Conversant seven myths that senior marketers need to stop believing
Insights from a Conversant Executive
Scott Eagle, CMO
7 DIGITAL MYTHS
NEED TO STOP
Advanced digital marketing requires deep internal expertise and a large operational footprint
It’s difficult to prove digital marketing drives significant brick & mortar retail sales
“Vendor dating” is a better strategy than “vendor marriage”
Digital is great at closing sales already in progress, but not at creating demand
Vendor pitches are all so similar it’s nearly impossible to discern the differences
Personalization is a powerful idea, but true one-to-one marketing isn’t possible
Digital measurement is always imprecise
Table of Contents
Today, digital marketing tactics and
strategies are changing at an accelerated
pace - unlike anything the world has ever
known. Digital capabilities and the “rules of
engagement” are constantly evolving and
expanding. And what was true yesterday -
may no longer be true today.
For senior marketers with competing projects and priorities, it can be
challenging to keep up with what is achievable or advisable in today’s
digital marketing environment. Many digital capabilities that were once
thought impossible, are not only possible, but they’ve become routine.
As part of Conversant’s mission to deliver insights to the industry, we
work constantly to improve understanding of digital and its capabilities.
Over the past several months, we’ve engaged in thousands of
conversations with senior level marketers and have discovered some
common myths that warrant further scrutiny and discussion.
Let’s debunk these myths – one by one.
Digital marketing is far more complex to plan and
execute than more traditional tactics like network TV
ads. It takes a great deal of expertise in the areas of
technology, business intelligence, digital channels,
social media and creative optimization to derive the
most value from digital. The amount of input (e.g.
marketing data, potential venues, creative formats) is
enormous, and to utilize it to its fullest potential takes
strategy, seamless execution and a continual focus on
analysis and optimization. It can be daunting!
To tackle these challenges, some brands have built
large teams and infrastructure to create and deliver their
digital programs, while others have found it easier and
more cost effective to outsource with proven providers.
While you will certainly benefit from an internal
team with a solid understanding of digital, you
do not need to do it all yourself. In fact, there is
growing evidence to suggest this approach is
inadvisable since digital mastery is increasingly
dependent on highly specialized knowledge and
expertise. It can be extremely challenging to find
and attract the “best and brightest” in all essential
areas for your company.
In addition to reducing your staffing needs, bringing in
strong partners with genuine expertise also ensures that
your organization can focus on its core competencies
while leaving tasks like data management, analytics and
program execution to outside experts.
Some brands choose to entrust these types of tasks
to agencies, who work to build competencies in all
of these critical areas. Others find it advantageous to
identify a provider that has the staff and expertise to
assume these labor-intensive tasks and can perform
them with excellence. The key is finding the right
partner that can deliver solutions across a broad
range of channels and devices.
Making it easier for clients to derive maximum value
from data is just one of the reasons why Conversant
united all of its former businesses – Commission
Junction, Dotomi, Greystripe, Mediaplex and
ValueClick Media – into a single company with
one powerful marketing platform. We’ve helped
thousands of companies get better results through
the use of unified data sets, collaborating experts
and advanced data analytics.
The # 1 global leader in
affiliate marketing for
publishers and advertisers.
The industry-leader in
digital marketing at scale.
Industry-leader in brand-
focused mobile (smartphones
and tablets) advertising.
advertising technology platform.
Industry-leader in delivering true
cross-device targeting solutions
across display, video and mobile.
ADVANCED DIGITAL MARKETING REQUIRES DEEP INTERNAL
EXPERTISE AND A LARGE OPERATIONAL FOOTPRINTMYTH 1
Making it easier for clients to
derive maximum value from
data is just one of the reasons
why Conversant united all of its
former businesses – Commission
Junction, Dotomi, Greystripe,
Mediaplex and ValueClick Media
– into a single company with one
powerful marketing platform.
Years ago, there was no accurate way to measure the impact of digital
marketing efforts on brick and mortar sales. Solutions providers simply
could not provide a comprehensive view into the relationship between
digital marketing activity and the rest of a brand’s retail channels. In
fact, many companies siloed their efforts and created distinct online
and offline marketing groups to execute and measure programs –
ultimately creating massive redundancy and inefficiency.
