The Future of an AI-Powered Search Landscape

AI (artificial intelligence) is transforming the search engine landscape by enabling search engines to provide more personalized and relevant results to users. 

Microsoft has invested heavily in AI and NLP (natural language processing) to improve the capabilities of its Bing search engine and the partnership with OpenAI has already led to improvements in Bing’s natural language understanding and generated more human-like responses to search queries. Similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google Bard is the latest experimental AI-powered chatbot that can respond to various queries and requests in a conversational manner. 

That said, the search engines are not quite there yet as these AI models are continually being trained and tested by engineers for better performance.

As search practitioners, we are excited to see what is in store and are monitoring this space closely –  but are not ready to make changes to our SEM or SEO plans just yet. 

But, we are able to shed some light on how it looks.

At a Microsoft press event in Redmond Washington, Microsoft showed off its new Bing search engine powered by ChatGPT-like functionality. Following this event, Google showed a demo of Bard and AI generative search, rivaling OpenAI’s ChatGPT. In both these demos, we can see that the AI chat experience is not replacing the traditional SEM/SEO listings but is showing alongside it.

How Does This Impact SEO/SEM Listings?

The impact of ChatGPT on traffic to sites through SEO listings will depend on a variety of factors: 

  • How search engines integrate AI-powered technologies into their algorithms
  • How website owners adapt their SEO strategies to these changes
  • How users respond to the new search results

However, AI-powered technologies like ChatGPT are likely to have a significant impact on the future of SEO and search engine rankings. 

Advertisers may fear that this will take away from their organic/paid traffic when the users can get answers without visiting their websites – and while the actual impact on traffic is yet to be seen – Microsoft’s demo has also shown answers where SEO links are embedded, assuring that SEO remains an important factor to the websites. 

When ChatGPT does not have enough information from its pre-existing database, it uses Bing’s search API to find relevant websites for credible and trustworthy information. While it may re-write your content to answer the user’s query, it does give credit to appropriate sources, as seen below.

Image from Microsoft Demo

Also, let’s not forget that while AI is able to provide short and informative answers to the user query, it cannot complete the final conversion action. SEM and SEO ads would still be important to convert the users.

Five Things We Are Watching Out For?

  • Driving qualified leads: In our performance-based campaigns, we often invest higher in the top and mid-funnel tactics to navigate the users through the discovery and consideration phases before driving them down to the conversion funnel. With SEM and SEO working together with the AI chat, the users may be able to get the information they need to decide much faster, driving them to then visit the site to convert. This could potentially help bring down CPAs and even drive quality traffic to the site at a lower investment
  • Investment in Bing vs Google: With the upcoming integration of OpenAI & Bing, Microsoft is trying to increase its search market share. We will continue to monitor consumer response and usage of search engines to make sure our clients are engaging with users in the right channels
  • SEO traffic fluctuations: Although Microsoft’s demo showed that SEO links would be embedded in responses, we’re still unsure about how often it will show, how it will impact the brand presence and what is the impact on organic traffic to the site
  • Change in keyword strategy: With the use of AI models in search engines, search behaviors will shift to longer and conversational search queries which may typically change how we currently view our keyword strategies for SEO and SEM
  • Impact on conversions: With users being able to cut a considerable amount of time in the discovery and consideration phases, with the help of AI, how short would the conversion journey become and how will it impact the actual conversion numbers

How Can You Make Sure Your Content Is Optimized For The AI Model?

According to ChatGPT, it’s important to note that the AI models are not specifically designed to ‘scroll’ websites for content, but rather to understand natural language and provide relevant responses to user queries. 

However, there are still several steps you can take to optimize your website for search engines like Bing and Google to improve your visibility to users.

  • Use clear, descriptive language: When writing content for your website, use clear and descriptive language that accurately reflects the products or services you offer. This will make it easier for the AI language model to understand and interpret your content, and provide more accurate results to users
  • Optimize for relevant keywords: Research the keywords and phrases that users are likely to search for when looking for businesses like yours, in the new environment with integrated AI chat. Use these keywords throughout your website’s content, including in page titles, meta descriptions, and headers. However, make sure to avoid “keyword stuffing,” as this can negatively impact your search rankings
  • Focus on quality content: Creating high-quality, informative content is important for both users and search engines. Make sure your website contains helpful information about your products or services and aims to provide value to your user’s intent
  • Use structured data: Structured data is a standardized format that makes it easier for search engines to understand the content on your website. By including structured data on your website, you can make it easier for all AI chat-powered search engines to interpret your content and provide more relevant results to users
  • Ensure your website is mobile-friendly: With more users accessing the web on mobile devices, it’s important to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile. This means using a responsive design that adapts to different screen sizes and optimizing your website’s loading times
  • Personalization and engagement: AI language models are designed to provide quick and convenient answers, but they may not always provide the level of personalization or engagement that users are looking for. By creating engaging and interactive content, including videos, infographics, and other multimedia elements, you can help build a stronger connection with your audience and encourage them to return to your site
  • Build a strong reputation: Encourage user engagement and feedback by providing a forum for comments and questions, responding to feedback and criticisms, and actively participating in online communities related to your website’s topic

By taking these steps to optimize your website for search engines and user experience, you can help ensure that AI-powered technologies can effectively crawl and understand your content, and provide more relevant results to your users. 

