready for the likely expansion of privacy protection regulations to other countries and municipalities (e.g. California Consumer Privacy Act). After all, these new regulations are coming at a time when the importance of data and the value that it plays in an organization’s corporate strategy and marketing efforts has never been more critical. 

Perhaps most importantly, organizations will have to focus on developing sensible solutions to placate consumers that have legitimate concerns about how their personally identifiable information will be used. This is a necessary step if using first-party data to inform audience segmentation decisions, personalize consumer communications and monitor behavior is deemed a critical element in their marketing and content strategies.

Achieving these goals will require ongoing remediation efforts and will involve personnel from many disciplines within an organization. It is for this reason that many firms may turn to appointing a Data Protection “Tsar” to lead their efforts to embellish their consumer privacy protection policies, processes and compliance efforts. Not a bad move for companies that have the means to formalize this function.

In spite of the inauspicious start by many to comply with the GDPR regulations it is never too late to heed the old adage; “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

 

 

 

 

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