For the past nearly 3 years, I’ve been in charge of Audience Development for one of the largest media companies in the US.
I learned a LOT during that time. Even more important, I learned a lot about what NOT to do.
Not all of these property were personal ‘mistakes’ per se. Some were top down decisions that were influenced by lack of foresight, cognition or budget. Others were due to an industry that is undergoing rapid change.
As John Powell aforesaid, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
To that end, here are the top 4 mistakes I learned during my tenure. I hope sharing these and their learnings will spark some good discussion – either externally or in the comments below.
1. Not investment in Building User Data
This one distinctly took me by surprise.
But there was no CRM informationbase.
One thing not often considered about media companies is the fact the user information is controlled by the cable provider. The cable company collects the payment and therefore have all the associated user information:
- Credit Card Info
- Purchase history
- Login Username/Password
In it’s simplest form, the media company simply provides the content the cable provider sells to the user. For the longest period of time, the value of collection this information had been overlooked.
Plan of Action:
To access ‘free’ content inside an app from the likes of NBC, CBS, Fox and others, you must go through an authentication process. This is done exploitation the same certificate you would login to pay your cable bill.
In one of these apps, you’ve likely come crosswise a login page that looks like this:
This poses two challenges:
- Many users don’t know or remember this login. As a result, a lot of potential video consumption is lost.
- As mentioned above, this is an opening page that drives to the cable provider as they own the username and watchword information.
In collaboration with the product team, a strategy was developed to implement a ‘free trial’ in exchange for the user’s email address. This would allow the user to predate the authentication requirement.
This was the minimum piece of information required for us to begin building a CRM and the beginning of a client match marketing program crosswise Google, Facebook and Twitter.
It besides provided us with the initial piece of user information that we could later build on with supplemental offers in exchange for profile completion.
The overarching lesson here is – invest in CRM. Even if you have to start with just a informationbase of email addresses. Start somewhere.
2. Not Understanding the Nuances of Mobile Tracking
As you mightiness imagine, much of our marketing strategy and budget focused on the mobile space. uninterestingly enough, this is besides a space where ad-blockers are not working.
That aforesaid, with mobile advertising comes trailing nuances that I was ab initio unaware of.
When I joined the team, we were full-steam into launching the first ever marketing campaign. In our haste to launch, we did not take the time to fully understand the impact of not hardening our mobile trailing solution.
Our primary mobile advertising consisted of:
Desktop & Mobile Banner and Social Ads:
When a user visits a web site via their desktop or mobile device, your banner displays and a cookie is born on the visitor’s computers – regardless of whether or not they click through to your web site.
Depending on the ad-server being used, this cookie can remain active for up to 2 years.
Eventually, if the user performs the desired action, that same cookie fires causing the proper attribution for your campaign. All is well in the world.
Apple’s campaign browser blocks 3rd party cookies by default which makes this ‘standard’ trailing more complex. Among other property, this means your app cannot read the cookie information stored by Mobile campaign.
This presents a challenge to advertisers as campaign’s market share is around 33% globally.
In-App Advertising (causing users to our brand web sites):
I’m sure you’ve detected when you open a link in an app, it doesn’t open a new browser window. Rather, it opens an “in-app browser”.
This makes perfect sense for UX as it allows you to quickly return to the app.
The issue lies in the cookie drop on your phone. This naturally occurs with the click, ne'ertheless, it only drops a cookie for the in-app browser session. Unless the conversion happens instantly inside that session, the attribution is lost.
In-App Advertising (causing users to our apps):
Quite simply, cookies are not used ‘in-app’. This left us with zero attribution or cross-device trailing.
The lack of attention to these inside information was quickly evident. At the end of the campaign, we were left pointing to engagement prosody like impressions, CTR and social shares as a measure of success.
Not at all what a user acquisition campaign should be reporting.
Plan of Action:
The fastest change to a leaky attribution bucket that we could make was to tackle the campaign issue. We simply updated our social and display targeting to remove campaign browsers.
While Google struggles with mobile and socially-driven demographic/interest targeting, Facebook provides the ability to target (or exclude) users by Web browser.
While not foolproof, for the likes of Twitter and Google, we targeted only older operational systems in an effort to capture users who were still exploitation bequest browsers.
Considering our audience was US based, we estimated that we would only be missing out on about 15-18% of the overall market.
The other two challenges were a bit more complex and required a mobile attribution solution that established the match between the user’s advertising ID and the publisher.
