The Marketing Reality Show

There are so many online strategy conferences these days that each one seems to run into the next.

Here is an idea for a reality show: our protagonist attends every single online marketing conference and trade show without a break. Meals would consist of the continental breakfast spread in the morning, followed by appetizers and free drinks at the sponsored parties. Without any external source of income, our protagonist would sell swag USB drives and tiny logoed remote control cars on eBay. Romance and rivalry would be found between sessions, behind booths, during Q&A conference panels.

While I am still shopping the script, I do have two actual tales from online marketing conferences. The names (except mine) have been changed to protect the guilty.

During the Q&A at one conference, one audience member (call her Amy), who happened to represent a major online brand, threw down the gauntlet in front of a panel of major publishers and search engines.

I paraphrase: "Enough with the CPM and CPC. You should all sell on CPA. You should all be like the ad networks and affiliate marketers--sell on an acquisition basis. Why should I pay for impressions or clicks? If you believe in what you sell, then charge me a CPA, or don't charge me at all."



No one knew how to follow up Amy's challenge. Most of the audience undoubtedly knew that customer acquisition depends on a variety of factors, from the brand and Web site, to being able to present the consumer with the right message at the right time.

But I think what caused the blank stares and uncomfortable shuffling in response to Amy's comment was really embarrassment for her. By identifying CPA as a key marketing strategy, Amy admitted to the audience of marketers that her company and her brand did not differentiate between customers. Even with increased industry focus on segmentation and personalization, Amy was willing to pay the same amount regardless of who bought from her company.

Contrast Amy with Hermann, who stood up at another conference. Hermann made no bold statements. He obviously knew his stuff, but spoke tentatively.

He said (again, paraphrased): "I know so much about my customers. Either they are already in my database, and I know exactly how valuable they are to me. Or I can score them based on other cookie-based data, like demographic or inferred gender. How can I manage my online media so that I assign different values to more valuable customers than less valuable ones, even when their activity on my site might be similar?"

He paused, then continued: "Not only do I want to assign higher values to acquiring customers whom I score higherbut I want to know how I can treat them appropriately when they see an online creative or click on a search listing. These high-value customers have different expectations that need to be met. And how can I still treat them differently when they get to my site?"

Hermann was full of questions. I have found that like Hermann, many of our clients are increasingly interested in acquiring a single view of each customer, with the aim to leverage cookie-level data to provide the right experience across media and the right experience on the Web site. (And to optimize media accordingly).

Hermann's questions are not easy ones to ask, and even harder to answer. The answers include discussion around the Web site, interactive media, and analytics. Few online marketers address these three areas in one department. Fewer online agencies do.

Hermann may not make the headlines in a reality show any time soon. But as clients, marketers like Hermann have driven much of the work our agency has done with leveraging analytics to provide a single view of the customer across the Web.

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