Online Advertising

Asking Better Questions.

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Asking Better QuestionsYou may have started reading this post expecting tips on asking your client better questions at the beginning of your next sales call.  On the contrary, this is about you and your organization asking yourselves better questions before you even think about approaching your next customer.

Back in 2014 I suggested some of the questions the industry should be asking; questions that would help shape a better, richer future for us all. Now I’d like to get more focused on how individual sellers, sales teams and companies should start setting better agendas by framing better questions. First, let’s look at the core issue we have as sellers:  we rush the problem so we can start talking about the solution.  We’re either responding to a simplistic goal — better response rate, higher levels of visibility, improved reach or — God forbid — “branding”  — or we suggest it ourselves.  Like so many of Pavlovian pooches, we just want to recognize the stimulus and then launch into our conditioned response…usually a torrent of facts, figures, statistics, claims and credentials.  It’s time to stop the madness.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Krux helps more than 180 of the world’s leading media companies and marketers grow revenue and deepen consumer engagement through more relevant, more valuable content, commerce, and media experiences. Industry analysts have repeatedly named Krux a leader and visionary in the data management space, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Download the reports today to learn more.

I’m suggesting that we’d all be better off if we calmed down some and asked ourselves a few purposeful — almost existential — questions about how we create value for marketers and what they might really pay us for.  Here are a handful.

What unique or non-obvious problem is our company uniquely qualified to solve for this client?  You’re not going to read about this kind of an issue in the RFP.  This question forces you to be proactive and think about how your strengths align with the client’s needs.

How might we move beyond media and advertising problems and start solving business problems for this client?  Most sellers never get beyond the rudimentary concerns of the media planner, and that’s a shame.  Framing your solutions around business issues makes them more important and urgent…and gives you a seat at the client table.

If this client cancelled 100% of its advertising budget, how might our company still create value for them and earn investment from other budgets?  This is another way to get past the traps associated with “ad-centricity.”  Remember that advertising is seen by clients as a cost center — something to be managed and economized — while marketing is a profit center and a key to growth.

Knowing that your customer has more than enough places to run advertising (and doesn’t need another one), what’s the very best purpose and role our company could play for them?  This question is indeed an existential one:  At a time when ignoring swim lanes is becoming the norm, you don’t want to be the last one sitting politely in your silo waiting for the next budget. If you’re not trying to be more for your customer, you will almost certainly end up being less.

My standing recommendation to creative sellers is to buy a copy of “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas” by Warren Berger.  It will change you.

There are just five seats left for the Seller Forum on June 7th in New York.  If you’re a qualified media sales leader and want to hear from key clients, analyze original research on seller mobility and understand how to retain your best sales people, request your invitation today.

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Peoplematic.

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PeoplematicThe dawn of this decade pretty much marked the beginning of the programmatic era of digital advertising and marketing, and the promise of smaller staffs and easy money was all the rage.  At its apex, publishers and agencies were told that the placement of a few tags was all that prevented them from making money while they slept.  Call it the dawn of the machines.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Krux helps more than 180 of the world’s leading media companies and marketers grow revenue and deepen consumer engagement through more relevant, more valuable content, commerce, and media experiences. Industry analysts have repeatedly named Krux a leader and visionary in the data management space, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Download the reports today to learn more.

We all know now that the “easy RTB” chapter didn’t last long.  But like a weekend bender, it left the place a mess, with fraud piled up over in that corner, viewability issues spilled all over the carpet and marketers walking in and disapprovingly shaking their heads.  But this post is not about denying the onward march of programmatic automation; that would be silly.  No, I’m instead questioning one of its central principles: that the rise of programmatic means the exit of people.  I don’t believe it has and don’t think it ultimately will.  Let’s call this the Peoplematic age.

In today’s Peoplematic age, programmatic spending is most certainly on the rise.  Very large pluralities of total digital spend are being booked programmatically, and by all accounts there’s even more to come.  Yet at the same time, we are realizing that buy it programmatically isn’t the end of the sentence, it’s just the first phrase.  The easy RTB chapter came crashing down because marketers demanded sophisticated data plays and access to quality content environments.  This ushered in private exchanges, private marketplaces, programmatic direct and a host of other more sophisticated strategies.  And those strategies in turn demanded talented people to construct,oversee and execute them.