While there are galore companies available for this, after evaluation, we landless on Kochava as our solution provider.
Pro tip: if you’re on a budget, Branch.io is a wholly free solution that provides galore of the same features.
3. Focexploitation on Sexy vs. Efficient
The programmatic display and mobile space is filled with shiny new tools, ad placements, and even ad units.
Combine that with the traditional types of advertising done by media companies (think big billboards, bus sides, etc) and these quickly become distractions from tactics that are proven to work.
I think it’s fair to say we spread our tactics far too wide in the early years in hopes of capitalizing on that sexy new ad-unit or the hot new ad targeting. This was, unluckily, at the expense of tried and true tactics like traditional paid search.
A smarter approach would have been to test into these tactics rather than build a comprehensive media plan that enclosed them.
Plan of Action:
I’m a immense fan of Steve Jobs. And Apple in general. One of my favorite quotes from him is:
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
With more information and proper attribution in place, we were more sceptered to direct the media plans crosswise the brands.
We focused on tried and true transmission that significantly outperformed the “shiny objects” that had resulted in wasted spend and higher reimbursement for creative development.
This paid off in a big way:
- Total impressions declined significantly, ne'ertheless, clicks accrued just as dramatically
- Average click reimbursement besides declined
- Cost per app install reduced nearly 200%
- Cost per video start reduced 230%
Sometimes the ‘simple’ property just work better.
Ultimately, after seeing the information, I took away a few lessons that can be applied to about any campaign:
Programmatic display isn’t the end all, be all. It’s an industry cant. I could even say ‘buzztactic’. It’s rife with click fraud and vendors with non-transparent ‘private networks’. It’s susceptible to ad blockers and comes with galore privacy issues.
Don’t get me wrong. It can work.
But, test into programmatic options ONLY after you’ve exhausted the below tactics.
Focus on transmission where a user is passively searching for you. They’re not yet self-qualified based on their actions. The most applicable here is paid search crosswise Bing or Google.
Remarket your way to lower cost per acquisitions. You’ve not yet paid the premium CPC or CPM to get that user to your web site. atypically, remarketing campaigns come with much lower reimbursement. Why not re-engage a warm lead for less?
#Hashtags are inherently social, but leave them out of social ad copy. Through our trimming of tactics, we besides cut areas where users mightiness be tempted to leave the topic at hand.
In this case, we removed any hashtag mentions in our ad copy so users would focus instead on the ‘install’. Our conversion tax improven as a result.
When pushing mobile installs, leverage a device in your creative. When you think about it, of course. It makes sense. But we proven it out via testing. Showing users an image of their device in the creative they’re being served improven conversion tax.
4. Not leverage an Always on Strategy
Consumers, myself enclosed, are always on. Always blocked in. It’s a bad, addicting habit.
But, that besides means running a campaign for a TV show only when that show is in-season leaves chance on the table.
There are a few challenges with being able to do this:
First, media companies are merchandising off the rights to their shows to the likes of Netflix and Hulu. In some cases, the ability to create a show is entirely dependent on the revenue coming from these minutes.
This means an always on strategy will ne'er be an option once the rights are sold.
Second, when we first launched our campaigns, we were disbursement large portions of our budget on fancy creative and higher cost CPMs trying to capture the next big thing.
This left us without budget pacing that would allow for an always on strategy.
Plan of Action:
We tackled the second issue as part of our streamlining of tactics. This enabled our budgets to stretch farther and for thirster periods of time some pre-premier and post-finale.
The matter of rights was more complex and is probably worth a wholly separate post. That aforesaid, as a test, we distinct to focus on a core set of shows where the rights had been maintained for several years.
The hope was, if we could show a series with multiple seasons resulted in bigger average views per user, we could start to build a case for investment in the rights for the more popular shows.
We found not only were the average views per user up, but these campaigns were far outperforming pilot shows and series with limited rights.
This resulted in overall efficiencies for the campaign.
There’s no question the digital space can provide tons of chance for growth and learning. I have surely learned a ton.
Hopefully sharing some of these insights will help you better contour your digital marketing efforts, focus on what works, get your trailing in order and finally drive accrued performance.
About the Author: Jon Clark is the founder of fuse SEO, a dress shop digital marketing company in New York. He writes regularly on SEO tactics, analytics and social media best practices. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter. When not working or writing, Jon enjoys documenting his travels on Instagram.