In the future, we can expect Google, Bing, and other search engines to continue investing in AI and NLP technologies to improve the search experience for users. This may include more advanced voice and image recognition capabilities, enhanced personalization, and improvements in the accuracy and relevance of search results.

The Media Internship Experience

An internship can be life changing. You gain hands-on experience in your desired field, you fall even more in love with the idea of what your career could be while also learning what you maybe don’t love about it as much, you meet and build relationships with leaders in the field, and gain colleagues who sometimes turn into friends.

Selecting what internship you want to pursue can be tricky, and feel overwhelming at times. 

That is why we host an information session (register here) before the application deadline – so you can feel confident that the True Media internship is the right fit for you and your career goals.

We sat down with the intern class of Summer 2022, who all accepted offers with True Media, to talk about their experience, and how it set them up to grow their career in media. 

  • Tyler Lee – Currently a Media Strategy Associate in Minneapolis
  • Gavin McDonald – Currently a Media Assistant in St. Louis
  • Lukas Pierce – Currently a Media Assistant in Kansas City
Tell us a little about yourself – where did you go to school, what did you major in, what made you interested in a career in media?

TYLER: I majored in strategic communications and psychology at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. What really drove me to work in media was how data driven media work is. Although I might not love math, I feel like I am most successful when I am working with data that can inform my decisions, so I felt like the media was a great fit for me.

GAVIN: While writing this, I am a senior at Maryville University in St. Louis,  graduating this semester with a BA in Business Administration and minor in Communication. I have always been drawn to media related work because my father works as a creative producer. I knew his field interested me, but wanted to do something of my own as well and Project Management at True Media looked like the perfect fit.

LUKAS:  At the time of writing, I’m in my last semester at Truman State University for a BA in Public Communication, with a focus on Advertising and a minor in Linguistics.  I first became interested in media through my involvement with our college radio station here on campus during my Freshman year.  While I knew I wanted to major in Communication, doing that really helped narrow that focus for me.  I especially love how opportunities in fields like this are able to utilize both my creative and analytical skill sets, which is why I chose to pursue it the way I did.

If you could sum up your internship experience with True Media in just one word – what would it be and why?

TYLER: “Comprehensive”. A lot of internships are hyper focused on one topic area. For someone who hasn’t worked in the agency space before, it can sometimes feel like a roll of the dice on whether or not you’ll like the role you sign up for, but with True Media’s program I got a comprehensive overview of a media agency as a whole, which allowed me to make more informed decisions about my career going forward, as I had experience working in every role.

GAVIN: “Explore” would be the word I use to describe my internship experience at True Media. From day one, interns are welcomed into True and everyone is excited to meet you. Over the course of the internship, you are encouraged to learn the basics of how each department works in hope that you find the place that best fits your skills and interests. 

LUKAS:  I think my ‘one word’ would probably be “Open”– and I mean that in just about every sense of the word.  The internship program did a great job of letting us explore different avenues and roles so we could get a feel for where we would fit best once the program had concluded.  The whole experience was really whatever we made of it.  Each of the interns that I trained with brought a different set of strengths and we were able to explore areas that appealed to each of our skill sets; Along the way we could learn not just from our mentors, but from each other as well.  Additionally, all of my mentors were very open to questions and made me feel welcomed from the get-go.  

What was your favorite part of the internship experience?

TYLER: For me, I enjoyed being able to dive into all of the different aspects of media work. Going into the internship I had little experience with the agency space and what the actual day to day work of all the different roles truly were, so it was great to be able to come in week to week doing different types of work, which allowed me to find what I am truly passionate about.

GAVIN: My favorite part of the internship was being able to meet and work with so many people at True Media from all over the United States. It blew my mind how well I was able to get to know the other interns and people working at True through relationships created over video calls. Some of my favorite people I know live in other states or on the opposite side of my state and I believe this is pretty special.

LUKAS: My favorite aspect of the internship was the ability to explore aspects of Media that I hadn’t encountered in my coursework.  Most of my coursework focused on the research and planning/strategy aspects of Media, but didn’t go into as much detail on things like measurement and reporting.   Had I relied solely on my coursework, I wouldn’t have been able to get the entire picture in the way that a ‘hands-on’ situation can give.

How did you feel the internship prepared you to finish your degrees and start a full-time career?

TYLER: I would say that the internship prepared me to start my full-time career greatly. I think that it’s very common for individuals still in school to have a strong foundation of hard skills to build off of, but often I think students feel like they don’t have a true understanding of what their career will actually be like. The internship program helped me truly understand what that day to day looks like for many different roles, which not only helped me figure out what I wanted to do, but that understanding helps me better work both within and between the teams here at True Media, as I can look at any role and know what they do and how I can best set them up for success.

GAVIN: I would say the internship has helped me better allocate my priorities, both professionally and academically. One obvious way the internship has helped me prepare to finish my degree is earning credit at my university for the internship. Professionally, I have been able to make lots of connections with people in the industry and grow my network, which has helped give me a jump start on my full-time career.

