Data Implications for Marketers in 2018

Four weeks after GDPR came into force many marketers and agencies are still scrambling to stay abreast of all the changes and implications. However GDPR was only the tip of the iceberg. There are other tectonic changes like Apple limiting Safari tracking and DoubleClick restricting visibility of DoubleClick ID that impact the established methods by which marketers use data for targeting and attribution. Here in Australia we already have strong privacy laws that uphold individuals privacy but this shouldn’t mean we can’t get on the front foot and address data privacy issues.

As marketers we can all agree that data improves our campaigns, but not at the cost of breaching personal privacy or exposing our businesses to legal censure by breaching laws. Too many headlines like ‘Data is the new oil’ and buzzwords like ‘personalisation’ and ‘data-driven marketing’ created an unregulated industry geared towards generating voluminous data that could be packaged as game-changing.

Issues like Cambridge Analytica have also heightened consumer concerns around how their data may be misused. In a recent survey by ADMA 59% of Australians responded that they are concerned about the issue of online privacy. But within these adversities Marketers must see both lessons as well as opportunities to take proactive measures to revamp their data strategies.

1. The rise of first-party audiences

GDPR has forced major technology companies to update their policies and will restrict the quantity and methods of using 3rd party data available to marketers. In addition, across the broader web with consumers increasingly deleting cookies and their browsing histories the reliability and freshness of 3rd party data is under question. For marketers this implies turning their focus to building First-party data lists that they can own and control. Some examples of first party audiences are your website visitors, users on email lists, CRM databases, mobile app users and those who’ve engaged with your content before.

What does this mean for businesses?

Performance from tactics such as Lookalike targeting and Retargeting/Upsell based on first-party audiences always outperform other data tactics. Building new audience lists must be a priority and agreements with last-mile stakeholders such as supermarkets, ticketing agents and car-dealers who directly interface with customers must include conditions to access customer data. First-party data allows marketers among other things to create lookalikes, personalize ads, segment customers based on lifetime value and exclude recent purchasers from new acquisition campaigns for efficiency. In short marketers would be better off doing direct data deals with relevant publishers, and then washing that data with their own for better targeting across the internet.

2. Audit data management processes

In modern organisations data is scattered across departments marketing, IT, sales, and may not be under the purview of a single owner. In the event of a data breach or consumer challenge the absence of a is could delay and stymie the organisations ability to respond quickly.

What does this mean for businesses?

Every organisation must have a designated Data Lead who is accountable for all aspects of data collection, exchange, storage and usage and is familiar with relevant laws.  Privacy policies should be looked at as an opportunity to have a dialogue on the company’s commitment to safeguarding user rights rather than a defensive mechanism to mitigate risk.

3. Question the quality of 3rd party data

Australia is a country of only 24 mn so available data resources are few and often the same datasets are extensively used across media publishers and clients. We are all  approached by data brokers offering unique data to target but then left to wonder about these are collected and how reliable they are. The problem is that in the quest to stay ahead of the competition most of the data used in marketing is from 3rd party brokers and is non opt-in and unregulated. This is an opportune inflection moment to pivot and work with fewer but higher-quality data partners.

What does this mean for businesses?

Ensure that all partners; technology or inventory suppliers who interact with your customers have robust data collection procedures and are compliant as per the relevant privacy laws in your market. Where data is being used for targeting consent must be implicit and for the purposes it is going to be used for.

4. Put the User first

Data privacy concerns arise when users feel that their data is on sold without their permission or used to manipulate their actions as with the use in the US Elections. The ADMA research also highlighted that 73% of Australians think that businesses generally benefit the most from data sharing – so much needs to be done to improve the perceived benefit of sharing data to consumers. As long as it is used in subtle ways to improve their online experience or retained only to deliver future rewards consumers will not mind.

What does this mean for businesses?

Build out user consumer journey maps and define how data can enhance the consumer experience and serve their need states at every stage through personalized messaging and better audience segmentation. Data should be an enabler and not an outcome. Also while personalisation sounds great in boardrooms remember no consumer actually asked to be followed around the web bombarded with creepy “i-know-what-you-want” ads. So be intuitive not obvious when using data to enhance your marketing.

 

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A review of Australia’s new Digital Content Ratings

Australian advertisers and agencies can finally access daily audience data with the launch of Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings this week. This is the final part of the IAB and Nielsen’s three-stage enhancement of digital measurement in Australia. Previously only monthly data was available, usually closer to the end of the subsequent month.

I believe the product is brilliant work from the IAB and Nielsen as it is world-leading and also timely given the recent debates around online transparency. Having poked around the interface since last week I can report that the interface works faster than the previous ones, and delivers on most of its promises. At the Melbourne launch event the Nielsen and IAB representatives were also able to articulate their future roadmap of enhancements really well.

