News

2017: The Power Of One


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It is with great pleasure that T-Shape Consulting is celebrating 1 year in business. To most people, one year in business isn’t much, but for a solo entrepreneur like myself, it means a great deal. It actually means everything. Let me explain.

Two years ago, I was appointed regional marketing director at a promising international adtech company. At the time, taking this new role was a major shift in my career considering I had spent over 12 years working for the best media and creative agencies and had a highly regarded profile in the company I worked for then. Nevertheless, I happily decided to take this new opportunity that was offered to me as a challenge, along with a keen interest in getting to understand what was behind the promise so many advertising start-ups were offering to marketers. While I learned a lot in this new role alongside a team of brilliant and caring individuals, I quickly realised I missed what I have always liked doing previously: solve a business outcome first, and think about the technology second. This meant I had to let go selling a specific product and focus on offering a genuine, agnostic and independent advice on the different solutions media buyers and sellers could implement to achieve their goals.

As I was trying to write my own new year’s resolutions, I decided to focus on ONE single thing I would like to achieve professionally this year. Why ONE you will ask? Because there are so many inspiring stories of the impact “one” can have in building a business: one person, one client, one project, one partnership, one year (you name it).

After Google searching “the power of one” which returned a list of irrelevant results, I realised what I was looking for was right in front of me: number 1. Funnily, I found my answer on a numerology website. Here’s an extract:

In numerology 2017 is associated to the number 1. From a spiritual perspective, it is the number of creation, the primal force from which all other numbers spring forth.

The 1 is a doer, a powerful force that produces results and does not allow anything or anyone to limit its potential. The 1 is aggressive, a necessary energy for creating and producing. The 1 is always in the forefront: a spearpoint directing and leading others. The shape of the number 1, just like the shape of all other symbols, reflects its meaning; it walks upright with pride and purpose. Strong, determined, unwavering and with specific goals in mind, the 1 can turn dreams and ideas into reality. It pushes obstacles aside or simply drills right through them.

Creating a consulting business on my own was not an easy decision, but over the past year, I have been able to find my own path in helping clients resolving their business problems. I had the opportunity to consult with truly amazing clients such as eBay, Fairfax, Signal, and Adomik. As an entrepreneur in the wide (and wild) world of the media industry, this taught me COURAGE, DETERMINATION, STRENGTH as well as RESPECT, INDEPENDENCE and RESPONSIBILITY.

And the one single thing I am committed to this year is to help my clients transform their business successfully and preserve their position in a more crowded online marketplace.

What does this mean for you? It means identifying what is the ONE challenge you’d like to work on to make a difference in your business this year. Whether you are looking at your pricing strategy, your data offering, your marketing plan, your staff educational needs or your technology stack – I can help provide you with the focus you need to achieve great results.

News

Programmatic: The Future is Creative


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My journey to becoming a consultant in media and creative marketing solutions for global brands has been both challenging and rewarding. But when it first began, I never realised just how significant programmatic advertising would become.

The first time I accepted a role in this field, I did so with little knowledge of what would come out of it. Yet I happily took the position with leading global creative agency DDB Group, managing Telstra’s first-in-market “always on” program.

Coming from Razorfish – the quintessential full-service digital agency of the time – the concept of combining technology with creative was nothing new. We were already engaging in real-time buying and dynamic creative messaging when Vivaki launched their Audience On Demand platform, without knowing this practice would soon become mainstream.

Fast forward to today, and we are seeing a rapid rise in ad blocking, particularly among mobile users and the younger generation; a clear indication that consumers are dissatisfied with inadequate messaging and ad formats.

At a time when users increasingly expect the content they want, when they want it, from wherever they want, the current advertising model simply isn’t cutting it.

The Creativity Gap

At the heart of this issue lies the fact that creative agencies have been left out of the advertising technology industry for far too long. It is this historic lack of integration between creative and media agencies during the planning process that has caused a major roadblock in getting creative up-to-speed with the programmatic environment.

I was reminded of the crucial role of creative in the successful adoption of technology amongst brands and consumers, during attendance at Mumbrella 360 last week.

