What Digital Ad Agencies Need to Navigate the Future

In the fast-moving world of online marketing, change is the only constant.

learn more about Rohan Ayyar

By Rohan Ayyar


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In the fast-moving world of online marketing, change is the only constant.

Emerging technologies, tough competition and increased consumer expectations have created plenty of uncertainty. Many digital agencies are confused about how to deliver relevant ad experiences moving forward.

However, in that uncertainty there are also tremendous opportunities to leverage data and deliver the personalized ad experiences consumers prefer. Advertisers can make the most of this and position themselves for long-term success -- if they're willing to question some longstanding assumptions.

Related: Instagram Rolls Out New 'Carousel' Ads

Executing ad campaigns today takes a different set of skills

Real-time bidding (a strategy search marketers have used for years) is now feasible for display, social, mobile, video, text, radio advertising and even TV. Executing search and display campaigns, for instance, used to require completely different skill sets. Now programmatic technology is merging them.

Search and display are uniting under a common theme: leveraging data to target consumers with the right message, in the right place, at the right time.

This creates huge opportunities (IDC estimates real-time advertising is growing 59 percent per year) only if agencies and marketers are willing to develop new skills and reassess how they're delivering ad experiences. The media buyer and agencies that win today -- and tomorrow -- have started to look a lot different than successful media buyers from the past.

Here's how:

An understanding (and ability) to buy in real time

Traditionally, display media buyers negotiated with sellers to run ads for a fixed number of impressions or amount of time. All the terms were worked out beforehand in a conversational, delayed executed setting.

Programmatic technologies allow advertisers to be more nimble. Instead of committing a significant chunk of their ad spend before seeing any results, advertisers can make small-scale buys, generate feedback and make adjustments in real time. Buying becomes an ongoing process. Kellogg's used real-time targeting to increase its ROI between five and six times.

This creates enormous opportunities to maximize the ROI on every campaign. Buyers can use feedback to optimize campaigns on the fly -- scaling successful ad buys and ceasing unsuccessful ones.

Analytical skills and a strong technical knowledge base

Analytical skills are becoming increasingly important in executing successful ad campaigns. Seventy-five percent of CMOs are already using customer analytics to mine data. Acquiring these skills might seem intimidating for some media experts, but it offers huge advantages as advertising technology evolves.

Going forward, successful media buyers will behave more like stock traders. They'll analyze large sets of data, cross-reference them and run regression models. But they won't stop there. It'll be up to them to "translate" those numbers into actionable insights to best optimize ad campaigns.

Related: 9 Marketing Mistakes That Cost Your Business Money

Ability to track customers across different devices and multiple touch points

Smartphones, tablets and other devices have given people more options to interact with brands than ever before. Consumers can watch YouTube videos at work, browse social media on phones during their commutes and check emails in bed on their tablets -- all in the same day.

This has created enormous opportunities for advertisers. A 2013 Turn Digital Audience Report found brands moving from single to multiple channels increased their advertising ROI by an average of 300 percent. As omni-channel advertising moves towards becoming the norm, ROI will level out, but the benefits will stay.

Whom should advertisers target? And on which device? The better advertisers plan for multiple touch points and cross-device experiences, the better they'll be able to deliver relevant, cost-effective ads at the right times.

A commitment to deliver personalized ad experiences

Brands like Netflix and Amazon offer customers unprecedented control of their experiences. This has resulted in higher standards; people expect brands to deliver custom experiences reflecting their unique needs. That includes the ads they interact with.

Media agencies must adapt in order to remain successful. A spray-and-pray approach won't cut it anymore. In a study by Conversant, 86 percent of senior retail marketers agreed that individual messages are more effective than mass messages.

By using data to segment target customers and analyze them at a granular level, marketers can evaluate the value of every impression and tailor creative messaging to resonate.

Looking forward

The skills agencies need to succeed now and into the future are different than those that made them successful years ago.

So take stock to see if you have those skills in place, are developing them or plan to seek outside help. It will pay off in a more efficient ad spend for months and years to come.

Related: The New Prime Time for Ads -- and How to Use It to Your Advantage

Rohan Ayyar

Regional Marketing Manager

Rohan Ayyar is the  Regional Marketing Manager India, SEMrush. He is an avid blogger, with posts featured on MarketingProfs, Social Media Today and Business Insider, among other places.

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