LUKAS: I would definitely say that it has helped me, both in the academic and the professional spheres.  It’s given me a level of practical experience that I feel like many of my classmates are lacking.  Additionally, having a bit of that real-world experience has made it much easier to think of ways in which my coursework can be applied in a more concrete way.  My coursework feels a lot less like abstract theory, but instead a set of tools that I already understand that situations in which they can be utilized.

What department were you hired into, and what drew you to that department?

TYLER: I eventually ended up working in the Performance Media department, which was an area that I never thought I would have an interest in back when I was in college. For me, it was the perfect combination of data driven decision making and creative freedom. Most work in performance media has best practices but no exact “right way” so it’s become a place that I feel like I can thrive in, and I don’t think I would’ve started my career in performance media if it wasn’t for the diverse experiences presented in the intern program.

GAVIN: I was hired, and am currently working in, the Project Management department. Early on in the internship I felt a strong pull to the work Project Managers do at True Media. This meant that in addition to my continued learning and diving into the other departments, I was able to take a look at what real client work looks like for the Project Managers and help them in any way that I could.

LUKAS: I am currently working part-time in the Activation Strategy department.   At the conclusion of my internship, I found that I was torn between a couple different possible positions within True Media.  The Activation Strategy, Campaign Operations, & Project Management teams all had different aspects that I felt I could excel at and a few that I still was a bit hesitant about.  Ultimately, I was offered a position in the Activation Strategy department, and it has been a great experience so far. 

Aside from the client work you do, what do you enjoy about the culture and people of True Media?

TYLER: The team at True Media is by far the best group of people that I have worked with. I think that we have a great group of people that make work much more enjoyable. For me the team can make or break my work experience and the team at True is amazing. 

GAVIN: For me, the people at True Media are one of my favorite parts of working here. I have met many people that I consider to be friends now, which makes coming to work or joining a call an enjoyable experience that I can look forward to. I enjoy the work I do at True Media, and the people here are the cherry on top.

LUKAS: I’d have to say that the people at True Media are one of my favorite parts of the job.  My coworkers are all very friendly, and I feel that we work together well, which is something that I consider the most important part of a workplace environment. 

What makes you most excited for your career here at True Media?

TYLER: What’s most exciting to me about working at True Media is that the future of the company seems promising and exciting. Right now we are growing both internally with new employees joining the team and externally with new and exciting clients joining us. True doesn’t feel stagnant, it feels like it’s moving in a great direction.

GAVIN: One of the most exciting parts about my future at True Media is the direction the company is headed. I feel lucky that I have been able to get in at True early because every day we are growing with new amazing people and clients. I am excited for the ride and cannot wait to see how far this company will go.

LUKAS: I think the most exciting part of working at True Media is the changes that come with each day.  Given the ever evolving nature of the advertising industry, there’s always new situations to figure out and new challenges to adapt to. It keeps every day fresh and interesting.  Each new client that I work with has their own asks, eccentricities, and nuances that allow me to continually learn and grow my skill set and knowledge.

What advice would you give to students considering applying for an internship with True?

TYLER: I think the advice I would give students who are applying for internships as a whole, is to first evaluate what you want to get out of your internship. Some people are dead set on what type of work they want to do and they’re gonna find work in that field, but for many they might be unsure about what type of work they truly want to do within the agency space. That was the position I found myself in last year, and I wanted to get some direction out of my internship and a program like the one at True Media helped me understand the ins and outs of the agency space and find where I best fit in it.

GAVIN: My best advice for students who are considering applying for an internship with True is to keep an open mind. The best part of the internship is the exposure to all of the different departments. I recommend coming in on day one ready to learn Media and try to get the most of you can out of the internship. Everyone is here to help you!

LUKAS: The best advice that I could give to anyone who is interested in applying for this position is to not sell yourself short.  More specifically, don’t let yourself get caught up in the idea that you’re not experienced yet.  The whole point of an internship is to learn and to gain experience.  If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never get the chance to see what you can do.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our virtual information session on March 3rd by registering here.

Data Privacy in Healthcare Campaigns

Maintaining Data Privacy in Healthcare Campaigns is a complicated and nuanced feat. It is helpful to understand how we arrived at this point where, in some cases, technology initially outpaced regulations and where that leaves marketers in guiding healthcare clients.

I have had the unique experience of intimately seeing many sides of data privacy as it relates to healthcare. As a patient, in my previous life as a Registered Nurse and now, as a media professional running healthcare campaigns. But how did we get to this point? 

As computers took hold of our daily lives and social media was on its meteoric rise, the Federal Government recognized the need for healthcare to also make the digital leap in the name of improved patient outcomes and increased efficiency. The plan? To shift all paper medical records to electronic medical records. 

No easy feat, in 2009, the Federal Government wrote the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act and put $27 billion aside to incentivize medical systems and providers to adopt these electronic health record (EHR) systems and designated billions more to help train health information technology (HIT) workers and get hospitals and providers up to speed on these systems. The goal? To bring all of the paper medical charts from endless rows of floor to ceiling shelves in hospital basements into a shared computer system for providers to improve healthcare and patient outcomes. 

