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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Ad spending is up. It is also all over the place: The Cross-Platform Advertising Opportunity

May 16, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Recent research from ZenithOptimedia predicts that the global advertising spend will increase its growth from 3.9% in 2013 to 5.5% in 2014—reaching $537 billion by the end of the year—and then rise 5.8% in 2015 and 6.1% in 2015. And while these are promising signs of growth, the opportunity is spread across ever-more devices, with mobile growing six times faster than the internet and online video advertising growing 23% a year according to the Zenith report.

In fact, comScore’s latest research found that, as of December 2013, U.S. digital media consumers constitute the “multi-platform majority. And, as digital platforms continue to emerge, media fragmentation will only accelerate, creating the defining marketing challenge of this era.”

So the top line is that advertising has returned to pre-recession spend levels. Delivering value to the bottom line, however, relies on a cross-platform ecosystem that requires a strategic approach in order to extract the maximum value of today’s marketing spend.

Interestingly, Rachelle Considine, President Future US finds that changing the mindset of advertisers remains a hurdle in creating truly cross-platform advertising initiatives. “Our users have migrated cross-platform and expect to have a seamless experience. However the advertiser does not always see the same value of an impression across platforms.”

Other challenges brought on by cross-platform consumption are organizational. At Fox News, Chief Digital Officer Jeff Misenti says that, “as audiences become more mobile, marketers are beginning to acknowledge the need for cross-platform buys.” Misenti finds that coordinating all of the parties involved in cross-platform initiatives is difficult, and he emphasizes that everyone—from sales team to production, programming, client agencies and more—must all “fuse together seamlessly in order to reach a shared goal.”

Certainly, a shared goal across media and marketing organizations is a desire for accurate cross-platform measurement. It is one that ESPN’s Project Blue Print, NBCU’s Total Audience Measurement Index (TAMI) and Nielsen’s Cross Platform Campaign Rating are all trying to tackle. But to date, a single standard has not yet emerged.

Among those investing in solving for this essential issue is Everyday Health, Inc., which leverages its subscriber log-in as a way to target content and ad experiences across a wide range of devices. According to the company’s Chief Data Officer, Greg Jackson, the company has invested “well over $100 million to aggregate and engage our registered audience with personalized content and marketing because relevancy matters.” The targeting algorithm “learns” through user feedback and behavior in order to deliver more relevant information and marketing campaigns.

“It’s our responsibility to know our audience, provide engaging solutions across devices, and then optimize delivery based on the real behavior impact each is having,” says Jackson. And to achieve this, he emphasizes the need for a solution-oriented sales team that is not “constrained by channel silos.” Considine echoes this, saying that one of the first things they did when she joined Future in 2009 was combine sales teams so that everyone became responsible for selling across all platforms. “We sell audience,” she says. “With the cross-platform, cross-brand approach, we can give advertisers a larger total reach or allow them to go after a specific audience.”

And, as Jackson sums it up, “We believe that every digital campaign is a cross-platform campaign regardless of whether it’s intended or not. Users will access content whenever, wherever and on whatever device they want. It is our job as digital publishers and marketers to migrate our messaging across these platforms.”

Three tips for cross-platform ad success:

  • Understand your audience and how your different segments consume content on your various platforms. While there is industry research that provides a general picture of content consumption trends, demonstrating a customer’s-eye view of behavior elevates the discussions your sales team can have with marketers and illustrates the unique opportunities you can build for them to reach their targets through your content.
  • Integrate your sales teams, in spirit, if not literally. A culture of collaboration goes a long way here and truly integrated teams that understand the full value chain will offer the best chance of success.
  • Invest in improving measurement. Be it through an industry organization, partnership with an established measurement firm or by creating your own solution, cross-platform measurement is critical for sales success.
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