#SESCHI: In the Trenches with Big Data and Converged Media

Based on recent conversations with attendees and speakers at SES Chicago, search marketers, digital marketers and marketers in general are making the move towards a more holistic way of thinking about media, marketing, consumers and those consumers’ devices.

At the SES Conference, I had the privilege of co-keynoting the Day 2 morning session with Daina Middleton, global chief executive officer of Performics, and Adam Singer, analytics advocate at Google, which was moderated by Mike Grehan, publisher of ClickZ and Search Engine Watch and producer of the SES Conference and Expo.

Google Announces…
Before I dive into my take on SES Chicago, it’s worth noting that Google has introduced a new option in AdWords campaign settings called “Search Network with Display Select” which — according to Google — will be “showing your ads at the right moments across search and the web.” My initial take on the new setting is that Google is now including search signals in the ad-serving decision engine. However, at the time of this column’s composition, Google has not yet confirmed whether or not the new campaign setting acts as a new form of search retargeting in which the searcher need not have visited your site in order to be eligible to see your ad.

Performance Marketing Evolves
Daina and I discussed how agencies have had to evolve to better assist clients in allocating both paid media budgets and resources across earned/owned/shared marketing channels. We also spent some time defining “performance marketing,” which has evolved to include all the performance metrics one might be measuring that might lead to eventual hard-dollar conversions. Even lift in brand metrics can be considered a form of micro-conversion. I’m a fan of evaluating areas of marketing where influence can be quantified — both with respect to influencing brand or advertiser preference (moving prospects down the proverbial “funnel”) as well as the overlay of the social graph on top of marketing in order to understand marketing influence on influencers. One reason to include social media in a paid campaign KPI is the fact that some positive brand messages are being shared across social media, amplifying your message.

Cookie-Less Tracking
Although the title of this article refers to “converged media,” several conversations spanned the convergence of devices as well. Adam discussed how empowering it will be when marketers can knit together analytics data across devices and truly understand the impact that different cross-device touch points contribute to overall success. One area we didn’t have a chance to discuss relates to unified, cookie-less tracking that is possible when the same user is logged in across devices with a Google ID or an ID provided by a marketer through active app use. Here there is potential for regulatory or legislative intervention at a country-by-country level which may require additional disclosure, transparency and control for scenarios where PII (Personally Identifiable Information) or non-PII tracking is in use across devices. Burdensome regulations could potentially stall marketers’ push closer towards the unattainable holy grail of perfect tracking and marketing/media information for all forms of media: owned, earned, paid and shared.

Big Data For Small Marketers
Smaller marketers in particular need access to cross-platform and cross-device interaction effects because they don’t have sufficient scale to plan and execute a more sophisticated econometric marketing mix model. Consequently, they must experiment to learn how consumers interacting across device and media type are being influenced. In my session on “Big Data,” I discussed how larger marketers and even some mid-sized marketers can structure their marketing and media initiatives in order to see the impact of each media or marketing initiative or “campaign.” When you don’t know which of your “converged media” are driving value, it’s advisable to conduct an experiment by isolating a campaign to one important but digestible-sized city while looking at a similar city based on size, demographics, psychographics and pre-test sales levels (or other KPIs). Then you can observe both your KPIs and search response because the media most sensitive to other marketing is search. When people get curious about a product, brand or service, they search. Therefore, search behavior is a leading indicator. Media or marketing that drives lifts in search behavior may also be lifting your sales and lead KPIs.

Separately at SES, Thad Kahlow, CEO of BusinessOnline, and I presented our thoughts on “Big Data.” Thad’s focus was on how data can be appended in real- or near-real-time to score site visitors with a value differentiating high-value visitors from low-value visitors so that automated and manual means can be used to concentrate marketing efforts where the yield on that effort is highest. My big data session focus was on ways to use geography as a proxy for audience and how third-party data sets can substitute for marketing data when building out audience segments.

SES Chicago illustrated that marketers from all industries are open to sharing best practices and learning from each other, both in person and via social media. Check out #SESCHI archived tweets.

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Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.