EHRs bring exponential benefits such as greatly reducing drug interaction, medication and other errors, lower costs and decreased mortality rates. With a simple release of information, all of a patient’s medical records could be shared with any provider digitally, arming providers with all of the information they need to provide the best care to a patient, even if they are meeting them for the first time.

As a Registered Nurse I was working in hospitals as EHRs were being implemented. Despite my excellent doctor handwriting interpretation (a now obsolete skillset), many times I had to gently remind MDs to put their orders “in the computer” as we all had to work together to get these systems off the ground. There were “super-users” rolling through on “cows” (computer on wheels) at every turn to try and facilitate the adoption of a new way of taking care of patients. We all learned the specific EHR functions for our roles and many of us noted the unfathomable amount of patient data available to us, and wondered how we could put it all to use. The instinct, that we had our fingertips on massive amounts of data and what seemed like endless functionality of EHR systems, was exactly what was happening digitally, everywhere, in every industry. 

Technology was outpacing regulation. 

Meanwhile, while the medical community was focused on employing advances in technology to improve how they worked, so was every other industry including marketers/advertisers. As the whole world transitioned to an electronic/digital model, and the data available was infinite, marketers entered a wild west of sorts, where automation could track and import data for machine learning and lookalike modeling to reach that ‘right person with the right message at the right time’. 

But where was the general public while all of this innovation in technology was happening?

Enchanted by their handheld computer that could do just about everything, (minus the education and transparency of what was happening on the back end of their favorite social media platform or healthcare portal). As we uncover data privacy breaches in real time, such as the June of 2022 class action lawsuit filed against Meta Platforms “for using its Pixel tracking to get patient information from hospital portals for target marketing purposes”, marketers and consumers alike take a pause and at times become fearful of a world where we feel vulnerable in the wake of all of this innovation. 

We all fear that which we don’t understand and thus, the answer is here is education. 

As marketers, we must continually educate ourselves so that we know what questions to ask of partners, play that vital role in educating our healthcare clients, colleagues and consumers at large (when they casually mention it was ‘creepy’ that they were served an ad for a medication after googling related symptoms).

At True Media, in addition to continued, proactive education:

  • We are vigilant in working with only the most respected HIPAA-compliant partners in the healthcare vertical who follow extensive privacy policies that spell out exactly what information can be collected including non-PII vs PII, exactly how that information is collected and how it is used. 
  • Things like contextual targeting, retargeting, and geofencing put clues together to identify a relevant audience. While these methods are data privacy compliant, healthcare clients need to be aware of the user experience that may lead consumers to feel their privacy is being compromised. 
  • We are proactive in asking the right questions about ensuring we are working with “Non-PII” data unless explicit consumer consent was given. When first party data is available, we address how files are handled, and educate our healthcare clients and what is and is not possible in healthcare marketing. 
  • Being the data nerds that we are, we also feel confident to explain to that consumer why they were served that ad for that medication and help them navigate the many points at which they can opt out of tracking across their devices and the web, should that make them feel more comfortable. 

In closing, while centering around the core value that maintaining data privacy in healthcare campaigns is a critical priority, we also recognize the great value for society for the right healthcare message to get to the right person at the right time and the many ways that HIPAA-compliant healthcare data can be a star in the next chapter of healthcare innovation.

Authored by Amy Hess, RN & True Media Senior Client Strategist

Performance Max: Inventory Access Expanded

Performance Max is a new campaign type from Google Ads that became available late last year and simplifies advertising by allowing advertisers to access all of their Google Ads inventory from a single campaign. It’s designed to complement keyword-based Search campaigns to help find more converting customers across all of Google’s channels like YouTube, Display, Search, Discover, Gmail, and Maps. With this new update, Google’s Smart Shopping and Local campaigns have been upgraded into Performance Max to supplement the same foundational features along with accessing additional inventory and formats across YouTube, Search text ads, and Discover.

The updated campaign automation uses five different campaign types and builds an omnichannel strategy within the Google Ads universe, driving users down the conversion funnel by utilizing different awareness and conversion ad formats available along with various user signals. This powerful campaign self-optimizes based on attribution and user behaviors, and works towards driving maximum conversions within the allocated budget.

Smart Shopping and Local Campaigns

Based on early testing done by Google, advertisers who upgraded Smart Shopping and Local campaigns to Performance Max saw an average increase of 12% in conversion value at the same or better Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). Advertisers can continue using existing Smart Shopping and Local campaigns until it gets upgraded to Performance Max later this year.

Advertisers can also start using Performance Max for any new campaigns created in Google Ads. They can access ad inventory that’s already available in Smart Shopping and Local campaigns plus new inventory and formats — including across YouTube, Search text ads and Discover. The tool gives flexibility to upgrade specific campaigns or all of the campaigns at once. Learnings from the existing campaigns will be used in new campaigns to maintain consistent performance going forward.

Through the rest of September 2022, local campaigns will be automatically upgraded to Performance Max campaigns. Advertisers will no longer be able to create new Smart Shopping and Local campaigns once the existing campaigns are automatically upgraded. It is also important to note that the automatic upgrade process will conclude by the end of September to ensure advertisers are well prepared to use the new feature for the 2022 holiday season.