Joy Robins, VP of Global Revenue and Strategy at Quartz, gave an eye-opening account of how publishers and advertisers can regain the trust of consumers. What struck me the most was the fact that their success came from flipping the advertising model on its head, by creating “out-of-the-box” creative advertisements that did NOT interrupt the user experience on their website or app.

While Joy’s session may have been insightful, there is an astonishingly little focus on creativity amongst the countless conferences, panels and editorials discussing “the future of programmatic”.

Innovation Through Collaboration

So what can we do to bridge this gap and ensure creativity is not lost amidst the dominating focus on media and technology?

For publishers, the answer lies in working closely with advertisers to fully understand their audience; rethinking creative ad formats and the resulting user experience and journey, and ensuring effective engagement with their users.

Media agencies meanwhile need to develop strategic planning with the creative agency, working closely with creatives to understand their workflow. Educating and training staff on digital marketing – including creative, user experience, content, and the user journey – will go a long way in enabling smooth partnerships with their creative counterparts.

Similarly, creative agencies should bring staff up-to-speed on digital, media and technology, and focus on enhancing storytelling through multiple touchpoints. Investing in real-time insights will assist in planning while the use of Dynamic Creative Optimisation and versioning will facilitate a more efficient workflow when partnering with media agencies.

As for the advertisers, there needs to be a shift away from a product planning strategy to a more audience-centric planning strategy. Collaboration between creative and media agencies should be a requirement at all times, and a neutral planning approach covering omnichannel should be developed.

Just as in my early days at Razorfish – which saw a melting pot of talent from technology, creative and media all working together – the solution to bridging the creative gap lies in effective collaboration between creative and media agencies.

It lies in this collaboration being present at every stage – from defining the overarching strategy, all the way through to campaign execution.

And crucially, it lies in recognising the vital importance of creativity in effective digital advertising.

 

Stay tuned for my next post, where I will focus on the relationship between data and creativity.

News, Technologies, User Experience

5 digital marketing resolutions for a successful user-centric strategy


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As the digital marketing landscape continues to evolve in 2016, brands require to better suit consumer preferences, adapt to new technologies and preserve their position in a more crowded online marketplace. While all the predictions seems to be around the need to resolve issues such as ad-fraud, viewability and brand safety at a macro-level, in my view there is a more urgent need for marketers to focus on developing user-centric approaches through data-driven technologies in order to achieve their business objectives.

You can take a systematic approach to developing a successful user-centric strategy by following these 5 steps:

  1. Get Your Data In Order

Programmatic advertising involves assessing a number of data points to unearth powerful audience trends. Before briefing your media and creative agency, having a thorough understanding of your own data will improve your targeting.

  • Align your data sources: map out what data you are collecting and how across all your online and offline channels (website, online marketing campaigns, social channels, in-store, CRM, call center, loyalty programs…). Then, identify any gaps that if filled would give you a complete view of your target audience.
  • Leverage 3rd party data: use data providers to overlay and enrich your owned and earned data. In addition to publishers’ data, there are a certain number of data companies who provide niche audiences data points specific to your vertical.
  • Unify the data you have to define your audience DNA: create a single view across all your owned, earned and paid channels using a data management platform, which will enable you to segment your audience in order to target them with the right messages through the right media.
  1. Use Data To Feed The Planning Communication Process

Once you know how your data is collected, aggregated, stored and segmented, work on defining the user journey of those different segments. The more granular and relevant you are, the better the experience for your customer and the better the return on investment for your business.

  • Understand the emotional journey (user journey): identify the triggers that make a consumer engage with your brand and define their sweet-spot i.e. the exact moment that brings the highest response rate. Analyse the content that’s been consumed and/or shared before the conversion across all channels.
  • Understand your user’s consideration path: create consumer relevant digital solutions to drive traffic to the right content, increasing customer satisfaction and enabling an ongoing relationship between your customers and your brand.
  • Adopt media-neutral planning: media neutrality can be defined as picking the best mediums for reaching the target – without any preconceived biases – before you start thinking about creative. It requires an integrated approach, starting from the customer insights through an inclusive and merit-based review of media options during your marketing communications planning.
  • Activate your owned, earned and paid data: get your technology, media and creative partners to brainstorm and suggest the most efficient strategies toimagesgether. Make them accountable for the objectives and associated metrics.
  1. Tailor Your Creative

‘This is such good targeting’ said no customer ever. Customers don’t want to be talked at they want to be understood.

