The CMO/Digital Media Disconnect

By: Ron Stitt, Strategic Advisor, Clinch

I’ve often wondered about the discrepancy between high-level marketing and advertising discussions and the way digital media is actually transacted.

Recently, I attended a very thought-provoking Ad Club of NY #theverticals panel discussion on “How to Market for Transformed Viewing Experiences”, featuring leaders from Anheuser-Busch, Roku, NatGeo, Verizon / Verizon Media, and Comscore. These were CMO or C-level marketers, not digital media/digital media buyers. It really struck me – in 90 minutes of conversations about the complexities and opportunities in the emerging multi-platform video universe, everything from consumer UX to being platform agnostic, to data, to media planning considerations such as audience targeting and reach and frequency, to KPIs were discussed. One word was not mentioned at all: Attribution. It was implied in references to “the funnel” and a multiplicity of situational KPIs. But no explicit focus, certainly not as THE KPI, and it struck me that had this been a typical digital media/digital media buying event/ad tech event, the subject of attribution would have been a prime focus.

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(*Left to right – Melissa Kaylor, Verizon Media, Dennis Camlek, National Geographic, Andy Hunter, Roku, Elizabeth Brady, Verizon Media, Paolo Provinciali, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Elicia Greenberg, The Advertising Club of NY, Moritz Loew, Comscore, Erin Mcpherson, Verizon)

Digital media buyers think they are the experts on data and “attribution” but in reality, their real driver seems to be tonnage/low CPM impressions (I guess it’s especially important when half of the media spend is siphoned off before the $ actually get to the, you know, media). Consumer UX? Not really in the consideration set (be honest!). But meanwhile, issues of clutter, poor viewability outright fraud is rife, and threaten emerging channels like OTT. Linear buyers, meanwhile, are all about “top of the funnel”, brand-building and reach and frequency. And it seems to me, they have a little more real focus on a broader sense of the value of each unit (given the cost).

In order to get a real 360-degree sense of the value of audiences and every impression, the gap between these two perspectives has to not just be bridged, but obliterated…philosophically, in campaign budgets, and buys. It all matters – who sees the ad, what creative they see, how it’s targeted, how it’s measured, what KPIs it drives – and yes, the impact on sales as well as higher-funnel goals like awareness, positive associations and purchase intent.

So why was attribution MIA in this C-level marketer conversation? Why does it matter? Well, panelists did recognize and talked about the need for integrated, omnichannel approaches to marketing and media. One went so far as to suggest sellers have an important role to play in introducing traditional linear buyers on accounts to their corresponding digital buyers. I mean sure, but really!?

CMOs have to step up and knock heads together to make this happen. What I heard today was a profound disconnect, and digital media/digital media buying to me is the part of the ecosystem that is mainly out of step. Folks, your clients (maybe a layer or two up from who you’re dealing with) care about a lot more than bottom of the funnel attribution and based on the discussion at the Ad Club, care deeply about the consumer UX – in real-time, as well as lifetime. Make no mistake, digital media experts bring a lot to the table in a converged operation with linear counterparts (I would argue that net, the future of converged planning & buying looks more like digital than traditional/linear), but understanding and respecting the full funnel and building corresponding consumer-centric plans is essential. That’s only possible if silos are removed and digital/linear finally, truly work together at the campaign level.

What are the ramifications of this? Too numerous to list here, but here’s one to think about: In a world where the full funnel and Consumer UX really were the prime imperatives, advertisers might have to get used to fewer overall impressions for the same budget – but in return they’d get better quality audiences, exposures, better consumer engagement, and happier customers. On a related note, Unilever just announced they are going to focus on fewer, known media outlets and seek to build partnerships that create value in new ways. That sounds to me like a step in the right direction.

*Please Note: All statements are the opinion of the author and may not necessarily represent the views of The ADVERTISING Club of New York.


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