Key Benefits to Performance Max Include:

  • Creative Automation: Tests different combinations of assets (headlines, images, etc.) and learns which combinations perform best
  • Delivery Automation: Create just one campaign and get the ads wherever users are interacting with Google, whether that’s on Search, Display, YouTube, Maps, Discover, or Gmail
  • Increase in Conversion Value: Performance Max campaigns drive incremental conversions at the same or lower cost per conversion
  • Find More Converting Customers: Increases Conversions as it allows to engage customers across Google’s channels
  • Holistic Approach and Full Channel Coverage: Users take advantage of all of Google’s offered channels
  • Ease of Setting Up: Rather than creating separate campaigns for separate channels, Performance Max campaigns are relatively seamless to set up

For now, Google Local campaigns make it easy for advertisers to promote stores locally, ensuring that potential customers have the information that they need to decide when and how to visit their stores. Performance Max provides the same foundational features of Smart Shopping and Local campaigns while accessing brand new inventory and formats across YouTube, Search text ads and Discover. There is no way to opt-out or to control the serving on any of the specific networks. Performance Max campaigns have an initial learning period of 10 days before advertisers see performance and results.

Reach out to the True Media Performance team today to switch your Google Local and Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max Campaign or to get started with a new Performance Max campaign!

About the Author

Nisha Chandrashekar, Activation Strategy Director, Performance Media

Nisha is a vital part of our True Media Canada team and helps monitor media performance within our Activation department.

Implementing a Full Funnel Strategy

When we think about measurement strategies, especially with a full funnel approach, it’s not always a direct path from plan to implementation. So, what comes next once you’re on board with a full-funnel strategy? It’s not enough to just check the boxes of various funnel stages to make sure you have a presence in each part of the consumer journey, from upper to lower funnel. It’s vital to think through the user experience and how your brand interacts with new, prospective, and existing customers when developing the framework. As you’re working toward a full funnel approach, here are a few things I like to think about during the measurement planning process as it relates to how you’re showing up for users. 

Creative Messaging

Messaging can and should be different for users depending on where they’re at in their journey and their relationship with your brand. It’s a crucial piece of the puzzle to pay attention to the messaging you’re serving to new vs. existing customers. A new customer needs to be exposed to a different experience with advertising than a repeat customer that is already brand loyal. Similarly, creative messaging for retargeting is going to be served to an audience that was already exposed to your previous messaging or took a certain action, so you should speak to them differently with ads that are tailored to a lower funnel conversion that is highly relevant to that user. 

Market Share

Along the same lines of creative messaging, it’s key to understand your brand’s market share if you have a local or regional presence across various markets. You shouldn’t have the same rinse-and-repeat strategy that is a blanket approach across those markets, especially if you’re introducing your brand to new locations. If you hold the highest share among your competitors in certain areas, your channel and measurement strategy should be different from markets that have a lower level of awareness for your brand. Brand awareness studies can be a great way to keep a pulse on this.  

Landing Page Experience

Once you get users to your website, how are they experiencing it? I like to go through my clients’ landing pages from a consumer point of view during the planning process to make sure that experience is seamless. If we’re asking users to fill out a form, but that form is buried five pages deep within the website, you’ll struggle to get conversions. The URL that your ads lead to should be reflective of what you’re asking customers to do in your creative messaging, which will ultimately lead to a positive user experience – a win-win for everyone!

Journeys Are Not Linear

With all this being said, a key consideration of the user journey and developing a full-funnel strategy is that the customer journey is not linear. We often visualize and present the journey as a top to bottom, one-time process, but it’s more of a continuous (and sometimes indirect) path. Customers don’t all behave the same way because no two customers are the same, making things a bit more unpredictable. But this is all the reason to show up for customers no matter what part of the journey they may be in, which is why full-funnel strategies are so beneficial. By casting a wider net at the top of the funnel to promote awareness, you’re priming that audience to hopefully turn into long-term customers.

Take note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that only certain tactics can be used to drive awareness, while others can only drive sales. Any tactic could find a place within any stage of the journey, but a good media partner will use research and past learnings as a foundation to develop a channel and tactical strategy that works best for a given client and campaign, and will know where and how to use certain tactics as part of a full-funnel approach so your paid media is working as hard as it can to achieve your objectives. Everything we do at True Media is rooted in data and research so we’re bringing the best recommendations to the table for our clients, which also means every media plan we develop is different. 

Taking all of the above into consideration, this is why it’s so important that creative teams and media teams work together as early as possible in the planning process. These teams are often thought of as separate entities, but both of these teams should be talking to each other at every step of the way to ensure the process is seamless and that creative and media are cohesive. And when the time comes to report on campaign success and performance, everyone will know what that success ties back to because you’ve had a solid measurement framework in place from the very start.

About the Author

Anna Rice, Client Strategy Supervisor

Anna leads strategy and planning for a variety of clients at True Media to promote innovation and drive business results through integrated marketing campaigns.

The Importance of a Full Funnel Strategy

“Do I really need awareness in my media strategy when my only focus is getting conversions?”

This is a question I’ve heard over and over from a variety of clients, no matter the industry or brand. And to be honest, it’s a valid question. If you already have an established customer base, or you have no apparent issues with brand awareness, why would you want to put dollars behind upper funnel tactics when you can reach repeat customers or people that already know about you, and see results quickly? 