  • Tell a story (experience, engagement): your creative messaging should take the customer on a journey, make sure there are different creative variations along the path to purchase engagement, acquisition, conversion, advocacy.
  • Work with nimble and agile technology partners: define the roles and responsibilities. Make media & creative work together under the same roof to deliver targeted AND relevant messages.
  • Limit repetitive retargeting: if you are using retargeting, make sure you define the sequencing ahead of the campaign as well as the frequency cap. Intensive retargeting can be harmful to your brand if not relevant to the context or the user experience and can result in customers churn.
  1. Test Constantly

Test & Learn is one of the key benefits brought by real-time advertising. In order to successfully optimise your campaigns, it is imperative to have a detailed testing plan. The goal of A/B testing is to identify changes that increase or maximise an outcome of interest (e.g., click-through rate for a banner advertisement).

  • Map out a detailed testing plan for the whole year: highlight which element you wish to test between two variants – A, being the control and B, the variation. It can be the audience, the messaging, the product, the price point, the media buy, the landing page, etc.
  • Act in real-time based on reporting and insights: define processes to make sure your reporting and insights are continuously feeding your campaigns, define test & learn strategies to improve your results.
  1. Optimise Your Strategy Ongoing

Do your offers change throughout the year? So do your customers. Ensuring you revisit your strategy regularly will enable you to better optimise your online marketing budget.

  • Challenge the status quo: the rapid evolution of the digital marketing landscape provides market-first opportunities for your company. Investing a small part of your budget to trial new platforms and technologies will position you as a thought-leader in the market.
  • Work with different partners: although you might already have a specific roster of agencies in place, be open to meet with independent vendors. These can bring innovative solutions as well as additional ideas that have not been looked into before or were dismissed by your agencies previously.

In summary, programmatic opened up a whole new opportunity of growth and innovation for brands looking to position themselves online. The best way to adapt to this highly competitive environment is to develop a successful user-centric strategy following 5 steps:

  1. Get Your Data In Order
  2. Use Data To Feed The Planning Communication Process
  3. Tailor Your Creative
  4. Test Constantly
  5. Optimise Your Strategy Ongoing

Reach out to receive an independent consultancy advice on your marketing strategy and how to develop a user-centric approach to achieve your business objectives.

 

Technologies, User Experience

Building a user centric digital strategy from your owned, earned and paid data


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A key challenge of digital marketing is to ‘humanise’ data, in other terms using the data your brand has on existing customers or prospects to make your offering more relevant to them. A focus on the customer will ultimately drive better return on investment from your marketing budget.

In the past, we have been pushing the same advertising message regardless of the audience, the content or the user journey. For example, if you were visiting a News website, you’d be served the same messaging whether you were in the Sports category or the Fashion one. Not the most efficient response rate!

With the (r)evolution of data tracking and analysis through automated technology, we are now able to identify and target a specific audience based on a multitude of criteria, making the segmentation more granular and accurate, and therefore broadcasting a message that’s more personalised and relevant for the user.

In theory, it seems pretty simple, but in reality, very few companies are getting it right, as marketing functions are still siloed across brand, products and digital. So where to from here? I’ve summarised below the three key go-to-market strategies to develop a user-centric approach across your owned, earned and paid media channels.

1. Understand and utilise data from your website

  • Identify if your website visitor is a first time visitor or a returning visitor
    • If they are a returning visitor, provide them with customised content based on what they viewed previously,
    • If they are a new visitor, ensure you are able to track and identify which content they interact with.
  • Identify if they are an existing customer or a potential customer
    • If they are an existing customer, offer them to create an account or to log in once it’s created.
  • Identify where your visitors come from using Google Analytics, Omniture or any other solution that provides website analytics
    • Typically, the digital channels driving visits are organic search, paid search, affiliates, advertising campaigns, lead generation, social media, PR.

