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TEAM LEWIS

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January 19, 2022

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Season 1, Episode 2: Managing the Paid Media Landscape

In this week’s episode of Outsmart, your hosts Nicole Allen and Rex Petrill put TEAM LEWIS Paid Media Director, Jillianne Ferullo, in the hot seat to help us prepare for the 2022 paid media landscape.

In this episode we discuss:

  • How to adapt with the ever-changing paid media ecosystem
  • New best practices around testing
  • How to tackle first-party data collection

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Nicole: Okay. Welcome back to another episode of The Outsmart podcast. I am Nicole and I am your co-host, together with Rex Petrill.

Rex: Hey, everybody.

Nicole: Good to be here today. This week Rex is bringing in our director of Paid Media, Jillianne Ferullo. She’s joining us in the hot seat to discuss where Paid Media is headed in 2022 and beyond. So, Jillianne, welcome to the podcast.

Jillianne: Thank you. I’m very excited to be here. It’s my first podcast I’ve been a part of.

Nicole: Oh, really? I’m so honored.

Rex: I mean, we are like season pros right now, so good luck.

Jillianne: Right? I know. A lot of pressure here.

Nicole: We’ll be gentle. To that end, let’s just dive right in. Jillianne, keep you in the hot seat and tell us a little bit about yourself. If I ran into you in an elevator with my mask on, obviously, because covid times, what would you say about yourself? What do you do? Where are you from? Why are you here?

Jillianne: So, I have been working at Lewis for two and a half years. I’ve been in Paid Media for about eight. I’ve worked with clients in entertainment as well as some of Lewis’s ecommerce consumer clients and B2B tech. So, kind of across the spectrum. Born and raised in Boston, where I’m located now. So, this time of year, January, really hoping the Patriots make a nice playoff run. And yeah, again, I’m so excited to be here and talk more about Paid.

Rex: Mac Jones, rookie quarterback going with playoffs. We don’t have a lot to say because Nicole and I, as 49ers fans, are just hoping that our quarterback’s thumb stays attached for the first couple of games of the postseason.

Jillianne: I do love Jimmy. Former Patriot.

Rex: Oh, yeah. Everybody loved Jimmy. That handsome, handsome man.

Nicole: I think we could have a whole podcast about how much we love Jimmy, but to save the audience’s ears from that one, I think today we should really just dive right in and talk about the plan, changes in technology and access and just how those changes, both current and planned, are changing our approach to Paid Media. Or if it’s not changing our approach, how should our approach change?

Jillianne: Yeah, sure. Great question. So Paid Media is based in technology, really, and the landscape has changed so much. I think even just looking back over the last couple of years to the different types of channels that have popped up and then different capabilities within them from new ad types. I remember when Facebook only had like three units and now you can set up twelve different placements in one ad. So, it’s evolved so much and so fast, which is exciting, but it can also be frustrating. And I think there’s been some changes in these last couple of years, really, around the privacy and data collection that are going to keep impacting what we can do with targeting and with reporting and measurement. And also, what we should be expecting and planning and having to kind of reevaluate how we work with our clients on setting expectations.

Rex: That’s such a good point, Jillianne, on the technology side. You and I have chatted about this, but for the audience, do you think we become over reliant on the technology to solve all of our problems?

Jillianne: Yeah, I think it’s easy to do that and to really become more reliant on the platforms for so many things. They’ve made it nice in a way that it’s not as manual anymore to set things up and to optimize. The algorithms are so smart, and Google even calls so many of their tools, like smart campaigns, smart targeting, smart bidding. So, you can let them be smart. But we have to remember as the marketers, we still need to be smart and still need to be thinking and really balance how much we lean into their automation versus what control we want. And making sure that we are taking some of that control back and thinking through what the targeting looks like and what kind of insights we can grasp from the data we have and the ways that we can set up the campaigns to make those smart recommendations and not just rely on those platforms to take the campaigns in a certain direction. Because even if we put in certain parameters of budget or bids or targeting in a goal, it can still just spend as much as it wants within your budget. But to get the platform the bottom line.

Nicole: It sounds like a trend you’re sort of highlighting is not to have shock value, but almost like the death of automation. I know that sounds aggressive, but you’re talking a lot about not relying so much on the technology and the platforms and adding more of that human element to how we think about planning for paid campaigns.

Jillianne: Yeah, there’s a hot take. I do think the automation is so helpful in some ways, but I think everyone was afraid at some point like, this is going to take our jobs right, if the platforms can do everything. And I think what we’re learning is, especially with the changes with privacy and iOS 14 coming into effect and not getting as much of that conversion data back from the platform is that we do need to have some of this control and use what we have at our fingertips. Whether it’s looking at our own like CRM data instead of just relying on the platform pixels. Anything else that we can track that’s owned based in first party and really try to leverage that to make those smart recommendations in addition to optimizing with the platforms and allowing us to take some of those learnings but not go full in on just letting Google or Facebook do its job.

