Commentary

Here's How To Add Value During A Recession

Our industry more than many others is intimately connected to the economy at large. And now that there's a $700 billion hole in the financial stratosphere, we have to do more, a lot more, with available resources.

Not surprisingly, industry decision makers gathered at the recent Interactive Advertising Bureau MIXX conference said that increasing efficiencies in the way digital media is planned, bought and managed was key to being able to prosper in an economic downturn.

David Kenny, Managing Publicis Groupe's VivaKi Publicis helped put matters in perspective. He said that as much as 40% of work of the work done at Publicis is spent doing humdrum tasks.

With tight deadlines and busy schedules, marketers and agency media professionals will benefit greatly from the improved efficiencies in campaign setup and management. Automating the "humdrum" tasks of online advertising would free up their time and allow them to focus on adding value for their clients and executive teams.

For many advertisers today, this is more of a vision than a reality. Even in an age where the human genome has been decoded, many of us have to deal with an endless chain of emails, phone calls and faxes for the simplest tasks. (It's sad but true: other than the DMV, online advertising might very well be the last bastion of the fax).

In a tough economy, shouldn't we be able to automate mundane tasks? This way, we will be able to shift focus to the campaign backend, and do a better job of tying marketing metrics to actual business results.

It's not as if the demand for increased efficiencies in online advertising is a recent one. Online media planners and buyers have always been quick to favor companies and technologies that have made their jobs easier.

Take the example of the rapid growth of Google and compare it to other technologies such as social networking or mobile advertising. While there are many reasons as to why Google took off so quickly, an important (and often overlooked) factor is how easy Google has made it for advertisers to spend money on its properties. An advertiser can log-on to Google AdWords and set-up new and optimize new campaigns without as much a single phone call.

Taking a page out of Google's book, a large number of campaign management solutions launched over the last few months to help advertisers keep it simple.

Yahoo's Apt platform allows publishers to sell targeted advertising on their web sites more easily to advertisers. AOL's Platform-A announced a new "Bidplace" exchange to increase advertiser control over managing their campaigns for display advertising. In the CPC market, Google introduced some very spiffy improvements to its site targeting campaign management capabilities. And in the CPL space, we saw the launch of Pontiflex AdLeads.

With the inevitable proliferation of ad management products in the near future, online advertisers will be faced with the prospect of favoring certain campaign management products more than the others. Here's a checklist of five factors that they can use to evaluate ad management products:

1. Openness: A good campaign management platform should be publisher agnostic. The online advertising marketplace is incredibly fragmented. You should be able to manage all publishers from a single point of connection. Think about it: wouldn't it be nice to come in to your office every morning, log-in to one system and manage all of your campaigns?

2. Transparency: You should be able to pick individual publishers based on campaign goals and target demographics. You should also be able to view reporting by publisher and optimize campaign by placements.

3. Automation: Human interaction is a wonderful thing, but the ideal campaign management system should automate every step of campaign set up and management:

a. Price Negotiation: Exchange bids with publishers through the system

b. Create/upload creative: Deploy creative assets to relevant publisher placements.

c. Test creative: View screenshots of the campaign, request changes if needed and push the campaign live.

d. Turn Campaigns on and off: Shut off poorly performing campaigns with a single click. Allocate money towards better performing placements.

4. Ability to integrate with other systems: You should be able to send consumer information real-time to your email services provider, CRM vendor or call-center for follow-up marketing in real-time. This is especially important in a bad economy, where businesses are under more pressure to deliver tangible results from their marketing campaigns.

Any ad management platform that fulfills these criteria will truly enable advertisers to automate humdrum tasks, and enable them to focus on delivering value to their clients and businesses.

And that would indeed be a great development for our industry, recession, or no recession.

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