In this opinion piece, Damien Thomson (pictured below), country manager for Australia and New Zealand at Sizmek, provides some words of wisdom for media agencies in search of a quality technology partner.
Working in ad tech is akin to running a marathon – sooner or later you will hit the wall. After 10 years working in digital media and advertising, hitting the wall translated to a move to lead an independent media agency in Sydney.
I look back fondly on my time in agency land. As the great cricket identity Bill Lawry would describe it – the drama, the tension, the atmosphere, the buzz – “It’s all happening”. But there are three things I learned during this period.
Firstly, how uncool I am as a 40-something working in the digital media industry (a lesson I’m sure my daughters will remind me of later in life).
Secondly, how to speak Millennial. See lesson one if you try to actually do this as a 40-something working in the digital media industry.
Finally, how a good technology partner can make a huge difference in both the efficiency and effectiveness, and as a result the bottom line, for an agency.
In my experience, there are three areas that a media agency should focus on when selecting technology partners, each of which are guaranteed to result in better performance for their clients, improved team morale and a more profitable business.
Reliability to deliver
Reliability doesn’t just mean your account manager turning up on time for your next lunch. Reliability must exist across all areas of their business, including technology, data, support, and performance.
This is especially vital in digital advertising, where the technology stack must be secure, accessible, flexible and scalable. Data should be collected, stored and used to drive performance across five key data attributes: campaign, consumers, context, creative, and cost. You also need to invest in tech that allows you to future-proof your business as requirements change.
Local support can impact the way an agency adopts technology. Currently, there’s frustration across all levels of the campaign execution process, partly because a single campaign can involve a multitude of vendors and platforms. Support from your tech partner can come via troubleshooting, training or handholding with complex campaign executions. They should also provide detailed campaign insights, industry best practices and product expertise.
A great technology partner is one that not only has the best technology, but one who ensures the technology does what you need it to do and finds quick solutions if any technical issues arise.
Simplicity without compromise
There are plenty of moving parts in the management of digital campaigns, so you don’t need a technology partner adding to that complexity. This is compounded in larger agencies by the number of platforms the operations team needs to manage.
Managing campaigns, setting up conversion pixels or executing media buys need to be fast and intuitive. Imagine the most basic technology implementation: a system to build a media plan, another system for campaign tracking and reporting, and another to setup viewability and verification. If I’m buying through a DSP, I have a way to connect my data sources and then another platform to execute my media buy, and finally, a huge excel sheet to track everything.
Not every agency has the luxury of being able to work with a single partner with an integrated stack, but they should look for a core partner with which all their peripheral systems can easily be integrated to ensure minimal operational costs. Most importantly, this must be achieved without compromising on performance – a challenge when time is inversely related to complexity.
Transparency across the entire journey
Transparency is not a term that has been historically synonymous with the media industry, but transparency does not just relate to shining a light on dubious deals or hidden campaign costs. Transparency also refers to exposing the entire journey of an ad – from creation, to placement, to performance and the discovery of insights.
By demanding greater visibility from their tech partners, agencies get clarity on how media investments impact results. Access to this type of data helps media agencies build powerful recommendation engines to enhance future performance.
With added transparency, comes greater control, which of course ultimately leads to trust.
My second wind
After more than a decade in advertising, I’m convinced that software-based activation systems will transform the ad management process.
An agency needs to rely on the underlying capabilities of the platform to assist with performance – a task made easier through the increasing adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). Despite its naysayers, AI will transform a swathe of industries, including advertising operations.
The daily sprint of ad tech is easier to traverse with access to AI-powered insights and recommendations. It gives agencies and advertisers greater control and transparency over performance. That’s ultimately why I moved back into ad tech and joined Sizmek.