The fact that offline and online marketing is headed in a more accountable direction should come as little surprise to the typical direct response marketer. After all, DR is one of the most accountable, measurable, and actionable advertising mechanisms organizations can use to engage, collaborate, and connect with customers. Digital marketers may have made accountability cool, but DR pioneered the concept when most brands were pouring all of their dollars into image-based advertising.
Defined as the software platforms and technologies used to market across multiple online channels and automate repetitive tasks, marketing automation is one of several measurement and tracking tools organizations are turning to in the era of accountable advertising. “We’re seeing a surge in the number of technology firms attempting to measure mixed-media modeling,” says George Leon, senior vice president of media and account management at Hawthorne Direct in Los Angeles, “as a result of increased cross-device usage by consumers.”
By definition, mixed-media modeling involves analyzing sales data to determine the marketing mix’s effectiveness. Using technology applications and platforms, marketers try to figure out how much “weight” to put on which advertising channels, which platforms are performing best (and worst), and how to effectively allocate budgets among those various options. By performing this exercise, companies hope to determine the proper media mix—a big task in today’s highly-fragmented digital media world. Add cross-device behaviors (i.e., the fact that most consumers view advertising content on a variety of devices) into the equation, and the challenge becomes even greater. But there are solutions. “Companies are using pixel technology to figure out and track consumer engagement levels,” Leon says.
One large e-commerce concern, for example, recently wanted to deliver creative only to its largely rural demographic without wasting money on larger markets. Knowing that Keeping Up with the Kardashians airs nationwide and that urban areas favor cable, the retailer opted to run only on Dish Network’s airings of the show, which are seen mostly in rural areas. This is just one way in which media is becoming more addressable and helping drive online initiatives—even those that focus on super-specific, targeted audience segments.
With marketing automation, DR allows advertisers to take accountability to the next level and deliver their pitches directly to clients at the top of the sales funnel. Using a broad spectrum of online and offline media choices, these brands and marketers can capture that level of engagement quickly, knowing that the targeted demographic is on the radar screen.
Just a few weeks ago, Hawthorne created a campaign that targeted 18- to 25-year-old consumers, who comprise just above 10 percent of persons in U.S. TV households. Using a customized marketing plan that incorporated programmatic and addressable TV, we targeted that small demographic in the same way online media targets certain niches. From there, we used mixed-media modeling to show the campaign’s effect across multiple platforms and maximize the advertiser’s message across channels.
Of course, we all know that automating and fine-tuning a campaign is no easy task. There’s a lot of technology to learn and research to be conducted upfront, particularly in terms of identifying and leveraging cross-device segmentation. You have to identify the path specific demographics are going to take, how quickly they will move through the sales funnel, and either make a buy or sign up for a service based upon which advertising mechanisms function most effectively in each case.
“Marketers must understand how the consumer responds from one end of the sales funnel to the other, and also identify engagement across devices; that’s a big part of the engagement,” Leon says. “Ultimately, it’s about understanding the lifetime value of every consumer, and then tying that information back into advertising, station selection, creative, and other key elements that drive the sale(s).”
With more consumers utilizing multiple devices to view and consume content, more marketers will soon leverage mixed-media modeling and related tools to automate various aspects of the advertising process and achieve their goals. And as consumers find more ways to connect with their favorite brands, agencies and marketers will have to step up to the plate and continue to evolve along with them.
Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is chairman and CEO of Hawthorne Direct.
The above blog post was adapted from the "Agency Insights" column published in the January-February 2016 issue of ER magazine.