While this is a good start I believe the online landscape has changed since Nielsen Online Ratings were first launched, and the requirements of digital audience measurement have to keep up with how digital media is being bought today. I have listed a few pros and cons below. The cons are not all specific to Nielsen DCR but for the entire spectrum of online measurement.

Pros:

First up the granularity in data is exceptional, and delivers the ability to interrogate website numbers down to demographics, device type and operating system to name a few. The availability of off-network numbers (on Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP) is important as consumers increasingly discover and consumer publisher content within these closed environments.

The immediacy of the data will enable campaign managers to adapt their activity in near real-time in response to audience trends. This is how it has been done on TV for years, and will now be available to digital planners. If a program does great numbers on a catch-up or online streaming service (think The HandMaid’s Tale) then a planner can see it within DCR and capitalize faster on this opportunity.

The daily as opposed to monthly data means shorter periods can be analysed. This will help with identifying spikes and advertising opportunities on relevant websites in the lead up to specific events like the AFL Grand Final, Federal Budget, Oscars etc. Day of week analysis can now be done to see trends in visitation. As an example do automotive and real-estate websites really receive more traffic in the lead up to the weekend.

Agencies will be able to use standardized metrics to compare across publishers both large and small. Previously some niche sites could only provide their own web analytics data. DCR will aid digital planners to evaluate smaller and niche sites, but also make decisions on which websites to initiate private marketplaces deals with.

Advertisers can plan and verify campaign performance against their demographic targets as the new daily ratings also complements the existing Digital Audience Ratings product. For advertisers who still use broad demographic targets the new metrics like Unique Audience Index and Online GRP(%) will be interesting.

Cons:

Rankings for individual websites and categories hold less relevance than before. In the early days of digital publishers mostly sold homepages, sponsorships and run of category blocks. Digital website ratings were thus important to identify the top 1 or 2 websites to advertise on. But today consumers visit a long tail of multiple sites and apps during the day advertisers and advertisers need to follow them across them all. Advertisers are interested in chasing audiences irrespective of where they are and not by masthead/context/vertical. So the shift to Programmatic buying means ratings are not a necessary starting input because audience personas, behaviors and data are more relevant.

The industry needs to move on from demographic targeting which seems arcane especially with the wealth of input signals and data available today. What is more relevant is finding prospects who are likely to buy your product i.e. have shown intent or consideration. I don’t care what the #1 website for People 18-24 is, but I want to know where people interested in a new hatchback are spending their time online. Smart digital planners value more highly the insights provided by partners like Eyeota, Signal, Quantium, Axciom etc.

The data will only become valuable if publishers become flexible with how they trade. Currently pricing is usually on a Cost per thousand and rates are set arbitrarily by each publisher. A shift to a simple Cost per Reach would be an improvement as advertisers want to reach new prospects not pay based on the number of banner impressions served. Similarly if a mobile homepage has more reach than a desktop then the pricing should reflect that but it is the other way around now. Differential pricing based on day-parts and day of week would also be a big change because this is already how auction-based advertisers and programmatic works.

Digital measurement systems need to evolve to become more consistent with the strategic planning process. If the comms planning output is a behavioral and attitudinal based persona from RoyMorgan then diluting it by using demographic inputs to identify relevant websites is a step backwards. If every website could be tagged up so a planner could identify the top websites by specific Helix segments or personas then that would be significant.

Digital needs to grow up in 2017

When TV ratings started to dip a few years ago the online industry were quick to trumpet their own growth in comparison. But in a reversal of fortune it is digital that is now under the scanner as critics have highlighted fundamental issues with measurement, viewability and fraud.

From just $3.13bn in 2012 to $6.8bn in 2016, digital media has been growing very quickly at an approximate annual growth of 20%. But just as the onset of adolescence is often accompanied by troubled times and accusations of misjudgment, digital has become a magnet for criticism from all quarters in trade media. Although I am a digital specialist I think the channel needs to stop projecting itself as the new kid on the playground, with the shinier shoes and gear and take a hard look at itself.

In my personal opinion there are six deliverables that are reasonable for a marketer to expect of an established media channel. The six are in no particular order: Audience reach, Costs transparency, skilled workforce, improvement in customer experience, marketing effectiveness and robust measurement. In this post I use these six parameters to assess the current challenges that digital as a channel faces and offer possible solutions for consideration.

  1. Delivery of audience reach:

“Is the advertising reaching my audience”

The challenge: Digital tactics like search and social reach more than 80% of the population but not all reach is good reach. This is especially true in digital where media is largely bought and sold in impressions. If an impression is non-viewable, fraudulent or appears on a brand-unsafe website the reach delivered is actually undesirable. Viewability in Australia stands at 49.3%, Ad blocking at 27% and ad fraud amounts to $120mn locally. If you were an advertiser you’d be understandably worried about the worth of your online investment.

