For a seismic shift to happen, there needs to be a richer online creative experience. But I believe the real swing factor will be data. It won't be in the current form that most online buyers think of targeting data. Data is certainly the common language of advertising, but unfortunately, the online world has been speaking a foreign dialect for most offline buyers. For the big bucks to come our way, just like a newscaster from Alabama heading to the networks, we need to change our accent.
A good example can be found in the auto segment. Online data companies sell "Auto Intenders" or "In Market" auto buyers. Try explaining what an "Intender" is to a guy that just closed a $20M on-air buy for Ford on "American Idol." He is buying a demographic and lifestyle cross-section that has less to do with whether the audience is "in market" and more to do with how the brand can be built among a specific target, as well as create future intent for those who may be in market down the road.
It's an investment in brand building that goes well beyond the "in-the-minute" nature of the way most online targeting data is pitched and used today. Audiences are made up of multiple components. Our data driven online marketer brains are wired to sell specific "now" functions.
To get into the head of the offline buyers, we need to change our thinking and speak their language. Selling "up funnel" requires a new lexicon for data and a new approach to sales. We need to think multi-variate data pools, verifiable audience targeting and consistent and transportable audience definitions.
Things are changing. Offline data moving online from companies such as Nielsen and TargusInfo is helping advertisers speak a common language regardless of offline or online media delivery. Buying a PRIZM cluster for a direct mail campaign in support of the 2011 Fiesta and buying the same PRIZM cluster online via a data-enabled ad network or exchange creates a seamless buying process with measurable, comparable audiences.
Once offline data from players such as Nielsen, Acxiom, Experian, Epsilon and others are made available online at scale, the floodgates will open for brand dollars online.
Also, analytics and reporting of online audience characteristics need to match offline audience reach goals. Online data can translate online audience campaign reach and performance characteristics into easily digestible offline insights with consistent terminology. Knowing that your online campaign is reaching an audience identical to your offline campaign is a huge win for advertisers that will shift dollars to higher ROI online media vehicles.
How do we start? A few ways to move the ball forward:
Begin working off a common data lexicon
If we aren't ready to move toward a more "offline centric" data segmentation strategy, we should at least be able to agree on how we define what we do online. The IAB is doing some great work for some common terminology and segment definitions. This will be the first step in clearing up some of the confusion in our "own house" and make traditional buyers feel more comfortable with the online targeting process. Become a student of big data
The large offline data players have been experts in building and selling aggregated, profiled data pools for decades. The insight and efficacy of what they have done for direct marketers and broadcast buyers is undeniable. The online world can learn much from them. Start educating the online agency world
Because the dream of "integrated media buying" is still a work in progress, most online buyers have no idea of the meaning of a PRIZM cluster, let alone the complex array of data attributes and analysis that go into them. If we want them to be good partners with their TV brethren and execute that branding buy in the online video space, we need to ensure that the front lines are educated. Sell analytics not metrics
Online advertisers have been so accustomed to simple metrics (the dreaded CTR) that complex analytic reporting that helps define audience and support brand analysis remains a foreign language to many on the buy and sell side. To better leverage data to speak to brands, we also need to start touting the value of real audience knowledge and make it available to clientsin an easily digested manner. Offline buyers will get it, and their online counterparts will have a new tool in their arsenal.
The dollars online are big
eMarketer projects $28.5B projected this year -- but they can be bigger. For the online ad world to really start to chip away at its forecast $167.5 billion, spent in direct mail, print and broadcast in 2011, we need to start speaking the same language as the media teams buying in those venues.
Traditional offline data, more relevant data taxonomies and a clearer approach to audience measurement will become part of the conversation. And at the core of this discussion is data. If we can begin to translate our online dialect into clear "offline speak," massive opportunity awaits.