The idea of a centralized trading desk with a tiny handful of people and a fancy logo is now anachronistic.  Equally out of date is the publisher with one “programmatic guy” who jumps in as soon as somebody says the word.  In the Peoplematic age, programmatic trading is something that every agency and planning team must do, and programmatic sales is something every relevant seller must engage in.  Then there are the specialists — experts in data, programmatic process ninjas and more – who will continue to appear and propagate.

I think we’ll be in the Peoplematic age for a long time because of the inescapable fact that the system just runs better with talented people overseeing it. Managed service may sound awful to a venture capitalist or investment banker, but it’s how the lion’s share of successful programmatic campaigns and programs end up happening.

It’s as though HAL 9000, the sentient supercomputer from 2001: A Space Odyssey finally becomes self-aware.  And then realizes how much he really needs Dave.

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The Next $50 Billion.

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The Next $50 BillionNext month I’ll be speaking as part of opening night at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, and I’m particularly intrigued by the theme of the conference: “The Next $50 Billion.” Having been on the IAB board back when we celebrated our first million (with an m) dollar year, I can tell you that $50 Billion was not something any of us could have visualized. Yet here we are.

No doubt there will be talk about how the industry prepares to ingest all that new money and about where it will come from. We’ll debate how much will be run programmatically and how data and personalization will drive and shape the spending. But I’ve got a simple question to overlay on the theme: How will we earn the next $50 Billion?

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Krux. Independent research has named the Krux DMP industry leader in strategy, citing its agility, innovation, and independence. Krux helps marketers, publishers, and agencies deliver more valuable consumer experiences, growing revenue and deepening engagement. More than 160 clients rely on Krux worldwide, achieving 10x or higher ROI. Download the report today to learn more.

Anyone who is simply counting on the realignment of advertising budgets to create that number will be sorely disappointed. While many of us romanticize advertising by binge-watching MadMen and staying glued to all the Super Bowl commercials, the reality is that to marketers advertising is a cost center: that’s why procurement gets called in to help manage that cost down. As I wrote earlier this year in my essay for the University of Florida’s Captivate program, we will unlock the next $50 billion “…only by confronting the truth that advertising in a digital world matters most when it least resembles advertising.” Brand want to come in out of the cold, damp world of ‘advertising’ and to bask in the warm sunlight of the consumer’s full attention. We have the keys in our hands to unlock that scenario. But first we must unlock our own imaginations.

The other thing I believe about the next $50 billion is that it will be spent with the companies and individuals who consistently operate “left of budget.” As the perceived importance of advertising shrinks, those waiting to feed at the trough of the ad budget will go hungry. Those who organize their work around major business, marketing and sales issues will be fed by a wide variety of budgets: sales promotion, CRM, public relations, research and more. To paraphrase Alec Baldwin’s soliloquy in Glengarry Glen Ross, “There’s money out there gents. If you earn it it’s yours. If you don’t, I got no sympathy for you.”

Are you a sales leader going to the Annual Leadership Meeting? Save your spot at the first ever Sales Leadership Summit at IAB ALM, Tuesday January 26th, lunch through dinner. Then save your company’s seats at each of the 2016 Seller Forums by purchasing your season pass. Put the wisdom of the crowd to work for your company and your sales team.

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Death of a Sales Meeting.

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Death of a Sales MeetingBad sales conferences are like bad sitcoms. And for the exact same reason.

Sitcoms often suck because sitcom writers have no source of inspiration beyond other sitcoms. Something that seems reasonably amusing or comfortingly familiar is then endlessly repeated, from series to series and season to season. So it is with the annual sales conference. The rooms, the slides, the cocktail parties – what they lack in inspiration they make up for in consistency.