Rex: I think that’s such a good point because as you mentioned, Jillianne, the technology is so helpful and it’s so crucial to our jobs to be able to move at speed and with precision, both from an optimization standpoint to know when something is statistically significant, and we should actually implement a recommended change or change a copy variation or test multiple copy variations in a single ad. That has all been so helpful and has made all of our campaigns better, but I think it’s created some shortcuts where we as marketers have lost sight of the audience in some cases. And it’s been so easy to consistently draw a line between, if I spend $500, I know exactly what I can expect out of that $500. Where with the right changes in privacy and the move towards consumer first practices, regulations, et cetera, we’re going to have to go back to a little bit of the drawing board on that. And what’s always been central to our campaigns and the most successful campaigns that I think either of us have ever run has been strong stories, strong creative that create that real, authentic connection with an audience and not just relying on, well, I know that the platform is going to go find me the lowest cost per purchase out there, so it really doesn’t matter what I say. I’m going to see some incremental changes if I improve my creative. But really, we’ve lost out of creative and the story being the centerpiece of any campaign.

Jillianne: One of the things that I loved when I first got into Paid Media was that you see the results right away, and that like instant gratification. You turn the campaign on and there’s your impressions and clicks and all of that’s coming in real time. But it’s also kind of like a blessing and a curse, because then the results are expected, and you’re held accountable. I think more than some other more traditional media, like broadcast by or print or billboards, those marketers aren’t asked, what are the exact results that we got from every dollar you spend on that? But with digital and paid, that’s usually the question because you could track it. But I think you’re exactly right that we need to be able to think about it from the bigger picture again and step back and really see what is the story we’re telling and looking at it in terms of bigger lift and bigger engagement, not just that one to one tracking.

Rex: That’ll be a separate topic for a whole host of conversations around measurement and performance analytics. But I think we’re not at all suggesting that you’re not going to not look at ROI that’s extremely important to every campaign. But I think we’ve all lost sight of brand building and awareness and gotten so used to a direct response, so used to a transactional environment in paid media, that it’s going to be a shock to our systems. And if we’re not setting our clients up for ourselves, up for different methods of testing, going back to the drawing board on some tactics that we’re working or working with our analytics teams and understanding, hey, our site behavior is changing and why is it changing? Well, maybe it’s because Facebook is going out and just trying to find Android users versus iOS users. And how can we spot those changes that are technology driven versus those that are actually, like, campaign driven? And what are those that our audience is actually resonating against versus what is the technology forcing us down a path that maybe we ultimately don’t want to go? And so, what are the ways that we can look at alternatives and testing and learning quickly?

Nicole: I’m hearing time and context as two really big trends kind of pulling out of that conversation. That time being we can’t be afraid of it; daily optimizations are actually going to hurt you. And that paid has never been a silver bullet. But I think now more than ever, looking at what awareness and perception and sort of some of those softer, more top of funnel metrics are actually doing for us in the longer term is really important. And that all takes time. And then context from the perspective of both having that context of what the technology is doing, the changes that are rolling out, what they mean, but also the context of what the audience is consuming in other places and what their behavior looks like and how we can actually write stories that are more authentic to them so that we can reach those people.

Rex: I think it’s a really good way of looking at it because the timing factors are immense. These platforms can move so quickly. Jillianne, as you were discussing and alluding to and Nicole, to your point, going in there and making tweaks on a daily basis is actually going to hurt your performance in the long run. But you have to be on top of trends and on top of audience shifts as they occur. And moments in time can be a great thing for that. But moments in time are not appropriate for every client. Not everyone is going to key in on the Super Bowl, bringing back the playoffs or not. Every brand is going to be on the latest pop culture trend. That may work for some. It doesn’t work for everyone. But there are moments in time that are unique to every brand, every product, every industry that behooves you as a marketer who also does paid. Remember that paid is just one of these channels that we’re leveraging and is never the single answer to any challenge that you should always be mindful of what your audience is paying attention to. And if you can join a conversation authentically, go ahead and do it.

Jillianne: Not every brand is going to have it’s not going to make sense for them to always jump in on some kind of social trend or a specific moment in time holiday, but then take that another step. It’s not always paid role to solve every problem either. So, some of the harder conversations we have to have with the clients taking a step back, what are the real goals here and what is the best channel or tactic to solve those problems or that challenge? Because sometimes we always want to say, yes, paid, because that’s our job. That’s what we do. But it’s not always. Sometimes it’s not the first step either. You need to think about that bigger story and develop the creative, or maybe it’s better for owned SEO or organic social or email nurture instead of just going to paid route. It’s not always going to be the end all, be all for every situation.

