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How to mix content and targeting to cut through

Goldman Sachs, Boxed, Home Depot, Zenith, Essence and others analysed digital marketing's future and discovered it had a caring side at a Campaign-GumGum hosted roundtable in NYC...

"The post-GDPR marketing world will bring a cleaner, more accurate ecosystem which will only improve the customer experience. People will rely less on third-party data and focus on taking data more seriously. It’ll be interesting to see how it’ll make us more thoughtful in everything we do."

Will Warren is EVP, Digital at Zenith and was speaking at a lively roundtable discussion in New York, the second of two events set to untangle challenges and opportunities facing digital marketing.

How to give consumers better experiences online and better achieve brand goals, inspired a discussion among brands and media agencies, hosted by Campaign and GumGum. 

Targeting without clear goals
One of the challenges with targeting audiences is data teams being too ‘frantic’, according to Jessica Sanfilippo, Group Media Director at 360i: "My database team struggle with using every targeting they can find – we need to be more specific in how we are using targeting."

Joseph Tam, Senior Partner Digital Director at Metavision agreed, adding there are, "almost too many different target options available".

Marketers are facing similar problems, as Boxed Head of Digital Marketing Emily Kalen described: "I feel there’s paralysis with the number of different data sets you can layer in.  

"Contextual targeting is where we’re looking next – trying to understand our customers as best we can and just being there, whether you’re recognised or not recognised. I like the idea of being present in the right places."

Warren explained the challenge is in determining what will get results: "There’s a lot of excitement around using new technology to be super targeted and make wonderful promises. But the question is will it convert to your sales goals? If you’re selling something inexpensive with a lot of rotation, sometimes you don’t need to go that granular with targeting. We have to bring it back to that question – is it going to convert to media v sales outcomes."

How to engage uninterested consumers
Greg March, CEO at Noble People, suggested there is so much focus on targeting that what’s actually communicated is ignored: "As a human I’m not feeling these things I’m seeing online. I’m not in an environment where I can tolerate it. The whole digital media landscape is a ferrari you can’t drive past third gear."

Brands need to segment the data and tailor messaging by understanding how to engage dormant customers – who have opted into your brand but haven’t been active for a while – as well as consumers in the pre-awareness phase, explained Phil Schraeder, President and COO at GumGum.

"It’s about taking an abundance of data – whether it’s audience or contextual – and segmenting it against what you’re trying to achieve. There’s another environment outside just click; you can gain attention by limiting a negative impact. At GumGum, we use semantic analysis and computer vision to understand what a consumer is interested in. This allows us to understand the elements of an image or a video that a person is focusing on – and then we can serve a highly contextually relevant ad, at a time when the consumer is most primed to engage with a brand."

Capturing attention – context is key
"Attention isn’t given, it’s earned," said Stephanie Spelbrink, Associate Director, Digital at Carat US, explaining that brands need to look at whether they are providing a value add.

It’s about quality versus quantity and companies with huge budgets keep pumping out the same stuff, said Neda Farsbaf, Manager of Content and Strategy at Home Depot.

"If you can invest time and money into growing quality stories, then do. Journalism is declining, very sadly and corporations have to take the place of quality content. If brands can create that quality content, because you have the money to do it, consumers will definitely engage," she said.

While there’s a lot of pressure to tell stories in a matter of seconds, Goldman Sachs have seen success with long-form branded content, explained Kaydee Bridges, VP, Digital and Social Media at Goldman Sachs.

"People say capture people’s attention and tell a story in six seconds. But we create two-to-three minute videos or 25-minute podcasts, longer-form content. And we’ve been very pleased with the engagement metrics," said Bridges. "We find that if you give people really interest, meaningful content, where they can take stuff away from it, there’s huge value in that."

This content works in a number of contexts if it adds value, explained Bridges: "We partner with The Economist and The Wall Street Journal on Snapchat, for example, which doesn’t seem like the most natural place to be, but we’ve had success there with long-form content too..

"During the creative process, think about the speed the consumer moves in, in that environment. If you want to be on a platform because that’s where your target consumer is, adapt content or messaging so it’s effective in that environment."

Kalen explained that having a good story and authentic message is key: "The CEO of [Boxed] pays for employees’ children’s college tuition; he offers things to families they wouldn’t usually been able to afford to do – and the content we produce that tells this story performs well. People always mention the CEO doing this – it associates them positively with our brand."

Sanfillipo believed the success of this was due to the context of culture and how this has an increasing importance in the decisions made by the modern consumer.

"Consumers expect a whole different level of responsibility with brands they buy from and participate in," said Sanfillipo.

Marc Strachan, president of Adcolour and former chief client officer at Publicis.Sapient, urged agencies and brands to "place yourself in consumer laps".

"How do you like to be targeted? We tend to forget it’s not a perfect science. It’s about working out how people want to be engaged and how to find the right opportunities," said Strachan.


Media must force context into creative conversations
Strachan believes that to see better results in digital, media agencies must find ways to work much closer with people creating the content.

Bridges said that bringing different people into creative conversations is the way forward, making it much more of a "forum".

"The person in the gallery making the content is not often thinking about where the content is going to be. Agencies must find a way to break down the walls of silos long before the production happens."