While some companies attempted to build their own platforms to
fully understand the impact of digital marketing on all channels,
many shelved the concept because of the potential costs and
complexity. Even when an organization could unite its
data, it was still very difficult to associate purchases
and digital marketing activities to the same
anonymized individual profile.
But times have changed. Now it’s
possible to demonstrate the effects
of digital marketing on offline
sales. In fact, Conversant does
it every day for more than
170 companies. We invested
years developing a platform
that can ingest data from virtually any system - POS systems, email
platforms, rewards clubs, etc. We take that data and combine it with
online and offline transactions and other marketing data, and associate
it with an anonymized individual profile. Using this robust information
as the foundation, we can individually message people and measure
the impact across all retail channels.
By associating the online, in-store, catalog, call center and other sales
to the marketing programs that reached a particular individual, we can
understand the true impact of digital marketing on the total enterprise.
We built this versatile data ingestion, management and
analytics platform because understanding the
effects of offline sales is absolutely critical
to complete measurement. In most
categories, 80% or more of sales
come through channels other
than online, so without
a complete picture of
those sales, marketers
simply cannot accurately
understand the ROI from a
IT’S DIFFICULT TO PROVE DIGITAL MARKETING
DRIVES SIGNIFICANT BRICK & MORTAR RETAIL SALESMYTH 2
Display Click Through
Network Web Match
First-Party Cookie Present
Third-Party Cookie Present
Mobile App Usage
Direct and Indirect Matching
Household ID Matching
Mobile Device ID
With literally thousands of digital marketing solutions providers to choose from, many companies opt to work with
a broad and constantly changing array of vendors. The logic seems to be that making a minimal commitment to a
vendor tends to keep a marketer’s future options open. However, there are three key flaws to this approach:
While testing and experimentation should play a role in your overall digital program, you’d be wise to
conduct more due diligence with vendors up front to create more substantive partnerships with the best ones.
“TOWER OF BABEL” SYNDROME
Trying to integrate many different offerings
and disparate platforms to maximize
marketing effectiveness can be challenging.
Each new vendor or change of vendor
requires additional investment in integration
to derive the benefits of a comprehensive
marketing platform. Often, companies
overlook the hidden costs of integration as
they evaluate alternatives, and yet integration
is arguably the most important – and most
complex – part of building an effective
infrastructure and solutions set.
The process of long-term optimization for
your digital programs is what really drives an
increase in performance. This is true whether
your programs are optimized manually,
automatically or through a combination
of approaches. When you limit programs
to “one-offs” with different vendors, you
ultimately depress your results because you
cannot capture all of the gains available
Driving significant digital results is not only
a function of using and deeply integrating
more data, but using it in better ways. Only
by partnering with a strategic solutions
provider – thoroughly and over time - can
you effectively utilize all of your data to drive
true marketing effectiveness.
“VENDOR DATING” IS A BETTER
STRATEGY THAN “VENDOR MARRIAGE”MYTH 3
In the early years of the Internet,
digital marketing quickly developed
a reputation as a powerful direct-
response or “DR” medium. There are a
number of reasons why:
• Unprecedented opportunities for
measurement and accountability
• Efficiency of digital marketing
at closing sales
• Digital’s massive and growing role
as a tool for consumers to explore
• Creative limitations in the early
days of the Internet limited use
of digital for branding
These days, brands are devoting
additional resources to digital for
their brand marketing efforts. With
the ability to analyze and market to
individual consumers, digital has
become the ideal venue in which
to identify and reach the highest
potential audience. So, instead of
delivering a broad-based message
to everyone, messages can be
pinpointed specifically to someone’s
exact stage in the buying process.
What’s critical is the ability to identify
“look-alikes” with a precise level of
accuracy. Engaging with a solutions
provider that delivers individualized
customer understanding is ideal for
prospect marketing because they can
better identify precise “look-alikes”
with a high propensity to respond.
Conversant’s Enterprise Solutions Group
facilitates the ability to individually
identify prospects and then uses proven
direct response strategies and tactics to
deliver the best possible results.