Rex: And it’s getting harder to know exactly what our audience is up to through all these different privacy regulations. And targeting is not necessarily going to go away, but it behooves us to know as much as we possibly can about our own audiences and we can look at some of those first party data points to answer some of those contextual questions, as well as get us back to the point of answering that larger question. Is like, is paid the answer to this challenge? Looking internally at your own historical performance, at the owned data that you have, can really analyze those gaps and trends and identifying are we underperforming among a certain cohort that we know to be very important to our product base? And maybe there’s a white space there that we should go at. Everybody uses this example, but you look at like PNG reevaluating their entire digital spend and saying, how can we cut money while being more efficient? And they really just analyze all their data and said, digital is not serving to a certain cohort. And I think specifically for them, it was females for certain products like right in their wheelhouse, and digital was avenue to reach those users, whereas in their other broadcasts and other buyers, they were over indexing to other demographics. So, it was like, how do we help our clients through first party data, through everything that they have at their fingertips to be smarter as the world around us is changing and as the world technically is getting harder to target. Not so if you have the right data at your fingertips and can use it smartly and analyze different campaigns.

Jillianne: Right. In some ways, we might have been over relying on the platforms for targeting and audiences, but we were not relying on ourselves, or a client isn’t maybe tapping into the actual data and resources that they have at their fingertips, and they don’t even realize how much is there and how valuable that can be.

Nicole: I think we’ve covered a lot of ground here today, and I just want to close this out with one big question for both of you, because you’re both paid media experts, Jillianne, maybe more so than Rex, but what are you most excited about working in this space and using paid as a way to reach end users and customers? What gets you most excited?

Jillianne: Well, I’m definitely not more of an expert than Rex.

Rex: That’s very kind, Jillianne.

Jillianne: I am excited just to see where the platforms continue to go. We’ve seen so many new channels and things explode like TikTok over the last couple of years. More and more videos on every channel. Like LinkedIn used to be so just kind of stuffy and boring, but there’s tons of videos and different types of posts and ads that you can use there. So, I’m just excited to see more creativity come across the platforms and more ways that we can engage with our audience. And as Rex was saying earlier in the storytelling, being able to use that more as we move forward. And I’m just excited to see more evolution.

Rex: And I think, on the evolution front, Jillianne, what you talked about from a creative standpoint and the different types of ad units and is it AR, VR, influencers? Like, what the heck are people going to do with the metaverse? I’m really excited and also extremely curious, perhaps in a morbid way, but how are consumers actually going to react to all this stuff? Like, we as an industry have been so focused on privacy and so focused on what do these changes mean for me?  What is the audience and what is the end goal of the audience? And did Apple’s iOS 14 changes, do they portend like, some big revolution in the industry where we as consumers just have an expectation that privacy will look different from here on out? I think there are elements of that, absolutely, yes. But there are others where maybe we’re more focused on outcomes then consumers even care about. I think consumers like relevant experiences. I think when you start to talk about relevant experiences being ad experiences, that’s when you start to lose people. And how do you blur the line between an ad and a real authentic interaction? I think we’ve seen fails on that from the influencer side, where there’s just an obvious misalignment between what the actual rules are of being an influencer on social to the like this brand does not fit at all with this influencer. But I think back to the core of it, and when people think about the good old days of like, Mad Men and things like that, it’s getting people to connect with your brand from a humor, thought provoking, whatever it is that your brand needs to be to the audience and should foster a connection to the audience. It’s really going back to the core of who you are and really what your audience cares about. That solution that you can provide and being intentional and meaningful with that. I think it all brings back to the core I think of what we’ve been talking about today is paid media is great. It’s a single lever that you can pull to execute a great integrated marketing campaign. But at the heart of it, you really have to understand your audience. You really have to understand your messaging and it has to come across or else it’s just going to land with a thud and you’re going to be sitting there left holding a bill for a campaign that didn’t do anything for you. So exciting, but like I said, also somewhat anxiety inducing of what is the audience behavior, what is the audience reaction going to be to all these monumental changes that consume our day to day lives? What do people actually think about them?

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Nicole: Nice foreshadowing there, Rex. We have a couple of episodes coming up where we’ll be talking about fostering connectivity through creative and how to actually identify and understand those audiences specifically. So hopefully some of this will all tie in together. Jillianne, thank you so much for joining us today in Rex and my little science experiment here. It’s been a joy to have you and hopefully we’ll have you back and we didn’t scare you off.

Jillianne: Thank you. I had a great time. It was my pleasure.

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