Buy Side, Where Real Money Is Made, Seldom Talks

In the investment world, the sell side does most of the talking; the buy side seldom talks. What you read in media all the time is not what is actually happening in the buy side, where real money is invested

In the brand investment world, the strategies promoted by the sell side -- mainly ad-tech vendors and publishers -- are seldom the most effective now. Here are three areas to demonstrate the difference.

1. Audience vs Context. Much of digital media buying is focused on audience. This was OK for the direct-response world for which the audience data was originally applied. However as digital investments increasingly move towards branding, this focus is misleading at best. For a branding campaign to succeed, you need to have the audience remember your message and act on it much later than with a direct response campaign. This requires them to remember your message and brand, making the context all-important.

These days context is primarily textual -- describing the keywords and categories of text in the Web page where you are placing your ad -- thus limiting its effectiveness. As TV buyers know, the more audio-visual and emotionally relevant the content is, the better your message is received and retained.



Thus audience or textual context buying is a sell-side strategy; audience matched with the right audio visual context is the buy-side strategy. Which one do you think you should follow?

2. Bottom vs. mid-funnel targeting. This is another remnant from the direct-response method of buying that does not serve the emerging purpose of branding buys. Bottom funnel targeting is made easy with plenty of 3rd party intent/purchase data and social platforms providing fine-grained interest data on who is interested in your brand. However, it is too much of a good thing. As recent admissions by P&G and Publicis  point to, such bottom-level targeting tends not to find the right buyers that are so critical to maintaining brand volume growth.

So how do we find those hidden light buyers of your brand?

You need to start with the audiences  interested in your brand and category. You will then need to identify what affinities they all have in common that are unique to your brand and also have good reach. Proper affinity analysis can reveal such celebrities, other influencers, TV shows, digital properties, movies, etc. that are unique to your brand and provide plenty of reach when combined. This is the audience that is already favorably inclined to hear your message. These are the light buyers you need to target. They are in the middle of the funnel favorably inclined to move down the funnel.

3. Third-party vs first-party data. If your brand is like most consumer brands that are sold via second-party distribution channels, you historically lacked 1P data. Commercially sold 3P data was the only viable method of reaching existing and new audiences for your brand. However, this has become an oversupplied market, making it hard for you to discern which data is most relevant to your campaigns. Currently there are over 200 branded 3P data providers in the U.S. alone.

To house your 1P data, a slew of data-management platforms (DMPs) have sprung up. However, they all still need a 3P or 2P data source to grow or enrich your 1P dataset. One of the fertile sources of 2P data is your brand’s social data (you have spent all that money building your brand's page and you sorta feel you own it at least partly, right?). While the social walled gardens have made it impossible for you to match those users deterministically to build your 1P data, other approaches exist to build your asset by doing probabilistic modeling of your fans’ social affinities, then combine it with media consumption and purchase behaviors to enrich your 1P dataset.

A properly built DMP with rich, up to date 1P data is a key competitive advantage for any brand. Ensure you know how to leverage 3P and 2P data to build and maintain that asset.

As the above three examples illustrate, listening to the sell side can be entertaining. However, if you are intent on producing branding alpha, watch what the buy side does instead.

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