The Dawn of the Marketing Analyst Era
Until Google came along--or, rather, search engine marketing in general.
Search engine marketing, more than any other form of advertising, tightened the feedback loop and gave marketers an amazingly fine level of control over their budgets and their efficacy. The search engines did this in part by creating a marketplace for ad placement, built upon a very elegant targeting philosophy: people who type in keywords are looking for offers relevant to those keywords.
But more than that: they stripped the ad unit itself down until it was as nakedly basic as it could possibly get. They reduced ads down to offers. This did a few things, but most importantly, it made the creative highly flexible and totally malleable. No ad would have to go through a graphic creation and optimization process. If the advertiser wanted to change a word, he could. If she wanted to tweak the headline, she could. Just as quick as that.
And because search was such a simple system, the results of those twists and tweaks were immediately measurable. Since changes could be made in bright analytic light, the invitation to the advertiser was to optimize, optimize, optimize. The mandate to the search provider, therefore, was to provide as much data as was possible. Simple click-through data spawned conversion data, site-analytics data and more. To the Optimizer, all numbers are welcome, because each one becomes a new path way toward ad effectiveness.
The thing is, what search has brought no media planner can tear asunder (or something like that). The idea that advertising can be optimized is out of its box and beginning to fly through the world. The challenge now, to the mediums being touched by the idea, is to begin setting up the same sorts of feedback loops that gave search marketers such power and, ultimately, trust that the medium would get them the returns they needed.
These feedback loops are not really the stuff of dreams, but they're definitely not-quite-there yet either. Ultimately, the opportunity is going to arise from the continuing transition toward digital delivery of content. Radio and television are well on their way. Print, naturally, will always be printed, but the ability to produce atoms-and-ink at low cost means that newspapers and magazines can exert greater flexibility to manipulate the ads that are printed, based on neighborhood, for example.
The Analyst Marketer The advertising superstars have long hailed from the creative department. The caricature of the black-shirt/goatee/wire glasses wizard is the archetype. I'm going to suggest that a new will begin to emerge as the superstar of 2006: the analyst marketer. This one's caricature has a short-sleeve shirt/bad tie/taped-together-glasses,
The analyst marketer is going focus his or her time wholly on the relevance side of the advertising equation, specifically making sure that the ad shows up at the right time, with the right offer for the right price. The AM is going to see marketing and advertising not as a creative effort, filled with sketches, white-boarded-ideas and flashes of brilliance. The AM is going to look more like an options trader, staring at a large monitor, tracking data feeds and data feedback.
Because as more systems begin to provide feedback and flexibility, there will be an enormous opportunity for people who are able to finesse placements and optimize offers in real time. Nearly everything will be multivariate tested in near real time, and inventory opportunities will fly across the network for agile bidders. The day-to-day work of the AM is going to be about tweaking levers.
This era should be regarded as very, very good news for the advertising industry as a whole. One of the most vexing aspects of the creative process is the lack of clarity about placement. That is, if there is a fantastic ad, placed in a spot that no one (or the wrong one) sees. The creative effort is wasted. The creative team will demand that AM's be brought on board, to make sure that there efforts are not only consumed, but properly judged. That's why the AMs will be the next advertising superstars: everyone will feel they need to have him or her on their team.
Positioned for the AM The companies that are best positioned to take advantage of the AM era, right now, are the data providers. Companies like Web Side Story, Revenue Science, Performics/DoubleClick and Atlas are in the business of feeding the AMs their favorite dish: data, data and data. These companies will continue to be well positioned as they develop tools which help AMs do their job, creating analytic packages that allow for the analysis of data across multiple dimensions at a very rapid rate.
As well positioned, though, will be the agencies and the marketers who bring these people on staff now. The skill set of the AM is going to be hotly contested in the coming years, as the desire to more deeply know ad efficacy becomes more and more important.