The Brand-Agency Disconnect

John Haake is vp of marketing at HookLogic, an e-commerce media provider. Follow him on Twitter @dotjohn.

There’s a disconnect between brands and their agencies. It comes down to misaligned goals.

Agencies measure their successes differently than brands. If you are trying to sell more widgets at a retail level, stop accepting click-through rates reporting on traffic pointed to a microsite as evidence of campaign success. This has got to stop.

The successful brand marketers that I know generally have one of two goals: They either want to sell more of what they’ve got, or they want more folks to be aware of what they’ve got to sell. CTR or brand metric surveys from display campaigns bought over exchanges don’t shed any real light on either of these goals. Sure, we can now effectively reach 80 percent of all humanity via smart phones, tablets and PCs while targeting impressions down to a person’s DNA data. But show me how it really sells more widgets if it means the touchpoint happens when that person is not in the mindset of receiving a brand message.

Spending your money on ads that directly touch the shopper is the best way to cover your ass. I know that you are under the gun to justify your return on ad spend with actual numbers, and you deserve to be able to measure campaigns by not only lift in sales, but by sales attributed to impressions and share of voice across multiple retail channels — and in real time. These are bottom-line metrics that communicate the health of a brand. They can also only be derived from measuring actual shopper behavior as opposed to arbitrary campaign performance metrics. In today’s world, if you cannot show something is working, you can bet that it isn’t.

It’s important to make advertising that facilitates, not irritates. Most major e-commerce websites today have at least experimented with monetizing their traffic by offering paid media to advertisers. Unfortunately, their agencies often treat this unique inventory no differently than inventory found on editorial sites. This is a huge mistake.

To be successful in an editorial environment, an ad needs to interrupt the user from what he or she is doing. We don’t go to NYTimes.com or Funnyordie.com to consume advertising; we go there to get our news or take a comedy break from work. For an ad to work on these sites, it needs to jar us away from what we went there to do. In contrast, we visit e-commerce sites to research and buy products. Here we are receptive to brand messages that will facilitate our buying decisions. Anything that trips us up at this point means we are more likely to fall short of pulling the trigger on a buying decision.

Slinging banner ads created for editorial campaigns is not the best way to take advantage of e-commerce media. Thankfully, the retail environment offers many opportunities to deeply engage shoppers in ways that actually bring value to them by providing relevant information in formats that facilitate what they’re doing. Try to put this concept into the physical world for a moment. If you’re shopping in-store for a new shirt, are you more likely to pick up a shirt hanging on one of the racks in front of you, or would you be more inclined to walk into the suspicious room to your right with the big, flashing ‘Spring Shoe Sale’ sign on the door? That door is to the unknown, irrelevant to your shirt-buying mission, and it just doesn’t fit the aesthetic of the environment.

I constantly see agencies trying to wedge retail media campaigns into their existing reporting structure by counterintuitively sending traffic away from the buy button. If we’ve learned anything from Google’s ZMOT study, it’s that a shopper’s path is a circuitous tangle of multiple influence points. Sending traffic to microsite weigh stations with a “Find a Retailer Near You” widget on it only makes it messier. All it shows is how effective a campaign has been in pointing motivated shoppers in the wrong direction. Why not look for ways to shorten the path by sending traffic directly to product pages with that convenient “Buy” button?

Do yourself a favor and get your agency’s goals aligned with yours. By refocusing your agency’s success metrics on what really matters to your brand’s success, things are sure to straighten out. And don’t delay – like my aching back, issues like this tend to get much worse over time if we don’t go in for an adjustment.

Image viaShutterstock

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