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HSMAI Section: Optimizing Digital Marketing

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July 01, 2016
Max Rayner

Not only are there many platforms laying claim to digital marketing optimization, but jargon is often layered so thick that it’s hard to tell which does what. At the highest level it may be helpful to think of the space as a Venn diagram whose primary poles are ad tech, content tech and marketing tech.

Wily vendors have figured out that the desired spot might well be at the intersession of all three, hence the fair amount of consolidation that continues to rearrange this landscape.

On the other hand, full convergence may not be right for every customer or for all channels.  A key question exists: Should hospitality CMOs attempt to use their own in-house teams in such a complex space, and if so, for which channels.

LUMA Partners continuously revises and publishes exceedingly good infographics (called LUMAscapes) that show the key players in the Venn diagram, often with such great detail that a magnifying glass is in order.
To make the field intelligible we’ll be doing much the opposite of LUMA and will simplify it in four ways:

  • Only selected leaders will be mentioned in each key area.
  • In cases where a vendor is present in multiple areas but more relevant in one than another, it will be assigned to one area.
  • Official jargon will not be used when specialist jargon obscures understanding
  • Solutions that are well recognized such as ESPs or basic content authoring technologies will be omitted.

An argument for letting trusted professionals take care of you.

Because this field is evolving so fast, even those of us who make a living foraging in it need to keep going back to re-learn what the latest trends, capabilities, winners and losers are. 

The lessons taken from one context may not apply to another.  For example, local targeting (in the sense of tailoring campaigns based on live user locations) may or may not be applicable.  London at 3 a.m., on a smartphone? Maybe that person is looking for a hotel that very night. The same person some hours later on the same smartphone may now be planning a beach getaway for next week with the person they met last night. And what is true for a trivial targeting exercise like this one, is most certainly true for strategic advice: Take it if the circumstances fit.

Wayne Johnson is CEO of GatewayMedia.us, an award winning agency that has reshaped the political advertising space. 

Johnson suggests hospitality executives should exercise caution before tinkering with any of the tools mentioned farther below unless they’re with a major brand with the budgets, expert staff and “throw-weight’ to have a go on their own.

The alternative to taming complex platforms inhouse is to engage professional services, an area with a great many options.

You want programmatic, data-driven, dynamically
optimized marketing but don’t have the staff needed?

If you don’t have an internal staff, consider picking a reputable agency (or a platform that includes agency services) and rely on its full-service offerings. This does not come without challenges.

First is the relative lack of agencies with truly massive experience. To avoid conflicts, agencies often restrict themselves to one major client per vertical, which sounds good until you realize that means few agencies have a truly complete view of an industry.

An excellent starting point is asking a platform vendor which agents do a credible job using their tools.

Assign your budget. The agency helps you take your first-party data (what you know about your customers/prospects) and process it through a data management platform that enriches it with third-party data to create customer segments, and you’re almost ready to start spending.

The typical digital marketing process is not terribly different than the classical media campaign work flow:

Assuming the prerequisites are satisfied, then you can start spending. Your agency’s trade desk will take action on your behalf, and (the good ones) will help you fight fraud with inventory quality vendors such as Integral Ad Science or White Ops. Agency staff will start buying inventory from premium channels and then execute programmatic ads that attempt to avoid cheap inventory and open ad exchanges.
If you’re feeling brave, follow us into the rabbit hole.
Digital Marketing Hubs:
  • Segment your user data after combining first, second and third-party data.
  • Support work flow and collaboration.
  • Conduct intelligent orchestration, sequencing, multivariate testing.
  • Optimize yield.

A great deal of ink could be spilled debating this area but there’s little doubt that the enterprise leader is Adobe’s programmatic advertising platform.  Agencies that have the expertise and staff may choose point solutions such as Marin Software just for search engine marketing. 

As a holistic platform it’s hard to beat the Adobe Marketing Cloud.  Adobe’s portfolio includes: profiles and audiences, asset sharing, media optimizer, analytics, audience manager, primetime TV platform, and (after their Tumri acquisition) dynamic creative optimization. Adobe is consistently ranked highest by Gartner and Forrester, and is putting forth a serious effort both in terms of acquisitions and true product engineering to create a platform that is simultaneously modular and integrated.

Facebook – The Biggest Outlier (and growing)
While digital marketing hubs do a great job, Facebook is a complete exception.  Facebook is a galaxy unto itself and its own interfaces can not only help you target people when on Facebook but also once they leave and go on to other Web properties. In other words, Facebook is both medium and platform. Don’t waste effort on third parties – either your team or your agency should really engage Facebook directly.

This article has been meant as a conversation starter rather than a specific endorsement, so go forth, create well, yield optimally and convert.
Max Rayner is a partner at Hudson Crossing and his practice areas include strategy, transactions, agile transformation, product innovation, technology and user experience.
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Response Rates that Work

In travel and hospitality we have platforms like ADARA and Sojern who want their clients to succeed because their business model depends on it. That's not necessarily true of Google or Facebook when unskilled users attempt to manage them directly. These
platforms are utterly Darwinian and agnostic about whether your ads are programmatically driven out of the news feed by financial services promotions or political ads. Your business might not die from competition, but could be killed by an algorithm.

Most companies probably should not even be thinking of stepping outside of the travel-specific platforms. Instead, they should be insuring that wherever travelers encounter their brand, it is speaking with the same "voice," that brand loyalty is not put at risk for a slight uptick in one metric on the dashboard. Today, brands are destroyed one click at a time.

In response marketing the focus is invariably on what works. GatewayMedia.us probably places 75 percent of its spend on Facebook, Pandora and Hulu because, for our clients, the metrics work. The downside is that looking only at response rates can create a type of metrics myopia, a field of view so tightly focused on how a campaign is performing that we lose sight of why it is performing. Platforms that commoditize data are seldom subjected to the kind of multivariate research analysis that tells us which attributes in combination are driving the decision-making process.

- Wayne C. Johnson, CEO, GatewayMedia.us

Now if you feel really adventurous and want to try to mix
a digital marketing optimization cocktail yourself,
here are some samples.

Data Management Platforms
[x+1] or BlueKai has scale and capabilities that are hard to beat. They help take your first-party data (what you know about your customers/prospects) and enrich it with third-party data to create customer segments.

Demand Side Platforms
MediaMath or DataXu platforms enable buyers of digital advertising inventory to manage multiple ad exchanges and data exchange accounts through one interface.

Overall SMB solution
HubSpot is worth a look as the all-in-one digital marketing platform pioneer, but only for SMBs. 

Video, display and native ad platform
BrightRoll offers leading programmatic video, display and native advertising solutions, including a demand side platform and an exchange that powers digital advertising at vast scale.

Persuasive/multivariate ad generation
Companies like Persado take what used to be a bunch of fruitless debates around word choice and makes it all testable. Even if it were just for giving us back all those hours, they deserve a try.

Programmatic creative platforms
PaperG offers excellent creative management and dynamic creative optimization. After all, what would be the point of getting all the “plumbing” sorted out if you didn’t have a near infinite variety of targetable content to push through it?

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