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COB: Redefining the Cost of Business With Digital

  |  May 9, 2014   |  Comments

Today, you could make the case that "Create, Optimize, Bid," or COB, is in fact the cost of business for brands.

The rise of social networks has given brands many things: The opportunity to connect with current and future customers at scale in real time, the ability to let loyal followers become active participants in the branding process, and even the marriage of these two trends through the amplification of customer interactions in order to reach further audiences and consumers.

Social network marketing even created a new vernacular for advertisers in the form of POE. Paid, owned, and earned (POE) became a rallying cry for many brands. The promise of Facebook and others suggested a world where owned assets could become a catalyst for earned currency via brand networks, with the potential to increase the impact further through paid media. The embrace of POE was so strong, experts created marketing decks that went as far as to include ravens, or a picture of Edgar Allan Poe for those wishing to be cute and avoid confusion due to subtlety. Clearly, POE's following was strong, and for good reason based on the exponential growth of social and the proliferation of networks that value likes, fans, pins, and beyond.

Unfortunately, while the telltale heart of POE still beats, the heartbeat is now much weaker. With organic reach and earned media having diminished due to a combination of publicly traded companies' needs for revenue and negative user sentiment toward the flooding of timelines with brand messaging, the way brands market via social networks has changed.

Today, you could make the case that COB is in fact the cost of business for brands. What exactly is COB? An active mantra of brand focus centered on content - a brand's most precious and controlled asset in digital. Spelled out, COB looks like this:


With the rise of real-time and adaptive marketing, brands understand the need for content better than ever before. The number of "would be" influential signals harnessed is growing. While intent expressed by search was the norm five years ago, now signals from Twitter, the weather, financial markets, and more are assembled in such a way that if we have yet to predict the future, we can certainly react so rapidly to the present that it feels like near serendipity to consumers. This puts CREATION at the forefront of brand marketing online. Without assets, brands have little currency to trade on.


There is no greater wonder than that of discovery. From a child on Christmas morning to unearthing a lost treasure or finding a groundbreaking cure that has been just out of reach, the story of the world can be told through its great discoveries. Discovery is only possible when people and things are put in the position to find or be found. In digital, this means taking the content and enhancing it for the audience, both the humans who will ultimately come upon your asset and the machines that will organize and surface it. Optimization is the difference between page one and never being seen or clicked on. It's the difference between machine learning of past patterns to improve site-side results and load times. The difference between being relevant, whether actively or passively discovered, and being left to chance and the mercy of the community to do the work for your brand. More sophisticated marketers already blend creation with optimization so that optimization is more a part of creation than an afterthought or post-production process.


If, as Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects suggested, "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist," then the greatest fraud perpetrated on brands with social media was that they could exist and thrive without spending money. Despite the early promise and even some preliminary results, it was never a sustainable model and most, if honest with themselves, will now acknowledge that fact. So, what are brands left to do? Embrace the truth. Embrace the reality that buying media, through bids and other models, is an undeniable part of the mix, and create advantages in the market. Google has built an empire on the assumptions of brands. The lack of standard brand metrics in social, consistency of standards, and inadequate formats in emerging channels all contribute to market inefficiencies. Every bid presents a moment of competition whereby brands with greater insights can take advantage of the systems and competitors for gain. Brands that understand this will find success and profit; those that don't will invest foolishly and fail.

It's too early to say POE is nevermore. However, it's not too soon to suggest that COB is the cost of business in digital today. Brands that understand the value of content and the potential to Create, Optimize, and Bid will be active, successful players in the future marketing world.

Image via Shutterstock.


Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare). The focus is participating with those companies leading changes that most impact consumer media consumption, brand favorability, and purchase behavior.

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP. Together, GroupM agencies represent almost $30 billion in overall North American billings (RECMA).

Chris helped guide the development of GroupM Next, which was established to deliver the best thinking and new insights from within the GroupM community. The unit also focuses on technology innovation connecting all media channels, but especially, online, social, mobile, and addressable.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments are the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which managed $1.3 billion in search billings globally and grew to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries. In 2009, Chris created the research division of GroupM Search and developed research studies that deepened the understanding of consumer behavior across search and social media for leading brands and garnered global traction - most notably: The Influenced: Social Media, Search, and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption; The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Social Media in the Purchase Pathway;and From Intent to In-Store: Search's Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile.

Chris entered the digital industry in 1996 when he joined search marketing agency WGI (later acquired by Tempus Group). He has been with the WPP and GroupM family of companies since 2000 when, recognizing search as an emerging media channel with incredible potential for brands, WPP acquired Tempus Group and CIA, and ultimately rebranded the search marketing agency as Outrider. As senior partner and managing director of Outrider, Chris delivered on GroupM's vision for the channel, leading the organization to 500 percent growth with global presence over five years, and establishing award-winning search marketing strategies that have become industry-wide best practices. In 2002, Chris successfully implemented the integration of search into the cross-channel media planning process at MEC, creating the first search marketing practice to sit within a media communications and planning company. In 2007, he guided the business expansion of search marketing practices into all GroupM agencies. In 2009, Chris was named CEO of GroupM Search, where he was responsible for driving global search strategy for the organization, while fostering the innovative application of search as an integrated channel. In his role, Chris also provided digital strategy counsel for clients, including AT&T, Dell, Audi, Volkswagen, and more.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace and how the space is evolving, and serves as a regular resource to national and industry press. Chris contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and MediaBizBloggers.com. In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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