To answer this question, we need to take a step back and think about measurement and how the customer journey plays a role in that. As an agency, we ground our thought process in understanding what success looks like to our clients, and how that ladders up to our clients’ business goals. Aligning on goals and objectives upfront allows us to develop a stronger measurement strategy that we use as our source of truth throughout the lifetime of the campaign to measure success, but even more importantly it holds our teams accountable and ensures we’re driving the best possible results for our clients and spending their money effectively. Our goal is to develop a measurement strategy with channel objectives and tactical key performance indicators (KPIs) that fully support the business goal and will ultimately move the needle for our clients. Understanding what key action we want users to take will help us get there.

Once we understand what success looks like from the perspective of measurement, let’s go back to the original question. If you’re trying to drive lower funnel activity and encourage users to take action against your business goal, you could very well allocate 100% of your budget to capture the low hanging fruit of an existing customer base. This will garner short-term success by quickly converting users that already have some level of brand awareness. However, as time goes on and you cycle through those users, your cost-per-action (CPA) will eventually rise. If you’re looking for long-term results, finding the right new customers to begin the journey allows you to build new relationships that will continue to feed the lower funnel.

The visual below showcases how pure sales activation efforts lead to short term results with a continuous yo-yo effect, while brand-building efforts result in more sustainable, long-term sales growth over time.

The next visual explains how as you go further up the funnel, those long-term brand-building effects are more apparent.

Incorporating brand-building tactics into your upper funnel strategy doesn’t always have to mean utilizing high-budget channels, though, like traditional broadcast or out-of-home. Awareness can be accomplished in a variety of ways, like utilizing targeted, cost-efficient connected TV or a non-branded paid search campaign. The key is that the media plan is supported by data and research based on audience behavior and media consumption, and has clearly defined KPIs to optimize toward and measure success along the way. Strategy should be thoughtful and have solid rationale to support it, as opposed to making your best guess based on assumptions and hoping it works.

This is the essence of a full-funnel approach, but our work here isn’t done just yet. It’s not enough to simply have each stage of the funnel present in your media plan to check the boxes of awareness, consideration, conversion, and everything in between. Cross-channel optimization is vital to tying your strategy together, as well as understanding how each channel plays off of and impacts the others. Is your audience Googling your brand or product after they hear an ad on Spotify? Does organic traffic increase after users see an ad on Hulu with a QR code that drives to your website? These types of learnings all provide insight into correlation and attribution of your media, and can help develop test and learn strategies that allow you to pivot and optimize as the campaign progresses.

We were able to put the above into practice for a Global Fortune 500 company that was focused on generating leads from small business owners by proving the correlation between a decrease in upper- and mid-funnel ad spend and an increase in cost-per-acquisition (CPA). As indicated below, a decrease in awareness-level spend resulted in lower average order revenue and smaller intent-level pools to drive to conversion.

Sound funnel strategy with this campaign led to a 6.5% increase in daily site visitors and delivered over 60,000 attributable visits with an estimated value of over $1 million.

About the Author

Anna Rice, Client Strategy Supervisor

Anna leads strategy and planning for a variety of clients at True Media to promote innovation and drive business results through integrated marketing campaigns.

Introducing PPM Wearables: An Enhancement in Measurement from Nielsen

Nielsen recently announced another improvement in its ability to collect local broadcast viewing and listening data. The rollout of PPM Wearables will certainly add an additional layer of accurate measurement to its toolbox of data collection methods. As Nielsen looks to increase sample size and accuracy while reducing its reliance on often unreliable or inaccurate diaries, it hopes to grow advertisers and agencies’ confidence in its ability to accurately measure exposure across platforms.

For years, advertisers and agencies have relied almost exclusively on Nielsen data to analyze and forecast national and local viewing ratings. Nielsen’s audience measurement began with diaries – actively filled out by panelists across the country – to collect reported viewing data.  In 1986, Nielsen developed the People Meter to electronically and passively – and more accurately – collect exposure to TV and radio broadcasts. The People Meter revolutionized the television industry – suddenly “overnight ratings” were available, allowing advertisers a glimpse of viewership almost in real-time versus weeks or months later. Then in 2007, Nielsen announced new Portable People Meters (PPMs) intended to further improve accuracy in measurement at the individual person level.

PPMs operate with encoding that picks up the electronic signals of stations within earshot (what the individual participant is likely listening to or viewing) making it a more reliable source. Interestingly, the introduction of PPMs resulted in a general decline in reported viewing/listening likely due to greater accuracy. 

Now, Nielsen has enhanced the Portable People Meter – introducing PPM Wearables.

According to Nielsen, PPM Wearables are the next frontier of audience measurement and a key component of cross platform measurement. The rollout of the PPM Wearables began in late April/May in 47 radio metros and as of early June, approximately 6,500 PPM Wearables have been installed. By the end of 2022, Nielsen expects 50-75% wearables to be in the panel. 

PPM Wearables have a smaller, updated design that is more aligned with current wearable technology trends. They aren’t connected smart watches – they’re designed specifically for accurate reporting of viewing and listening data – but the new designs are easy to wear and carry, making them more appealing to challenging demographics. The PPM Wearable includes multiple carry options including a wristband, clip and pendant.  

