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Takeaways from 2019 Digiday Media Buying Summit

As the Integrated Associate Media Director at the agency, I had the pleasure of representing DiGo at Digiday’s 2019 Media Buying Summit in Key Biscayne, Florida, to soak in the latest-and-greatest of media buying trends and bring home some tidbits for the team. It was there that I was able to immerse myself in panels ranging from media buying trends, to cross-channel audience planning, to deterministic data use, and more. Sitting in a room with hundreds of agency professionals — just like me — discussing every day wins, losses and everything in-between was extremely enlightening, and re-assured me that DiGo is here to compete. 

Let’s take a look at the five main takeaways from my experience and how they relate to our evolving responsibilities as stewards of clients media dollars:

1. Measuring Success

Attribution, Attribution, Attribution. Client investment in multi-touch performance models vs. last touch performance models is the #1 industry challenge for big and small agencies alike. 

The first exercise of the conference was for agencies to put a post-it on a wall detailing their biggest challenge, and over half of the post-its read “Attribution”. We need attribution to tell the correct performance story, but well-known industry attribution models are incredibly expensive.

We also need to start re-thinking the “A” in CPA. If we only optimize towards short term growth, we could easily be sabotaging long term growth. The audience must come first, and media planning second, as a deep understanding of our target is needed in order to build plans grounded in long-term success. This is why the strategic research phase is so critical; clients need to be 100% on board with this piece first, before jumping into approving media/measurement plans. Communication remains imperative.

2. Media Talent

We are reaching a point of serious automation, so energy needs to shift from training newcomers in the industry on the technical skills to training them to think strategically. The rise of digital over the past 10 years has inundated media planners with technical tasks (trafficking, tagging, reporting, analysis, optimization, etc.), and while newcomers need to be grounded in the skills of a media professional, management needs to shift focus to the WHY behind the tasks when training.

Speaking of talent, there was a ton of discussion around specialists. Social and search experts are typically in high-demand; however, we often forget the community that influences both the search and social marketplaces — Infuencers. We are in a social world led by our mobile devices, so engaging influencer communities has become an integral part of the channel mix for many brands, spanning a variety of verticals. Influencers can drive core brand details authentically and serve as ambassadors for building trust across any and all verticals, which in 2019, is the most important aspect of relationship-building with consumers. Addressing the influencer marketplace more aggressively and staffing for specific skill-sets is crucial in staying competitive.

Lastly, media planners are the unsung heroes of the industry that don’t often get the credit they deserve, and are at the forefront of a changing — and extremely challenging — media buying climate. Changes in the media buying landscape are changing their jobs (rise of CTV/OTT, omni-channel content consumption, advanced targeting and measurement, etc.), which has resulted in an increase in technical tasks. Recognizing and addressing media buying challenges and developing a career path for more dynamic roles will be crucial in retention. 

3. Integration

Integration is the name of the game, both internally and externally.

The days of briefing media and creative separately are over. Creative and media must marry and need to be on board with each other from day one to ensure harmony. Creative can be media’s #1 optimization lever, so both departments looking at performance together on a regular basis must become the norm. A certain level of coordination is needed to ensure long-term success, so creatives need to be invited to the table as early as possible in media planning. Mapping creative across strategies together will make performance exponentially better. Creative folks need to be held accountable for looking at performance throughout a campaign, not just upon launch.

Also, the consumer experience is everywhere simultaneously, so finding ways to story tell cross-format is imperative to breaking through. The days of traditional planning in silos are over. We need to connect the dots by tapping into digital addressability as much as possible. The marketplace is getting savvier and savvier with cross-channel sequential-messaging, and we need to make sure we follow suit. Connecting the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel and building out audiences exposed to other channels (Digital OOH and mobile, TV and mobile, etc.) is no longer ‘next level’ — it is the expectation. It’s our job to get clients excited. 

4. The Ad-Environment

Brand safety and brand suitability are not the same thing, but need to exist hand-in-hand. Moving into 2020, suitability is becoming a higher priority. Contextual intelligence, semantics of pages, etc. are growing needs. Missed suitability opportunities can lead to consumer angst and revenue loss.

Context DOES matter. Brand perception is highly influenced by context, and needs to be accounted for just as much as brand safety. Below are some stats that support this*:

  • Ads viewed on high quality sites are perceived 74% more likable than the same ads seen on low quality sites
  • Audiences on high quality sites showed 20% higher engagement than on low quality sites
  • Campaigns on high quality sites stand to benefit from 30% greater memorability driven by brand suitable content

Risk management is going to be a big differentiator between who is winning and losing pitches. Viewability, fraud, brand safety, etc. are themes nearly every presenter touched on. 

*Source: The State of Brand Suitability,  Integral Ad Science in Partnership with Digiday, 2019

5. Media Buying

Agencies are moving away from relying heavily on the cookie world to move towards going deeper with deterministic data. Working with clients to be more transparent with 1st party data for targeting is becoming the norm for agencies. Everyone wants to get their hands on 1st party data, but many clients aren’t there yet in terms of adaptation to Data Management Platforms, making this a challenge. Agencies need to be the stewards of smarter targeting, so DMP or not, we need to push to get our hands on the most ‘lower-funnel’ data possible — including CRM. 

We are also in an era of ‘set it and forget it’. Platform algorithms are sharper than ever offering automated settings; however, there is a false sense of security in leaving campaigns on autopilot. Plus, this doesn’t create any form of competitive advantage for an agency. Brand growth objectives need to remain #1 for media planners, with testing at the forefront of every activation. There is still a need to run media on OUR terms, not on a platforms. 

As the Amazons, Googles and Facebooks of the world have gotten bigger and bigger… we’ve found there’s a need to start becoming platform experts. Getting certified and understanding deeper levers/testing ideas will be crucial in standing out from the competition. 

Biggest takeaway of all? Media buying has significantly evolved over the last few years. 

There are more channels than ever, each with their own complications, and the rise of new players in retail media has meant even more buying complexity. New types of companies are transforming how brands are launched and marketed across various platforms. AI technologies are changing the way people do business. There’s increased competition across platforms, within agencies and with the rise of new in-house media buying teams, so everyone is undergoing a serious shift in standards. But, it is an exciting time to be at the forefront of trust and transparency, and that’s where the opportunity lies.

To that end, I’m pleased to say that we’re ahead of a few of these trends. 

We’ve added an Analytics discipline that we call digometrics, for Attribution Modeling, Marketing Mix Modeling, and Brand Measurement and Tracking. This discipline is guided by machine-learning and professionals doctorally-trained in nonparametric statistics. Our Strategy team has also created a Net Growth Score Analysis which uncovers where brands need to focus for sustained growth. 

digometrics broadens our reach with clients and the relationships they maintain with consumers. It’s a true necessity for today’s modern marketer who relies on knowing what their customer needs day in and day out, and ultimately, our promise to build brands and drive performance simultaneously is something more and more clients will be paying attention to. 

Thanks for the insights Digiday Media Buying Summit 2019! Until next year! 

– Alessandra Dierking (Geraci) Integrated Associate Media Director