Twenty years after the birth of Google, in a far more complex and non-linear world, brands are allocating more media spend to a vast array of digital channels in an attempt to improve their customer-centricity.
Recent brand safety issues have highlighted the status of quality above cost and are compelling brands to reconsider their digital buying strategies. The complexity and fragmentation of the media supply chain has been exploited, all too often, at the client’s expense.
Although we know technology enables brands to target more cost- efficiently, this alone is no guarantee of delivering true optimal performance. While it is true that programmatic has transformed the way media is traded, ‘audiences reached’ issues persist around low-quality inventory, non-viewable and low-engagement advertising.
While the opportunities offered by digital media platforms and programmatic trading are significant, they have also created greater complexity for brand marketers, which, in turn, present additional challenges:
So, with such high levels of media investment and increased complexity, what are the critical success factors for best-practice management, control, and oversight of digital media communications? Here is a five-step best-practice guide to better digital media management and performance, addressing the core pain points, with our recommendations to achieve efficient and effective digital media.
1. Ensure the right campaign objectives are set
Working with clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential and should be the immediate focus for any planned activity. KPIs must be measurable, objective-led, realistic and, most importantly, relevant to the desired outcome of the campaign.
The alignment of communication objectives, KPIs and optimisation strategies is critical to achieving desired outcomes. Many campaigns are planned against irrelevant, conflicting, or incomplete KPIs and therefore underperform at best, and destroy value at worst. For example, cost-per-completed-view (CPCV) is a useful efficiency KPI but needs to be combined with other quality measures to be effective.
Using a broader KPI framework that is both relevant to your campaign and specific to each platform, supports a more comprehensive and informed campaign planning approach, which is more likely to yield business success. We recommend that brands consider the following:
2. Get the most from your agency’s media planning
It can be hard to assess the effectiveness and neutrality of a digital media plan, given the vast array of choices, yet it is critically important to understand the available options in order to challenge an agency’s strategic approach. Assessing the agency’s decisions on budget allocation across trading platform, technology, data and inventory provides a clearer rationale so that the delivery plan can be achieved.
A clear understanding of what the competition is doing will also provide valuable contextual insights. Looking at spend levels, buy types, and format selection across websites, platforms, and channels and comparing them to your competitive set usually yields valuable insights and deepens the level of informed debate around media planning decisions. We advocate:
3. Make your media supply chain more transparent
In 2018, it is estimated that 82% of all digital media will be traded programmatically. In the current climate, this is problematic, as the trading ecosystem is an opaque environment where value is easily eroded through low-traffic, low-quality placements, and through overpriced data and technology. Transparency should therefore be a prerequisite, and all campaign plans should provide full visibility of investment on working media, talent, data, and technology costs.
Ensuring contractual direct access to ad-server, DSP and platform delivery reports is essential for improving transparency across the supply chain and for identifying where potential value leakage is occurring. We recommend:
4. Accept only quality, brand-safe environments
The industry is still recovering from the damage caused by recent brand safety breaches, with a recent study revealing that 95% of CMOs from leading brands have overhauled their digital strategies. While agency whitelists and blacklists provide reassurance, a 100% solution does not exist.
Most campaign reports show delivered impressions, yet this includes a large number of impressions which are either unviewable or not measurable. By removing the unviewable and unmeasurable and removing non-geo, fraudulent, and non-targeted impressions, the level of truly cost-per-compliant impressions (cCPM) is revealed, which can be relatively low.
Programmatic makes targeting easier but, without the right measures in place, can lead to brand safety and fraud concern. Therefore, brands should determine what level of quality compliance they need, and then should not pay for impressions which fall below their compliance standard. Only then can a digital impression carry the same weight and credibility as an equivalent offline placement. We recommend that marketers:
5. Insist on active campaign optimisation
Digital is a unique channel in signalling and transmitting consumer/audience behaviours, therefore optimisation must be a key attribute of digital media planning and execution. A core requirement for the media buyer is to identify media investment from worst- to best-performing, site placements, hours and dayparts, media platforms and creative execution, all combining to optimise media performance.
The agency should actively improve performance over the campaign duration, learning from prior outcomes to enhance future improvements, and buyers should strive to optimise campaigns as efficiently as possible.
Taking learnings and moving spend from underperforming buy types into the better-performing buy types will improve overall campaign performance and reduce inefficient media placements.
If executed correctly, performance optimisation creates an upward trend on delivery of quality custom KPIs while optimising cost-efficiency, thus delivering the same performance for less, or better quality for the same. Our recommendations are to:
Overall, brands require a multilayered, forensic and wide-ranging set of analytics from their advisors. Brands have realised that measuring digital media as a simple commodity against market averages is a false economy.
Organisations are now turning away from ‘audits’ and instead turning towards ‘analytics’.
With a deeper, analytical approach, brands can now achieve transparency across the media supply chain, drive more neutrality in selecting technology and inventory, select KPIs which drive improved outcomes, and review levels of media quality and improve campaign performance.