Having attended, planned, hosted or spoken at a few dozen sales meetings over the years, let me offer a few dos and don’ts to help you program and execute the Seinfeld of conferences.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by The Media Trust. The Media Trust provides critical insight into the digital advertising ecosystem through continuous monitoring of websites and ad tags to verify ad campaign rendering, ensure creative quality, and protect against malware, data leakage and site performance issues, which lead to lost revenue, privacy violations and brand damage. Visit www.TheMediaTrust.com

Start with Why. Ask your senior leaders why you need to be doing this meeting at this time. What behavior are you trying to change? Which team members are you trying to elevate or retain? Be specific. Let all your decisions flow from the answers you generate.

Guard the Main Stage. An endless parade of execs and department heads armed with “updates” is just bad programming. This is not T-Ball and they don’t all get a chance to bat. Only what’s universally new and universally critical gets shared in the big room.

It’s the Small Rooms that Matter Anyway. Create a lot of small, planned spaces and breakout groups so that your team can really interact with your execs and with one another.

Tell People Where to Sit. They only get to feel like a full team once a year. If they all sit with their normal packs, you squander that opportunity.

“Imagine There’s No Cell Phones…” It’s easy if you just do it. Have everyone drop their little cellular children in the day care box. It’s transformative.

Spawn Lots of Small, Busy Groups. Assign people to discussion pods. Send designated groups on a digital scavenger hunt. Have them solve a problem.

Plan the Transitions, Skip the Breaks. 200 people can’t leave and re-enter a room in 15 minutes. So skip the breaks: they’re grownups and can see to their own biological needs. And the space/time continuum dictates that you can’t end one session and start another the very next minute, especially if they’re in different places.

Don’t Over-Program. Nobody’s ever said “I just wish there’d been more PowerPoint!” In trying to say enough, you will invariably say too much. Great connections and relationships happen in the white space. So stop filling it all in.

Stop Obsessing About the Answers. Focus on the Questions. I’d love to see a CRO or CEO get up on stage and say “We don’t have all the answers…but THESE are the questions we’d like your help answering over the next two days…”   Uniting your organization around a common quest like this reframes the entire meeting. Again, transformative.

It’s All in the Doing. Nobody ever comes home from a sales meeting raving about what they heard or saw. It’s always about what they got to do. So challenge yourself and your senior team to create memorable experiences for your team. They deserve them, and so do you.

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Generations.

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GenerationsI offered some keynote remarks yesterday at a major media company sales conference in Manhattan, and was asked a very thoughtful question during the Q&A that followed. “How have the media salespeople in your workshops changed over the (18) years you’ve been doing this?” The answer came to me very quickly, but the question and its implications have been rattling around in my head ever since.

When I started working with digital media sales teams back in 1997 the root languages that everyone spoke were media and advertising. These were the dominant businesses and intellectual models of the 80s and 90s. Managers at that time were virtually all expats from broadcast, cable or print media companies, and the “digital agencies” were little more than departments within bigger Madison Avenue shops. Young sellers were deeply influenced by this bias: we create content, attract audiences and make ads available on the margins to advertisers who want to reach our readers/viewers/users. The business quickly got a lot more complicated, but the orientation itself persisted.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by PubMatic, who provides a Marketing Automation Platform for Publishers (MAPP).  It empowers publishers with a single view into their advertiser relationships, across every screen, channel and format.  Through workflow automation, real-time analytics and yield management, PubMatic enables publishers to make smarter, faster decisions that drive revenue and streamline operations. To learn more, please click here.

In recent years, though, our people have changed. The immigrants to this industry now come from far flung places. They came of age in a world dominated by Google, not Time Inc. They’re more likely to have studied engineering or statistics than advertising and marketing. Ask them if they even consider themselves part of the advertising business and you’re liable to draw blank stares. If you’re in my generation (north of 50) you may feel more than a little disconnected to digital execs in their 30s. That’s not their problem; it’s ours. The leaders of media companies, agency holding companies and brands should take heed: it’s our job to reframe our thinking around the new generation and the one after that. The alternative is not for us to impose our worldview and orientation indefinitely; the alternative is our own irrelevance.

What to do? Get up every day and challenge your own conventions. Ask yourself what you must purposefully forget in order to keep up. To learn from history is one thing. To be shackled to it is quite another. I for one am excited about all I’m going to learn in the decade ahead.

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