A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the web looking for a suitable holiday destination and decided upon Miami. Whilst I was in research mode I visited a couple of websites which told me what the weather would be like, I looked at a couple of dodgy ‘things to do in Miami’ information sites, and then I dealt with the hell of trawling through every travel aggregator that exists, and that includes Google, which now with its acquisition of the ITA and its partnership deals with the likes of Expedia and Bookings.com, gives you pricing information in its search results. I won’t bore you with why I think the travel sector above all others, presents the most complex and convoluted purchase cycle for the user, that distinguishing whether or not you are getting a good deal is almost impossible, and that every aggregator seems to be an affiliate of the other to the point that there is no dissimilation between any of them. Travel rant over.
Now back to my Miami trip. I decided upon a particular hotel, made the booking and all was well again. To my amusement and eventual frustration the hotel I’d booked decided to advertise to me on every website I visited for the next two weeks, I’m still getting them now! I thought this might be a one off, but a week ago I needed to buy a new fridge – Appliances Online have been targeting me ever since, with banners full of fridges. It’s like every brand has decided to jump on the re-targeting bandwagon and are now pestering us users without even questioning that we might have found a cheaper deal elsewhere – “and that’s why I didn’t buy your bloody fridge Appliances Online” (I must sort my rage out, perhaps my trip to Miami might make me feel better). It seems ridiculous that in the era of the social web there is no way for me to tell Appliances Online to stop pestering me because they’re not as cheap as they think they are. Or to tell the Miami resort I’m due to stay at that I’m a customer, not a prospect. Frequency capping and segmenting prospect groups should be considered display re-targeting 101. Allowing your prospects to engage with you in-banner should also be pre-requisite. Surely the feedback would be extremely valuable to any advertiser. (Facebook is the only platform where you can feedback that you find an advertiser irritating, and whilst I think Facebook could improve the feedback categorization they provide, how many advertisers actually question how many people find their advertising repetitive and stop doing it. Facebook don’t allow you to frequency cap so I’m constantly feeding back that I find the advertising repetitive, but that’s another story).
That’s not my only beef. It appears that certain re-targeting technologies (you know who you two are) are intent on capturing the ‘last click’ regardless of how invasive it might come across to the user. With privacy coming under greater scrutiny it seems bizarre that advertisers would want to bombard prospects and customers this way. Even more bizarre is that they don’t actually want to tell people who have visited their site anything new. Spray and pray methodology is alive and well in most behavioural targeting strategies, and what a shame that is.
Don’t get me wrong, re-targeting is a great strategy, but it’s so often tracked in a way that excludes prior media channel interactions. If we look at my Miami example above, the dodgy information site I visited which told me all about the great beaches I could see would get no credit for driving my purchase decision at all. With more and more brands using tag management as an all encompassing measurement tool, what rules are being set to give credit to re-targeted ads, if any? Display re-targeting is a false economy if it’s not measured correctly and its poor execution is in my opinion contributing to a huge amount of distrust with web users. Re-targeting should also be a very small component of a larger media strategy, prospecting is where the real smarts sit and where planners should be focussing more of their attention.
I’ll leave you with my top tips on best practice for display re-targeting:
1. If you have a CPA deal with a re-targeting technology stop now, you’re more than likely paying double what you should, if not more
2. Insist your re-targeted ads are frequency capped and have an end date
3. Segment your prospects into those that have purchased and those that have not and set exclusion rules for customers, especially loyal ones who don’t need selling to
4. Segment your prospects into different ‘lapsed’ groups and have a different messaging strategy for each
5. If you are using tag management technology set appropriate rules for re-targeted ads, they should be given the least credit (in my opinion). If you want to work out how much credit they should be given work out the overall incremental uplift from re-targeted activity, this will give you a truer reflection of what you should be paying
Miami here I come. And yes, I will be speaking with the hotel owner about their online media tactics.
I happened to have a conversation yesterday with one of my colleagues about the death of the high street, a new buzz topic amongst many digital and media folk. My colleague’s view was that whilst the tradition of selling goods by local stores on high streets was dead (“because they don’t offer any value” he argued), there is an opportunity for the high street to become an ‘experience’. Well what type of experience I asked? And then our conversation came to a close as we parted ways, I was off to Sainsburys to buy tea.
Swishing around the supermarket I wondered what could possibly be ‘experiential’ about the high street. Was he talking about augmented reality? Was he talking about outdoor touch screen shopping? A high street where the purchase becomes part of a wider more ‘engaging experience’ (there’s that word again!)? Many stores have already embraced digital, where a touch screen store, an interactive vending machine or a QR code is part of the fun of shopping, the purchase itself becomes secondary.
Creating an experience that is useful, entertaining or valuable really is the golden nugget for marketers today. Can the same logic regarding ‘experience’ be the same for online advertising. Isn’t creating an enriching experience for customers on the high street the same challenge that online advertising has. The problem with most digital advertising mediums is that they struggle to entertain, be useful or engage. Instead they interrupt or don’t talk back.
Let’s look first at the most successful online advertising medium; search marketing is part of an experience, it doesn’t intrude or interfere, it ticks the ‘useful’ box perfectly. When you step outside of search, the opportunities to create a similarly useful or entertaining experience are much more difficult. We’ve been trying to shoehorn display advertising into something that it is not for too long. Of the top 10 best rated TV adverts of last year by the general public, 9 of them made people laugh* (the best being this one by Aldi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCKgCkubGc0). Display ads can’t make you laugh, and however ‘flashy’ the production is, I’ve seldom been entertained by one.