Another key reason brand dollars are
shifting toward online marketing is the
increase in the amount of time people
spend among digital channels.
According to eMarketer, the average
person spends more time with digital
media than with TV. See the chart in
the right hand column.
DIGITAL IS GREAT AT CLOSING SALES
ALREADY IN PROGRESS, BUT NOT
AT CREATING DEMAND
MYTH 4 People now spend more
time accessing digital media
than they do watching TV.
Average Time Spent per Day with Major
Media by US Adults, 2010-2013
Note: ages 18+; time spent with each medium includes all time spent with that
medium, regardless of multitasking; for example, 1 hour of multitasking online
while watching TV is counted as 1 hour for TV and 1 hour for online; *includes all
internet activities on desktop and laptop for computers; **oﬄine reading only
Source: eMarketer, Dec 2013
• Mobile (nonvoice)
2010 2011 2012 2013
In today’s competitive landscape,
marketers receive a barrage of messages
from hundreds of well-funded start-ups
and established companies. In addition,
the constant use of digital buzzwords
can be overwhelming and make the
process of finding the right vendor very
daunting. It’s as if the industry lives by
the old adage, “If you can’t dazzle ‘em,
then baffle ‘em.”
While many alternatives may look and
sound the same, there are enormous
differences between digital vendors.
Asking the right questions can make
finding the best partner much easier.
Try the six questions listed to the right to
enrich your vendor due diligence process.
1. HOW LONG HAS THE
COMPANY BEEN AROUND?
There are hundreds of options for
where you can spend your marketing
dollars, but be aware that many digital
solutions providers don’t last long.
Companies tend to come and go based
upon their ability to secure clients
and the overall effectiveness of their
solutions. In this industry, longevity is a
key indicator of great results.
4. HAS YOUR TECH TEAM
SOLUTIONS AND PROVIDERS?
With the increasingly data-centric and
technology-driven nature of solutions
providers, it can be difficult for a
strategic generalist to evaluate the most
viable vendor options. Partner with your
tech team to gather a more substantive
review of their capabilities.
2. DO THEY OFFER
Many digital companies utilize
proprietary technology, but they apply
it to the same sets of widely available
and flawed third-party data. Better data
– that is comprehensive, accurate, and
exclusive – is the key to better results.
Discover whether your potential partner
offers proprietary data sets and ask
them to identify the source of them
before you sign on the dotted line.
5. ARE THE SOLUTIONS
EFFECTIVE ACROSS THEIR
The true test of an effective solution
is the overall performance across
clients. Consider the number of
clients a provider serves relative to
its competitors. In digital, larger
companies usually have more data,
expertise and better technology. So,
look for a marquee list of clients with
references and case studies.
3. ARE THEY CAPABLE OF
STRATEGIC PROBLEM SOLVING?
Some vendors are far more interested in
selling you their services than inquiring
about what you really need. Is their pitch
more of a monologue versus a structured
discussion? Make sure they make an effort
to understand what’s unique about your
business challenges and opportunities
before they try to sell you their services.
6. ARE THEY INNOVATIVE?
Any long-term digital solution for your
business should constantly evolve and
expand to reflect new channels, devices
and industry platforms. Ask potential
partners about their innovation plans so
there is a sense of the potential long-
term impact on your business.
Use these six questions to navigate your way through some of the smoke and mirrors.
VENDOR PITCHES ARE
ALL SO SIMILAR IT’S
TO DISCERN THE
THE YEAR OF
Both agency and brand marketers agree that personalization
is a key strategic imperative for 2014.
The key driver behind the personalization movement
appears to be the consumer’s need for individualized brand
experiences. Today, they demand communications that are
relevant to their individual needs.
Brands can respond to this consumer demand with
individually tailored messaging and media.
This trend is indicative of the industry-wide and decades-
long progression away from mass marketing to a more
focused approach featuring messaging that speaks to the
needs of the individual.
of marketers agree that
and offers will be more
effective than mass
of marketers agree that
marketing is the future
Personalized marketing continues to gain traction as a key
marketing strategy in the industry. For decades, marketers
have wanted to find a way to speak to their consumers as
individuals – to put their brands and benefits in the context of
an individual’s needs.
a recent survey of
digital leaders and
discovered that 77% of
senior marketers agree
offers will be more
effective than mass messages/offers, while 73% agree
that personalization represents the future of marketing.