What does all this mean? 

It means Nielsen is heading deeper into development technology that will help build a single panel with more cross platform measurement data. Nielsen’s competition (ispot, VideoAmp, Comscore, Google etc.) are also working to have the most accurate and efficient technology/methodology for audience measurement.  And all (Nielsen included) wanting to achieve MRC Accreditation so that advertisers and agencies trust the data. Advertisers and agencies like True Media are anxious to figure out which measurement system, or combination of systems, will rise to the top in quality and efficiency across platforms. In the meantime, PPM Wearables trendy look and ease of use should entice more panelists to participate, and ultimately result in more accuracy in reporting listenership/viewership for TV and radio. And perhaps other channels in the future.

Six Questions to Consider for a Strong Measurement Strategy

The old adage goes, “you have to spend money to make money.” But as we all know – an important distinction is that you have to spend money wisely to make money. Not all advertisers spend their money in wise ways. Whether that means not being able to attribute success to their channels and tactics to learn and grow or not having a definition of success in the first place.

This is why a strong measurement strategy is key to both short and long term success. Without a clear measurement strategy in place, you may find yourself looking at your campaign in a year (or sooner) wondering what your dollars got you in the first place while having no meaningful results or learnings to show. No matter what you are trying to achieve, clearly defining your measurement plan will allow you to tackle the challenge and make the best, strategic choices for your campaign and ultimately drive business success.

Our teams don’t just develop media plans, we bring in our full selves everyday to stretch our clients’ dollars as far as they can go to achieve their unique goal. We try to think beyond data and technology to challenge the status quo and build upon previous learnings to continue fine tuning every campaign. Measurement is a topic I am extremely passionate about so when I was asked to share how I start every measurement strategy for this blog series, I couldn’t have been more excited to geek out over it. Below are the key steps I take with every measurement strategy that can help you hone your strategies as well.

  1. What are my business and marketing objectives?

If you don’t know the problem you are looking to solve, there is no way to determine the answer. I always encourage my clients to identify both their business and marketing objectives. It is important to do both, as sometimes they are not the same. Sometimes there are multiple steps needed to achieve a business goal, other times media can’t actually be optimized for a particular objective.

Generally, the business goal represents the way a company brings in revenue and/or a grander vision of how they want to see the world. Marketing goals represent the steps your marketing will take to achieve the ultimate business goal.

For example, a business goal may be to drive YoY growth in sales, but you may have three marketing goals such as driving awareness of the brand, driving consideration of the brand, and ultimately driving first time trials of the brand… Again, while you could just focus on final conversions, it is important to consider the entire user journey and how you build demand for your product or service. Focusing only on lower funnel initiatives may prove fruitful at first, but building a strong brand is key for long term growth. The KPIs and tactics you consider for each of these are completely different, so this is the foundation for a good media plan.

  1. What KPIs

Your KPIs (key performance indicators) should directly connect back to your marketing objectives. If you want to drive website sessions or online actions, looking at impressions or CPM as your KPI doesn’t get to the heart of what you are trying to accomplish. Looking at the wrong KPIs can cause you to make decisions that ultimately hurt your business.

I always ask myself, when it comes to my KPIs, what action do I want them to take next? That answer ultimately should become your KPI for each marketing objective. Some goals can be answered directly by media metrics such as sales, sign-ups, and website metrics, but others may be more nuanced and go beyond what media can measure alone. This may be a time you incorporate or invest in advanced measurement. Whether it is a brand lift study, a foot traffic study, or a sales lift study – these studies can help prove out the value of media. We will be dedicating a separate post to advanced measurement later on in our series to help you understand the best times and ways to integrate this type of measurement. 

  1. How will I compare performance across time and channels?

Volume KPIs (impressions, site sessions, sales) have their place, especially when setting goals for your organization. However, it will be important you also establish a metric that is normalized despite the amount of spend/impressions so that you can compare performance. 

For example, let’s say I said search traffic dropped 10% year over year. At first blush, you may think that is a negative thing. But if I followed it up by saying our total search budget decreased by 55% year-over-year, then this paints a very different and positive picture. The same thing can be said as you start comparing differing channels and tactics that have differing costs. So, as you build out your strategy, it will be important to determine how you compare both quantity and quality in your campaigns.

Quantity metrics are generally based around cost (cost-per-X). These are great for measuring efficiency of tactics. This removes spend as a variable (as budgets between tactics or campaigns could vary widely) and compares on more like terms to determine the best use of dollars to drive volume.

Quality metrics on the other hand focus on rates. This could be things such as video completion rate (video completes divided by impressions) or pageview rate (pageviews divided by impressions). This is similar to Quantity metrics in that it compares tactics with both large and small volume in a more similar way. What percentage of the time did the user do the desired action? This is important especially for lead campaigns where driving high quality leads is more important than driving cheap leads that don’t convert.

  1. What performance do I want to see?

Once you know what you want to do and you know how to measure it, the next step is understanding what you will define as “performing well.” Firstly, it is important to understand benchmarks. This is generally defined as the performance baseline and what you can expect to see. Every tactic has different benchmarks, so it is important to take that into consideration.

