While data-driven and programmatic media buying are more in the spotlight than ever, it still all begins with media planning.
“The world is moving toward programmatic or automated buying, but that’s really down the food chain once the plan is developed,” noted media consultant Maribeth Papuga, currently executive-in-residence at BIA/Kelsey, in moderating a panel on data-driven local marketing held during the organization’s recent Brands conference. “Planners need to feel confident that whatever’s going to happen on [the buying] end is actually going to deliver back” the expected strategy and results, she said.
One of the biggest challenges in that regard is that media planners and buyers alike are simultaneously blessed and challenged by the proliferating third-party and first-party data sources and platforms in play.
For starters, many clients are now sharing first-party data such as subscriber or member data and sales results, noted Andrea Cancro, EVP, managing director, MediaVest. Having that rich data is “fantastic,” because “I now know from clients’ first-party data what products the audiences are buying. We can now segment their data into different non-demographic sectors and talk about buying behaviors, then link that to different channel mixes that make the most sense to target those customers.”
At the same time, as data sources and inputs multiply, “it’s become much more difficult to know what to do with that data to make data-driven decisions about national versus local or different channel mixes,” Cancro said. So one challenge is ensuring continuing education of planning teams on using data for decision-making, she said.
MediaVest continues to use some traditional data sources, including MRI, and the agency’s optimization tools, to help determine channel mix, but those tools “don’t necessarily feed the data we get from our clients, so that’s a bit of a gap,” she acknowledged.
“And when it comes to national and local, I’d say that gap is exacerbated,” Cancro added. While data and the ability to use digital-media results — such as linking local, geo-targeted efforts to local in-store purchasing — help in talking to national clients about spending in local media, “it’s still a challenge,” she said. “Unless they’re really locally based, clients still don’t necessarily think local first.”
Lack Of A Common Language
In addition, the lack of a common language among tools and the array of offerings, such as within location-based services, requires digging in to understand their real differences, including the makeup of their data, she said. That means many RFPs and meetings and presentations.
“There’s just no common language or metrics across all of the data that we have,” Cancro summed up. “We’re taking a little bit of a leap of faith in trusting the vendors. And some of the vendors are showing results.”
There’s a place for every channel in most brands’ media mixes, she stressed, and what really pays off is “the ability to complement national media with the right local media and make sure that your brand is consistent — that each channel is playing a specific role, whether it’s awareness or conversion.” For example, she said, one client brand “is thriving right now because we’re able to complement what’s going on nationally by finding unique solutions in local markets tailored to the needs of that business.”
“In the last three or four years, we’ve seen amazing progress in the industry in terms of data utilization and data connectivity, but there are still a lot of gaps,” agreed David Shiffman, SVP, national research, iHeartMedia. “One of those is figuring out cross-platform and within that, how to connect local and national data together to have a seamless, simple way of using those data assets to make better up-front planning decisions, and enhance measurement and abilities to optimize during campaigns.
“Right now it’s challenging, difficult, and complex,” he said. “We’re dealing with the complexity, but the question is how to make it a bit easier, collectively.”
Specifically, while there are “a lot of great national and local data sources out there, there continue to be gaps in what I’d call syndicated, readily available data in the marketplace,” Shiffman said. “And as marketers and agencies have looked for more, some of those measurement and data solutions haven’t necessarily kept up or led the path forward.
“That’s why iHeart and other [media] companies, marketers and agencies are taking all of these valuable rich-data assets and starting to build their own solutions” to “create their own custom segments, feed that into other data solutions” and “be able to make connections between what people buy and what they watch and hear,” he said.
He stressed that even rich data in compatible systems won’t pay off unless national and local teams collaborate strategically. “National and local media have to work together, and the more data we use and the more we can align them, the more we can leverage both sides of those opportunities,” he said.
Cancro said that in terms of platforms and solutions, MediaVest parent Publicis Media is using a combination of “buy, build and borrow” based on client needs and understanding the changing marketplace and what third-party solutions and partners are available. “We find it very critical to have trusted partnerships in the marketplace so that you can share back and forth,” she said. “Maybe it’s not necessarily sharing the data, but intelligence about where the marketplace is today and where it will be tomorrow.”
Asked about outsourcing versus in-house solutions for tackling data integration, Shiffman said that there’s no one right solution, but that if companies or agencies are going to build, they should find partners with the specialist expertise and skillsets required.
Shiffman also stressed that while proprietary data may offer an advantage, the bulk of data is basically available to all. “The data is the data. It’s what you do with it and how smart you are with it that makes you incredibly successful or less successful,” he said.