Yet, when asked whether they felt their organization was in a
position to deliver one-to-one marketing today, many said no.
PERSONALIZATION IS A
POWERFUL IDEA, BUT TRUE
For decades, marketers
have wanted to find
a way to speak to
their consumers as
Personalization is no longer a dream – it’s a reality. Every
day Conversant delivers hyperpersonalized one-to-one
communications to millions of individuals for some of the
world’s leading brands. This one-to-one messaging is not a
small number of executions with just one or two elements
changed to reflect individual characteristics. Rather, we
individually calibrate virtually every aspect of an ad to drive
to the individual
person at a time,
but at massive scale.
During a given month, we create hundreds of thousands
– even millions – of distinct creative executions for each
client. Variations include, but are not limited to, color
combinations, formats, messages, imagery and offers
that will deliver the most relevant message and drive the
desired response. These ads may feature individual SKUs of
interest to the individual, but we don’t barrage them with
retargeting ads featuring hundreds of the same ads/SKUs.
Rather, our solution takes an intelligent approach, learning
and adjusting based upon the consumer’s actions.
BENEFITS OF A PERSONALIZED
MYTH 6, CONTINUED
IMPROVED RESPONSE RATE 70% 700=
INCREASED SALES 67% 670=
STRONGER BRAND 63% 630=
INCREASED PRODUCT TRIAL/ 45% 450=
INCREASED REPEAT 36% 360=
INCREASED AVERAGE 28% 280=
REVENUE PER USER (ARPU)
In the same study, senior marketers and agencies
reported they expect the following list of benefits from a
personalized media campaign:
Personalization is no longer
a dream — it’s a reality.
• Income: $130K
• Oakbrook, IL
• Married, Presence of
• Multichannel Shopper
• Value Shopper
• Outdoor Fitness/Yoga
• Buying for Man
• Purchased In-store Last
Month: Jeans, Tops
• Recently Purchased Online:
• Income: $85K
• Oakbrook, IL
• Redeem Shopper Points
within last 3 months
• Urban Style
• Multichannel Shopper
• Recently Purchased Online:
Gown, Couture Pants
The examples below illustrate how precisely calibrated an
individual’s communications stream might be based on their
interests, predicted needs or recent online or offline transactions.
The profiles for each
individual drive the initial
communications and as they
take (or don’t take) action,
their communications streams
are updated to reflect that
In-market experience clearly demonstrates that personalized
messages work better. On average, our clients see double-digit
percentage lifts for consumers messaged with personalized
media. In addition, consumers exposed to personalized media
are, on average, 30% more likely to re-engage with a brand.
While fundamentally focused on driving transactions, these
communication streams respect and build brand value in
addition to driving immediate sales.
One-to-one marketing is far
superior to retargeting which
simply puts the last item
viewed into a banner ad.
PERSONALIZED ONLINE ADVERTISING CREATIVE JOURNEY BASED ON REAL-TIME RICH PROFILES
MYTH 6, CONTINUED
It is true that a great deal of digital measurement
is imprecise. But many companies have
made great strides in measurement accuracy.
Brands no longer need to accept broad
approximations – instead they can focus on
major improvements in accuracy that will lead
to better strategic and tactical decisions.
Years ago, it was difficult or impossible to
measure certain things, so the industry was
forced to accept approximations or surrogate
metrics. Think back to when companies
focused on click through rates as a metric for
program effectiveness, regardless of their
While most of that is in the past, many digital
marketing measurements are still too vague.
Recently, there has been a great deal of
attention paid to marketing attribution, or
the assignment of credit for a conversion to
a particular marketing tactic or tactics. But
truthfully, attribution approaches can vary
widely in sophistication and accuracy.
One of the most common measurement
methodologies is “last click” attribution, in
which credit for a conversion is assigned to the
last marketing action that a consumer took.
