It amazes me how infrequently agencies and advertisers – but especially agencies – don’t take advantage of the tools that are readily available and at their fingertips.
Online advertising implies the management of campaigns with the intent of improving performance over time. With that, media teams acquire tools to make it easier to manage the process and improve performance. Ad servers come to mind. But so do network-buys. You might argue that network-buys are intended to reach an audience or a specific grouping of inventory but really its about convenience of the media buy, bang for the buck. Networks optimize for the agency so there is very little to be done. Search is a well-performing convenience too. Buy a LOT of terms and off you go. Deploy SEO and it runs itself (sort of).
Back to ad servers. It seems to me that what was once a heavily used tool as fallen off with regard to how it is leveraged and applied. Agencies rely more and more on auto-optimization rather than actively analyzing and optimizing campaigns. The fast and dirty mechanisms of network-advertising and Search have seeped their way back into display. Auto-optimization is a tool intended to run the steady course, like an auto-pilot, once the smart decisions have been made. But it seems that more people just turn it on from the beginning.
An ad server offers an advertiser or its agency the opportunity to measure the performance of an ad by site and section down to the hour. Changes can be made on the fly and the performance of the campaign can be incrementally improved over the course of the campaign. Advertisers, who’s bottom-line is more dear to their hearts, utilize the tools more aggressively than agencies. Agencies more often review performance once or twice a week and course correct accordingly. But there is the opportunity to do so much more! A lot of money is being left on the table!
I have watched an advertiser decrease its spend incrementally by as much as 15% over the course of a couple of months while its revenue shot up by 25% or more and its click-through rate went up by as much as half by using optimization techniques. You can’t do that with auto-optimization. You have to thoughtfully be applying principles of analyzing data and making decisions that result in better ad serving. But agencies just don’t usually put the effort in.
Now, maybe I have overgeneralized. Because there are agencies out there that do put in the effort. Direct Response agencies that work toward the bottom-line, are result-oriented and apply the techniques to incrementally improve performance will do it. These are the aggressive players that are systematically acquiring more of the online spend over other less adaptive players. These are not all small agencies by the way. There are some very large firms out there that have gotten their act together and it would be in my best interest to leave everyone out of my blog since I am in the space. But my advice to you is this. Make sure that if you are working with an agency that you take an interest in how your campaigns are managed. Know how they use these tools. If you are selecting an agency, find out how much effort will be put towards the utilization of technology in managing your campaigns. And if you are an agency, think about how much time you spend improving the ROI for your client leveraging technology. Because whether you see it or not, there is always someone whispering in their ear that they can do it better than you can and for less money, more efficiently.
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