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In Digital Advertising, Slow Down to Speed Up in 2017

Incremental growth requires incremental change

On January 2nd, most of us are motivated to start the year off right. Eat better, sleep more, workout, spend less time on Facebook, read more books. The drill is as familiar as we are old each year.

By January 20th, some of those goals may seem a bit more daunting than they did to our shiny new-year’s selves. For digital marketers, nothing could be more daunting than themes like attribution, ad blocking, ad fraud or the elusive dragon of incremental growth.

For me personally, 2017 is all about slowing down — more tortoise than rooster. Even in the world of real-time advertising, going too fast by cutting corners on things like proper measurement, diligent testing, and thorough partner vetting means leaving value on the table.

That’s why my biggest recommendation for marketers looking to improve their results this year is to slow down — to spend some time focusing on the things that will make a big difference in the long run. To set your marketing team up for success, choose the issues that have potential to have not only the biggest, but also the most lasting impact for your business, then give yourself and your teams the time you need to get them right. (Not sure where to start? Check out the Personalized Advertising Playbook 2017 for some options.)

For my money marketing budget, here are the three major issues that our team will be slowing down to focus on this year.

For Attribution, Look Before Last Click

Attribution is perhaps the number one issue plaguing digital marketers today.

We all know that single-click attribution models are misleading, unfair and worst of all expensive. By rewarding only the last channel in a long line of marketing touchpoints, we’re essentially negating all the hard work that we as marketers put into bringing customers down the purchase funnel — not to mention the resources we invest in keeping those customers happy and engaged after the initial transaction, installation, registration or other desired action.

Graduating to a multi-touchpoint attribution model can be difficult work, but it will pay off in smarter, more effective allocation of your marketing budget over time. Whether your budget is €10 a month or €10 million, it’s never too soon to slow down and get attribution right.

Want to get started right away? Join our Getting Started with Customer Journey Attribution webinar to learn about the basics of multi-touchpoint attribution. You’ll get insights and tips from Lothar Krause, our Global Head of Advisory Services, who also happens to be the former head of online for fashion e-commerce giant Zalando.

To Learn, First You Have to Test

In digital, data and budget may be pushed between players in milliseconds, but that doesn’t mean that your strategy has to match. If you move from one strategy to the next too quickly, then you run the risk of drawing conclusions based on too few data.

How much data is enough? It depends on your sales cycle and your customers, and many other factors, but your account managers are great resources for that kind of info, because of their experience across a range of clients.

If you’re working with self-learning advertising technologies, as is often the case in programmatic advertising, you also have to keep in mind that even machines need a certain minimum of data to “learn” from — though they may be faster at identifying patterns in that data than we humans.

That’s why we work with clients to define a custom testing framework for every campaign, so that together we can always be testing. We follow a similar workflow for the marketing campaigns we run for our own brand.

Any testing framework should take you through some version of the following steps:

And the most important part of that framework? Its shape: never-ending. Test-learn-repeat for best results.

Know Thy Media Partners

Fraud. Ad blocking. Click baiting. Inventory quality. Insights lost in black boxes.

These are the issues that keep marketers up at night. We know because our clients have told us, loud and clear.

As the world of media grows ever more complex and confusing (fake news, anyone?), it’s more critical than ever before for marketers — whose budget decisions ultimately fund the free web — to know that their advertising money is being well spent. Well, in this case, is not only in the service of reaching the right person with the right message in the right place at the right time. It’s also about spending our budgets on ethical advertising, making sure we partner with companies that are looking out for the best interests of not only of advertisers, but also publishers, consumers and all the players in between.

Ethical advertising requires not only a commitment to fighting forces of marketing evil, like ad fraudsters, but more importantly working together as an industry to develop, follow and enforce practices that will benefit everyone but the bad guys. As a colleague of mine recently wrote, “Until this industry collaboration takes place, the health and transparency of our ecosystem will only suffer even more.”

At Sociomantic, that commitment takes the form of efforts like the Supply Quality Index and our Glass Box approach to programmatic partnership. These examples are just a couple of the ways that we are trying to increase trust in an industry filled with black boxes.

No matter what your resolutions, it’s clear that in 2017 it’s time to slow down, ask the right questions, and seek diligently for answers that will help us to grow our businesses and our industry in the right way.

Want to learn more about how to slow down? I recommend checking out this TED Talk from Carl Honore, and his related book, In Praise of Slowness.