More generally, it’s important to have all your content pages tagged so you can track the content your audience is interacting with and make an ongoing improvement on your website based on those learnings.

2. Understand and utilise data from your CRM

Once a visitor is identified as a customer, you can provide them with completely personalised content. Similarly, when you have done the right segmentation across your customer’s database, your EDM campaigns should be personalised based on the customer’s need state – including up-selling and cross-selling as well as delivering relevant content in relation to their existing products or services.

Additionally, I would recommend developing a Test & Learn plan to identify the performance across your website, as well as your EDMs. A lot of marketers oversee the benefit of improving their content or look & feel based on real data, not just assumptions.

3. Understand and utilise data from your media investments

Advertising plays a crucial role in the customer journey, from brand awareness through to conversion and advocacy. In order to best optimise your budget towards the channel in delivering on the business objectives, marketers need to have a very good understanding of the data that you can use to become relevant to their audience.

What data?humanise-data

  • First-party data: using your owned data i.e. from your website, social media, CRM or any other subscription (example: newsletter program).
  • Second-party data: an exclusive exchange of data between you and a partner, which usually has an interest into your product (example: Samsung providing their data to a Telco company to promote their new phone).
  • Third-party data: a paid third-party vendor that provides you with additional data, enabling more granularity in terms of demographics, revenue, gender, geo-location, hobbies & interests, life stages, etc. (example: buying data on people who use a premium credit card).

What strategies?

Currently, any media across Display, Mobile, Video can be bought programmatically (and soon TV, Radio and Outdoor). This term simply means that media buying is automated through a stack of technology platforms leading to better performance and efficiencies.

Firstly, map out the data points that you have access to through your owned data (first party) and then your external data (second or third-party). Once this is defined, segment your audience and draft each user journey along the purchase funnel – which is not necessarily a linear one and is most likely to be different for each audience segment.

While mapping out the multiple user journeys for the media buying, you should also define the creative messaging to make it relevant to each target audience.

For example, you’re launching a new credit card campaign targeting multiple segments, you will need to define the creative messaging for each single of them across their user journey: millennial, family with young kids, empty nester, etc.

Lastly, you should develop a few creative variations for each segment and each step in the journey to see which one works best. This way, you will be able to not only optimise the media buying, but also the creative messaging.

The two other variable to define in your strategy are the frequency: how many times the same user is likely to be targeted with the same creative, and the retargeting: set up some rules to avoid becoming an annoyance to your prospects and make sure the message is timely (for example: make sure to negatively retarget people who just bought your product).

Now that you are clear on your data touch points, target audience, media reach and creative messaging, your strategy should pretty much work like a decision tree. This decision tree is the first step to build a strong, integrated user-centric strategy that can be shared and implemented across your business.

Feel free to get in touch to discuss your digital strategy or any specifics around programmatic technology and data-driven marketing opportunities!

Agency life, Talent Management

The ad-tech skill shortage and how to make sense of the digital landscape in APAC


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It is critical for business leaders to make sense of the ever-changing digital landscape to drive their strategy and be more relevant to their customers. Having met a few key players in the Australian market lately, I decided to focus on the two main criteria that are holding our industry back in terms of growth. Firstly, looking at the future of Programmatic in the APAC region and secondly assessing the skills gap on the market.

What is Programmatic?

I simply define programmatic as the use of technology to bring efficiencies and measurable outcome in delivering real-time media and creative to the right audience. The current digital landscape is extremely fragmented with an increasing number of vendors and solutions, which are clearly overwhelming to most marketers. The reality is that there is no ‘off-the-shelf’ solution for brands and this is why marketers need help to draft a strategic plan when entering this market. 

Where is Programmatic going?

In a recent article, e-consultancy revealed the discrepancies between multiple sources in regards to growth forecasting for Programmatic in APAC. The author thoroughly analysed the numbers before coming to the following conclusions.

  • Going by Magna Global and eMarketer’s reports alone we estimate that programmatic ad buying will be around 22% of the digital ad spending in 2018. That is significant, but still probably niche.
  • If we, instead, use SOCintel360’s estimates it seems that programmatic will be almost a third of our digital ad budgets. And if that is the case, then there is a much stronger possibility that programmatic will be more of an essential skill for digital marketers.

