The Triple Crown of Digital Marketing: Video, Mobile and Audience

This Saturday, California Chrome will become the 34th horse in history to race for the elusive Triple Crown, one of the most renowned feats in all of sports. What’s the equivalent of the Triple Crown in digital marketing? What “races” does an advertiser need to win to be considered one of the best of all time?

I’d argue that for marketers, our Triple Crown comes from winning the races in video, mobile, and audience. And just as with the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, each raises their own unique set of challenges.

Let’s start with video – or what I’ll call the derby of digital marketing. Video advertising and the Kentucky Derby have more in common than a bunch of drunks in fancy hats (have you been to the NewFronts, folks?). For starters, just like in video, the Derby is filled with hype and is anyone’s race to win. YouTube may have been first out of the gate, but their user-generated content can’t match the pedigree of the pros. Hulu is well-seasoned, with the most experienced owners in the business, while Yahoo and AOL are akin to a couple of rich guys buying their way in to the sport of kings. Vice, Buzzfeed, Mode (f.k.a. Glam) and even the NY Times are the underdogs trying to finish in the money.



As with the Derby, the smart set makes several bets. You win on YouTube by getting your main message across in the first few seconds, as TrueView can fade in the stretch without hurting you. You look for pedigree with Hulu, aligning with programming that fits with your brand.  And you spread your mad money around with Mode and their sisters, to show off for the gallery. It’s too early to simply pick one horse in this race; instead, winning at video requires multiple opportunities for success.

Next up is the Preakness, which is similar in style to a marketer’s race to amass big audiences. This second leg of the Triple Crown takes place in Baltimore, a rust belt city with no pretense. And, unless the Derby winner gets scratched, there’s always a buzz around the Preakness because everyone wants the hope of a Triple Crown winner to stay alive.

So far, the audience competition has taken place on the muddy track of click bait, cat videos, GIFs and cookies. There are so many ways to break this race wide open, but there are also spills along the way.  Just as trainers and jockeys know that focus is the key, good marketers know that the path to glory is to run your race and not be distracted by the rest of the field. The worst thing you could do in the race for audience is chase. Get out early instead, before the competition tears up the field.

The Belmont Stakes, with the longest track of the three, is generally accepted as the most difficult race to win. Mobile, then, is a digital marketer’s Belmont – elusive, tricky, and requiring stamina. Even if there’s no one up for the Triple Crown, this is the glory race; with a Crown in play, all eyes are on little Elmont, NY.

Mobile has also emerged as the hardest victory to claim. You know what to do with video; you just have to do it well.  Audience is a numbers game, and the odds favor the most innovative rider on the most nimble horse. But to really invest in mobile and to create a strategy that works is more complicated than traditional ad buys. Cookies don’t work on mobile, so marketers can’t track users across devices; banner ads disappear on smaller screens; and video on mobile can be slowed by bandwidth limits.

But like California Chrome, marketers can bend the rules in their favor – by reinventing best practices around bite-size content, using stable identifiers like social IDs that understand who the audience is, what they like and crafting strategies that reflect people’s intimate relationship with their devices. Do that and, like California Chrome, your next stop is the stud farm.

Like many of us, I’ll be rooting for California Chrome on Saturday. But even if he loses, our dream of a Triple Crown winner isn’t over. For those of us who are digital marketers, we can still earn our own blanket of white carnations by refreshing our video, mobile and audience strategies until they’re in peak form.


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