Last click attribution can make sense for some
marketing tactics like affiliate, but for complex
omni-channel marketing programs it has
limitations because it discounts the value of
any marketing activity before the last click.
“Last click” attribution can lead companies
to overspend on bottom-of-the-funnel
marketing tactics. Research shows that for
such companies, spending more money on
higher-in-the-funnel tactics to create demand
will result in greater total sales.
Measurement and attribution are certainly
hot industry topics – and marketers are
rapidly becoming more knowledgeable
and sophisticated in their understanding of
it. In fact, our research indicated a third of
marketers are contemplating changes to their
measurement approach in 2014.
More precise measurement is possible,
but it requires a fundamental shift in focus
– from allocating credit for conversions
to scientifically determining what actually
caused a conversion. It also requires a
measurement approach that reflects all sales
channels, not just online.
First, let’s address causality. In most digital
measurement approaches, all sales that
take place during a digital marketing
period are credited to those marketing
tactics, even though some sales would
have occurred anyway. The sale might have
occurred naturally, or as the result of in-store
promotions, television ads, etc. – but the sale
gets attributed to digital.
First, let’s address causality. In most digital
measurement approaches, all sales that take
place during a digital marketing period are
credited to those marketing tactics, even though
some sales would have occurred anyway. The
sale might have occurred naturally, or as the
result of in-store promotions, television ads, etc.
– but the sale gets attributed to digital.
Percentage of leading
marketers who say that they
plan to change measurement
approach in the next year.
Percent of Respondents
DIGITAL MEASUREMENT IS ALWAYS IMPRECISE
Second, if a brand measures only online sales
effects, they likely understate their total sales
impact – considerably. In most categories
80% or more of total sales take place in offline
channels. So if you’re not capturing the holistic
sales picture, your strategic and budget
allocation decisions may be compromised.
Conversant pioneered an independently
validated test and control methodology
that compares total sales for a period for
two scientifically matched audience samples
- people who were exposed versus who were
not exposed to messages. The following
illustration highlights how the model identifies
incremental sales versus those that would have
occurred without the marketing.
This method determines what sales would
have occurred naturally without our digital
programs and which sales were actually
“caused” by our programs.
RIGOROUS MEASUREMENT - TEST VS. CONTROL
STORE CALL CENTERONLINE
A study of 25 leading retailers
across several categories found
that 67 to 90 percent of sales that
correlated to digital marketing
exposure were NOT actually
caused by that exposure.
MYTH 7, CONTINUED
There’s an old adage that states “myths die hard,” which is often the case. But eliminating some of these tall tales from your thinking
will take you a long way toward improving digital marketing effectiveness for your business.
Digital marketing is evolving at such a rapid pace that things we thought were patently impossible yesterday may in fact be
commonplace today. For example, our hyperpersonalized marketing solutions already drive extraordinary results across more the
170 leading companies. It’s worth noting that marketers who stay abreast of such digital marketing advances will surely be the
industry leaders who are in charge of the companies that excel in this space.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on this paper. Please write to me at: ScottEagle@conversantmedia.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Eagle leads Conversant’s global marketing function, including strategy and the integration of marketing programs across
our solutions groups. An accomplished senior executive with a strong background in client-side digital marketing and consumer
brand management, Mr. Eagle has over 25 years of experience as a marketing leader managing major Fortune 500 brands and
building successful new companies. Mr. Eagle has served as CMO for Empowered Careers, eHarmony and Claria Corporation, and
he has held management positions at Concentric Network Corporation, MFS Communications and P&G. Mr. Eagle holds a B.S. in
economics from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and serves on the board of Akademos, Inc.
Conversant, Inc. (NASDAQ: CNVR) is the leader in personalized digital marketing. Conversant helps the world’s biggest companies
grow by creating personalized experiences that deliver higher returns for brands and greater satisfaction for people. We offer a fully
integrated personalization platform, personalized media programs and the world’s largest affiliate marketing network – all fueled by a
deep understanding of what motivates people to engage, connect and buy.
For more information, please visit www.conversantmedia.com.
Copyright 2014, Conversant, Inc. All rights reserved. Conversant is a trademark of Conversant, Inc.