Leading the Agency Evolution

The new reality: ubiquitous mobile devices have forever changed consumer behavior, and the data from consumer interactions with these devices has forever changed marketing. Given the challenges and opportunities this data deluge presents to brands, I often wonder what agencies are doing to stay on the edge of innovation and use this data to their clients’ advantage. I recently sat down with Alex Andreyev, strategic investments supervisor at Neo@Ogilvy, to discuss the strides his agency has been making in mobile advertising, and what’s next on the horizon as they lead the trend of the evolution of agencies in a data-driven world.

Mike Baker: Why is Neo@Ogilvy pursuing a mobile demand-side platform (DSP) strategy as opposed to working with mobile ad networks?

Alex Andreyev: At Neo, we are always focused on new opportunities to drive value and performance for our clients; it’s in our DNA. We want to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the continued convergence of media, data, and technology to deliver on our clients’ objectives. Demand-side platforms, while not new for display, are relatively new for mobile. They deliver high value that extends beyond buying predetermined audiences to deliver real-time insights and customer intelligence that inform the media plan for optimal effectiveness and efficiencies. By reaching customers wherever they are, knowing their interests, and making the right offers, we can ultimately amplify our clients’ returns.

MB: You had experience using a display DSP. What spurred you to adopt a mobile DSP?

AA: Consumers have voraciously adopted mobile devices, but advertisers have struggled to keep up because of the complexities of delivering measureable mobile advertising results. We had to overcome these barriers by simplifying how we would buy, plan, and measure mobile advertising. We needed the benefits of programmatic buying across mobile inventory – all from one central source. We needed advanced analytics and optimization capabilities, such as the ability to optimize against engagement metrics, not just click-throughs, to effectively keep pace with the dynamic mobile consumer. We have also had to ensure that we are operating in a brand-safe environment that delivers full transparency into how and where ads are running. Now that we have these capabilities in mobile, we are able to drive better results for our clients’ unique goals. I guess you could call us control freaks at Neo – we want our clients to have every competitive advantage possible and the greatest opportunity to discover and leverage new pools of consumer demand, and that’s what a mobile demand-side platform provides.

MB: How are you thinking about tablets? In your media plan, are they treated like PCs, mobile devices, or a separate channel?

AA: Tablets have become an integral part of the e-commerce landscape, and tablet customers are a fast-growing segment of consumers who need to be acknowledged. However, companies shouldn’t focus just on tablets, distinct from their smartphone and PC/desktop strategies. Why? It comes back to successful cross-channel marketing – managing campaigns across channels in a single place, and maintaining a holistic view of the customer. Consumer engagement involves an interconnected series of interactions across devices and channels. Your customers expect you to recognize them, show them products and services for which they have an affinity, and allow them to have a continuous shopping experience regardless of whether they are on their smartphone, laptop, or tablet.

As we continue to invest in this space, we’re re-evaluating our KPIs and success metrics. We’ve seen search activity function differently between mobile and PC and we’re now looking for ways to optimize our tablet strategies through integrated advertising, backed up by comprehensive cross-channel analytics and insights. We recently ran a campaign for a client who was looking to capitalize on the pervasiveness of mobile activity within its consumer base to drive new activations. We discovered that tablets increased customer acquisition by 40 times and reduced overall CPA by 64 percent compared to previous campaigns because they made it easier for consumers to complete a multi-step registration process – a call to action too cumbersome on a typical cellphone and not as personally connected on a PC.

MB: Is mobile more about branding or direct response? Which use case do you feel is more successful?

AA: The question is how you define success. As David Ogilvy said, “If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative.” The increased data and audience insights afforded by mobile DSPs present an opportunity to find more efficient ways to identify our target audience and therefore increase sales. Today, successful marketers are blending strong branding and creative campaigns with a stern eye toward ROAS. Creativity and objective analysis can coexist, and even complement each other. John Wanamaker famously declared: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” Well, with a mobile DSP, nothing is wasted because the entire campaign produces insights that not only fuel current campaigns but shape future strategies.

MB: What are the barriers to shifting spend from other channels into mobile?

AA: While mobile may not have the cookies of its display brethren, it offers other value. However, it is not immune to the challenges that any new medium faces. The biggest barrier has been the inability to accurately track consumers and measure success, but that is quickly changing. We are seeing the emergence of cross-channel integrated digital marketing management platforms that give us a comprehensive view of the journey customers take – online and offline. For instance, are they stopping by a store to view that coveted new flat-screen TV but quickly doing a competitive price search on their mobile device? These new platforms are bringing technology to the buy-side to give us the control we need over inventory, data and media strategy, as well as the ability to create attribution models that provide real accountability. This advertiser empowerment paved the way for DSP growth in 2011, and will certainly accelerate the uptake of fully-integrated platforms in 2012.

MB: Knowing that the future of digital marketing is being able to optimize campaigns across all channels, what is your long-term strategy?

AA: Right now, we are focused on adopting new tools that help us understand how to analyze user patterns across all channels; who are the users, where are they, what content do they consume, what do they do on mobile? It’s about having the “of-the-moment” data that enables cross-channel optimization – allocating spend to the best performing inventory or channels. Being able to see that data and turn those insights into immediate action is what will separate the winners from the losers, and we aim to make certain our clients always have the competitive edge to maximize their ROI. At Neo, our mindset is to start by considering how every channel interacts with the others to holistically drive client outcomes, as opposed to focusing on an individual media channel, campaign, or tactic. In the end, it all comes down to sales, and in the words of David Ogilvy, “We sell or else.”

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