The solution: All stakeholders in the digital ecosystem should agree to 3rd party and independent auditing measures. Associated technology and verification costs must be shared as in the long run viewable and verified impressions will lead to advertising reaching the most relevant consumers and better financial outcomes for all.

2. Transparency in costs:

“I want to know what I’m being charged for”

The challenge: The increasingly complex digital media ecosystem has simultaneously increased the cost of delivering online interactions (paid and owned) to consumers across the web. As a consequence apart from inventory costs there are now fees for data, technology, measurement, ad serving and campaign personnel that must be accounted for. With the rise in costs comes the danger of misappropriation and suspicion by marketers that they are being skimmed.

The solution: Media agencies should be proactive in disclosing the composition of their service fees, and any business relationships or investments in sub-contractors that they recommend to clients. On the buy side marketing bodies like the AANA should collaborate with the supplier side to prescribe guidelines that are fair and take cognizance of how digital actually works. Nothing will be gained by pushing suppliers into a race to the bottom.

3. Skilled workforce and education:

“How do we up-skill everyone in digital”

The challenge: Digital is a relatively new channel so there aren’t many experienced practitioners. I cringe when I read inaccurate claims and comparisons made by online publishers because it only exposes the naivety of the industry. You cannot compare a video view to average viewing time on TV or claim incremental reach using two separate measurement panels.

The solution: We need digital specialists to understand marketing and traditional media so they broaden their viewpoints. At the same time C-Level marketers and anyone with a traditional media background has to up-skill quickly because all media is soon going to be traded digitally. I’d like to see more digital leaders impart their time to organisations like N-Gen/MFA5+ and deliver guest lectures at educational institutions. For more on this refer to my older post about how to combat the digital skills shortage.

4. Improvement in customer experience:

“How can I transform my business digitally”

The challenge: The focus is always on media and brand websites but digital is much more than these two touch points. Increasingly all our go-to channels are digital with the lines blurring. Consumers don’t think of brand touch points as digital or traditional. They just want to solve a problem, take an action, get information etc. Apart from websites, bad ad experiences are equally disruptive with consumers citing annoying/intrusive ads (64%) as the top reason for using an ad blocker software.

The solution: Brands need to consider their consumers worlds through a 360 degree lens, and make every interaction simple. The focus should always be on leading the consumer quickly through the purchase funnel. Think Uber, Netflix, Apple, Google all brands with great UX that consumers keep coming back to. Beware of being sold technology solutions that market themselves as the panacea to all your problems. Map out your ideal digital experience workflow first and then tender out the project to find the best vendor to deliver your vision. Advertising formats that disrupt the online experience must be discontinued and the IAB’s L.E.A.N ads guidelines adhered to.

5. Robust measurement:

“Are we only counting what we can measure instead of measuring what counts”

The challenge: Until recently metrics from Google, Facebook and some other major publishers were not audited by the MRC. This is now changing and more 3rd party vendors are being accredited for independent measurement validation. The problem is that we get too many metrics for digital but most are meaningless and only befuddle those who receive them. There are also multiple vendors each with different counting approaches. Imagine if television had 4 accredited rating companies who calculated a TV rating point differently.

The solution: Media agencies and advertisers have to band together and use their collective investment might to demand auditing and validation. We need consistent definition of units like video views. Let’s bring in some rigor by mapping the role of channels and metrics to relevant stages in the consumer journey rather than looking at them in isolation.

6. Marketing effectiveness:

“Is my online media driving marketing ROI”

The challenge: Online specialists focus on media and operational metrics like clicks, impressions, views which are important for efficiency but not as important as metrics that actually matter to marketers. A good marketer cares only about metrics such as brand favorability, sales, profit or future sales indicators like net promoter score. Also in Australia only 4.9% of retail sales are done online so connecting online metrics to offline sales is an important requirement.

The solution: There is no holy grail or silver bullet for the above challenge, but astute marketers can implement low cost tactics to estimate the online to offline effect. Simple solutions like using online coupons (Facebook Offers) that can be redeemed offline and location data (beacons) to track offline visits from online ads can also be used effectively. Our team recently used the Google Adwords Store Visits feature to measure the impact of paid click ads on automotive dealer visits. In addition there are other options; short-term (brand uplift studies) and long-term (multi-touch attribution and econometrics) that should be invested in to provide indicative guidance for future investments.

In summary there must be acknowledgement that digital has issues and needs to address them quickly. But the way forward is not to cower down or lash out but to implement solutions proactively. The impetus must also come collectively (and proactively) from the constituents of the industry. It’s time for digital to display some grown up behavior.