However, saying 22% is insignificant is probably far from the truth. If you worked 5 days a week this means you would spend 1 day a week on programmatic. You had better know what you are doing!

Despite this contradiction in the data sources and given Programmatic only currently appeals to large companies and niche agencies or trading desks, I strongly believe that Programmatic is going mainstream and will require marketers to up-skill themselves and their team quickly.

How do we improve Programmatic knowledge?

AppNexus 2015 Global Programmatic Trust Study reveals that nearly three-quarters of the ecosystem (71%) now recognises knowledge of programmatic as one of the most important capabilities that agencies will need to possess in five years’ time.

In my opinion, it’s not only for agencies to own this but also brands.

Another piece of research from Smart Insights, eCommerce Expo and Technology for Marketing explores the digital skill gaps on the market today. Out of the eight listed, these are the ones that can make a difference in your business:

1. There is a major skills gap across a range of core digital marketing activities. These include planning: 37% want to improve digital strategy and integrated planning, 35% want to improve their knowledge of planning integrated, multichannel campaigns and 34% want to improve budgeting and financial modelling. Key tactics which marketers wanted to improve their skills levels include affiliate marketing (40%), mobile marketing (39%), SEO (36%) and customer data, insight and analytics (36%).

This means marketers need to develop their strategic thinking and planning across all digital channels. It is for them to own the strategy and brief their agency accordingly. So far, brands have been working in silos and would hire a different agency per channel, disregarding the necessity of a holistic approach across branding, product, marketing and customer loyalty.

2. Paid skills development investment is insufficient in many businesses. For formal qualifications and training, there was inadequate support in many businesses, with around half of respondents rating this poorly: paid qualifications (50% rated company support as inadequate); paid short-term courses (44% negative); paid events and conferences (42% negative).

Despite everyone agreeing on skills shortage in this industry, most businesses do not invest in up-skilling their teams, thinking that hiring millennials or ‘digital natives’ will resolve the issue. The result is both lack of knowledge, lack of understanding and lack of involvement from senior marketers. Therefore, it is urgent for management to shift their investment towards robust training through partnerships with technology companies or universities.

3. Unplanned, reactive management of digital marketing inhibits results and skills development. 77% of respondents favoured a data-driven planned approach to digital marketing based on planning, analytics, and continuous optimisation, but the reality was very different with just 37% agreeing that this approach was used, instead 51% described their approach as ‘reactive, relatively unplanned approach to digital marketing).

This means most marketers continue to do what they’ve been doing until they are asked otherwise, and mostly without understanding the why or the how. As a result, decisions are made without a plan for a successful digital transformation. I’ve heard in many instances that a brand would invest millions in developing a new website only to realise that the platform used doesn’t talk to the customer database. What a loss of money and talent!

Where to from here?

While ad-tech vendors are rushing to demonstrate differentiation, many are facing market consolidation, which is leading to a lack of long-term vision for their business as well as their clients. As a result, we keep raising talent and skills shortage issues without being able to successfully resolve them.

On the other hand, digital marketers are quite frankly struggling to make sense of the numerous technologies promising better reach, targeting, segmentation, conversion and more. They don’t have enough time or enough technical background to make sense of this crowded landscape (see MediaScape) and make ill-informed decisions to deliver the desired outcome simply due to the pressure to become “programmatic”.

Further to that, most marketers are not encouraged to pursue a test and learn approach by their management, even though it has clearly delivered for the most innovative brands in their industries. It is just not the standard practice, and we need to deal with that at C-level.

To be successful, marketers need to build their strategy with key partners, but without relying on them to DO the strategy. In other terms, they need to surround themselves with experts who are technology agnostic and capable of setting up business models that will bring data, creative and media under the same roof.

Adapting and innovating are the key challenges for businesses, not only in terms of their products or services but more importantly in terms of designing a user-centric strategy that places digital at its core. Moving forward, marketers need take ownership and accountability for their results across owned, paid and earned media to stay competitive and be a leader in their industry.