Going one step beyond benchmarks is setting goals. This is the performance you would love to see in an ideal world. While it is important to set realistic goals that are achievable, this is where we generally push our boundaries and challenge ourselves. This is especially critical for campaigns that are based on conversions, as benchmarks are likely hard to come by, knowing every sale and conversion are different. If you clearly communicate your goals with your agency or team, they will be more likely to deliver results.

  1. How will my creative strategy and media strategy work together?

Creative strategy that mirrors the ultimate media strategy is absolutely critical to media success. At True Media we work with both in house teams and creative agencies to ensure that assets developed follow our measurement strategy. This means that your call to action should be very clear (and directly related to your KPI). This helps ensure the consumer understands what their next step is and has a good user journey and experience.

  1. What is new?

It can be easy to just keep doing the same approach every campaign with the same tactics; however, the media landscape is constantly changing. An approach that worked three years ago (or even 6 months ago) may be outdated, with new measurement solutions and metrics becoming available. This evolution ensures you are on the cutting edge and moving the needle with your marketing dollars. While doing this can take time, in my experience, cookie-cutter plans rarely outperform campaigns that regularly adapt and are custom to an organization’s goals.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Every campaign has its own unique challenges to be met, but no matter the campaign, these six questions can be the start of a strong measurement strategy that will align with business goals and lead to long term success. By defining success and understanding what metrics will indicate success, you can create a wise paid media strategy leading to overall growth for your organization.

About the Author

Kallie Hagerman, Client Strategy Supervisor

Kallie leads strategy and planning for a variety of clients at True Media to promote innovation and drive business results through integrated marketing campaigns.

The Importance of a Measurement Framework

Welcome to our series on Measurement Matters. Throughout the next several weeks, we will have client strategists who are passionate about a particular aspect of campaign measurement dive a little deeper and provide a point-of-view that has been built over time, experience, and pursuit of honing their craft of campaign planning. Campaign measurement strategy and frameworks are the most critical part of a planning process (audience definition and planning is a close second, but more on that in a future series). Throughout my career in media, I have developed an enthusiastic affinity for measurement strategy – something all my clients can attest to. Here’s why:

Measurement strategy is our roadmap

Have you ever had a specific destination in mind and started your trip without a clear understanding of how to get there? If so, it probably took longer than necessary, there were avoidable detours, and unnecessary frustrations. The same goes for campaign planning. A proper measurement framework that includes a solid understanding of the business and business goals, sets the tone and trajectory for channel and tactical planning, data and tagging strategy, campaign optimization, and performance results and communication. The most rigorous solutions will include the role of each channel in the customer journey and how it will be measured. It will easily flow into message mapping and will tie together creative elements to ensure a seamless customer experience.

We care about your business

Each business has its own unique challenges, opportunities and goals. Measurement frameworks should reflect that too! A proper measurement framework will put business goals first, illustrate how marketing and media can support those goals, and facilitate a robust conversation about priorities and numeric goals or benchmarks. Those meaningful conversations will also provide invaluable insights to prioritizing the goals, identifying relevant metrics, and defining how to accomplish success. A measurement framework is one of the best ways to de-risk your marketing investment. This leads me to the next point.

“Every tactic/channel has its place, and function and should perform accordingly”

Just like we all have a job to do on our teams, every channel has its role to contribute to the campaign. Part of the art and strategy of these measurement frameworks are translating business goals into metrics that are good indicators of success (or failure leading to a need for optimization).

During this series, we will clearly align how we translate sales, awareness, and/or engagement to success metrics that we can measure. We will review how each channel works together throughout the audience journey/funnel, and identify what is going to move the needle in each particular business. A solid measurement framework will set the stage for learning agendas, testing, and optimization. In each of these cases, there is a requirement of a clearly defined business goal and a knowledge of the role the channel plays in its success.

Discussion about success early is a requirement to achieve success

There are too many important conversations that are often missed when teams set off on campaign planning. In today’s world, if someone isn’t thinking philosophically about success for a new campaign before it goes to market AND how it will be measured, the campaign will fail. Yes, I said it.

If you don’t fundamentally know HOW to show success, success is out of reach. There are many data points that can help build the actionable insights throughout the campaign. There should be thoughtfulness around advanced measurement such as brand lift, foot traffic, and sentiment tracking.  We need to understand if incrementality with measurement is an option, i.e. do we realistically have a control group? There should be discussion around third party indicators such Google Trends and industry benchmarks. Not all of this is necessary or accessible for every campaign. Regardless, there should be a thoughtful discussion at the very beginning of the campaign before it’s too late to implement. The reality is, the teams that are charged with illustrating success with accountability to the business goal should have a clear vision that will allow them to bring actionable insights rather than mere tactical observations and vanity metrics.

All that said, I am very excited for our team to formally share some of the areas of measurement they are most passionate about over the next several weeks. Each will bring their unique perspective that helps meld our team’s individual areas of expertise and knowledge that makes it stronger. 

About the Author

Rhonda Meier, Senior Vice President Client Strategy

Rhonda helps lead our company’s media planning and strategy philosophy to deliver strategic and fully-integrated campaigns across all media platforms.