When is online advertising (outside of search) a truly valuable, entertaining and/or useful experience? A really useful display ad would be one that I needed to interact with right there and then, that was truly interactive, one that didn’t just aim to sell me something, one that aimed at entertaining me, giving me information I needed, (or maybe even making me laugh). A very difficult thing to do perhaps, especially with the current formats on offer (no Facebook, there isn’t anything remotely ‘engaging’ about engagement ads). Cynics might argue that display ads will never be an experience other than irritating. I’m starting to ask myself, If advertising isn’t truly engaging, is there a point to even doing it? Are we fooling ourselves by thinking that interrupting people can work online anymore? Shouldn’t online ‘advertising’ be an experience or begone.
And there I was, still in Sainsburys, swishing around with an empty basket.
- High Street Stores vs. Online Shopping (elizabethharmonblog.wordpress.com)
- Online Advertising Giant Simply Launches Banner Advertising Tools (prweb.com)
- Local Advertising Company Explodes onto Online Display Advertising Bandwagon (prweb.com)
- Is Amazon Killing The High Street? [Opinion] (makeuseof.com)
Some of you may be wondering why I’ve not been posting on my fabulous blog for quite a while (wishful thinking from me as always). I’ve been out of action with a burst appendix. As much as I’ve tried i’ve not been able to link this in any sort of humorous fashion to a piece about digital media. I’ve therefore refrained from writing until I’ve made a full recovery.
The last few weeks have been painful to say the least and I wouldn’t wish my experience on a dog (except for those vicious types that maul people’s faces unexpectedly). The excruciating abdominal pain was bad, but the sampling of NHS cuisine was quite another. I jest of course, but in truth I’ve never seen a risotto have such a likeness to vomit in all my days. Luckily I didn’t have much of an appetite after the operation. I spent my time eavesdropping on nearby patient’s conversations, which was the next best thing to having a television or a Heat magazine. My lowest ebb came after having a catheter insertion followed by a tube up my nose and down my throat. Awake. No amount of morphine relieved that indignity.
Luckily I live to tell the tale. I have a lovely scar forever smiling back up at me, a new found faith in NHS nurses (boy do they have to deal with some crappy people), they bring a new meaning to the word ‘saints’, and a dollop of hypochondria to add to all my other complex but rather marvellous health concerns.
I’m back everyone.
I recently attended an industry round table event where one of the topics being discussed was attribution. This is a current buzz word in the digital media space. It describes the methodology of being able to attribute value to digital advertising at whatever step the customer sees it. For example, if a customer were to ‘view’ a display banner for a car insurance product and then search for the brand on Google and click on the paid search link and then make a purchase, in a last click attribution model the paid search link would take all the credit for the sale. In a first click attribution model the display banner would get all the credit, and in a blended model both the display and search advertising would share the credit. The challenge is much greater when you have 10 or even 20 touch points before the customer makes a purchase. And what happens when that customer makes the purchase in store, how does credit get attributed then?
The reason agencies have become so hung up on attribution is because they want to prove the value of their advertising to clients. For so long digital media has been held up as being completely measurable. As the space has become a lot more competitive, and more expensive, the standard way of looking at last click attribution doesn’t hold up as well any more. I think the industry needs a bit of a wake up here. Attributing value to advertising in this way is misleading. Let’s say I watch a TV ad for a Sony television, search online and see a John Lewis promotion for that TV and make an online purchase. Surely that would be Sony’s marketing budget driving revenue for John Lewis? However, John Lewis’s marketing team would consider that it was their marketing activity driving the revenue for that Sony TV. Let’s complicate matters further. If my friend tells me that the Sony television they just bought from John Lewis is amazing and that I should go and buy one online, no marketing activity should really take any credit for the sale, my friend has done the marketing for John Lewis all by themselves.
The reasons people make purchases are as varied as the British weather. Some people make snap decisions, some are influenced by how much money they have in the bank, and some are guided by the marketing they see or click on. Attribution seeks to fit these decisions into neat boxes. Marketing is not always causal. I like to see digital marketing as a very effective sign post rather than the reason someone has made a purchase. It has a very strong role to play in driving sales, guiding the customer to the right page at the right time. Do I think attribution is a waste of time? Absolutely not. It can be very effective at making budgets more efficient. I also don’t see it as a marketing panacea. Until we can read people’s minds we can never truly attribute value empirically to marketing activity. We should use this data with a little caution, accepting that attribution is a tactic to make budgets go further, not to justify causation.
- Not just an ad (joquint.wordpress.com)
- Why Online Marketing is like Herding a Flock of Sheep (firstrate.co.nz)
- How CMOs Can Measure Return on Ad Spend with Better Modeling and Conversion Attribution (greatfinds.icrossing.com)
- Social media attribution: friend or foe? (econsultancy.com)
- Attribution module coming for Google Analytics Premium (ginside.com)
- How Search Conversions Are Driven By Display Impression Frequency (searchengineland.com)
- Attribution: Why search marketers should care about customer loyalty and lifetime value (econsultancy.com)
- Hitting A Wall With Paid Search? Break Through With Search Retargeting (searchmarketingstandard.com)