Are Publishers The New Quarterbacks?

This post was previously published in an earlier edition of Publishers Daily.

For many digital campaigns, a brand marketer may engage at least three ad agencies, and multiple, often siloed, teams within each agency in order conceive and execute a campaign. 

This fragmented process can make it difficult for brands to keep sight of overall goals and demonstrate that campaigns are actually achieving KPIs, one of marketers’ top concerns, according to the most recent RSW/US report.  

One solution being undertaken by more brands is to consolidate budgets in the hands of strategic publisher partners. They can serve as a “quarterback” for the entire initiative, helping coordinate the various players supporting a campaign.

Since media properties are ultimately where creative campaigns come to life, large-scale publishers can serve as the connective tissue across multiple agencies and disciplines, ensuring content and media strategies are aligned, and that campaigns are designed to engage and succeed with a given audience.   



GE took this approach when it turned to The Economist to create innovation-focused content in GE Look Ahead program. The program, which lives on The Economist’s site, was built in partnership with top leadership on the brand side and a dedicated editorial team at The Economist, with the brand’s agency partners playing key roles throughout the process.

Putting publishers in the role of quarterback benefits brands by turning key media partners into strategic partners—with a shared sense of responsibility to achieve the brand’s goals. Many of the world’s leading marketers have started bringing their top media partners into the fold in advance of campaign planning to discuss core business challenges and to foster a unified sense of team.

Here are three more advantages of this approach:

Streamlined processes across platforms. Successful digital campaigns today often leverage multiple formats and disciplines, including the ideation and creation of content, native, video, mobile, programmatic, influencer marketing, social and shopper marketing.  

Often times, executing such a campaign can involve half a dozen agencies—and within an agency, each channel or format often has its own subject matter expert.Partnering strategically with large-scale publishers vests two companies in overseeing conception, execution, and distribution, particularly for campaigns in which assets are being custom-created to engage the audience of that particular media partner.

Economies of scale. Putting media partners in the role of quarterback from content ideation through activation and validation also allows them to mount campaigns in a more robust way. By partnering with media companies ahead of the RFP process, overall costs can be reduced, as volume commitments can help subsidize the production of all the different elements of a successful campaign.

Better measurement. Research by The Boston Consulting Group found that dividing strategy and execution across multiple stakeholders is one of the largest barriers to performance gains, while a Visual IQ study  revealed 75% of U.S. marketers have trouble understanding the contribution of each partner to overall campaign success.

Working strategically with publishing partners lets a brand move beyond measuring results from each tactic or channel, instead developing a unified view that answers the question of whether their digital investment is working.

Of course, partnership at the level big companies, like GE have pursued, requires publishers or social networks with huge scale and extensive in-house capabilities — from custom content creation to cross-platform distribution, measurement and reporting. Only a handful of publishers and social networks today can deliver across all these disciplines.

Still, for brands that choose to put large media partners in the role of quarterback, the potential benefits are significant: cohesive, larger-scale programs that leverage economies of scale, enabling more seamless ideation, creation, and distribution, as well as unified measurement.

The risk? Placing fewer, bigger bets. And in today’s increasingly fragmented world, that’s a risk starting to pay dividends.

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