Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Quentin George, Mediabrands

Quentin George
Chief Digital Officer

Are Demand-side platforms and “audience acquisition” the future of media buying?

They are a component of the future of media buying. It’s not a question of either/or.

Marketers have a dilemma. It’s like when you’re building a house and the contractor asks you if you want good, fast, or cheap — pick 2. It’s the same when it comes to buying media. Do you want targeted audience, scale, or low budget? You can’t have all 3. There are instances where matching targeted audiences and scale, publisher’s can give you that. But there’s still waste so it’s not very cost efficient.

It’s relative efficient to spend large sums on TV. It just takes 3-4 lunches, 3-4 times and a boondoggle and you have a prime-time buy where $500mm is spent. You can’t replicate that in digital. There’s not the same concentration. But there’s also less business return than digital where you can spend the budget $1 at a time and 1 impression at a time. As opposed to just measuring reach and frequency, the web allows you to consider end actions and measure actual business results.

The dynamics have changed. Agencies have to become more effective and efficient. When you match a publisher with an advertiser, it can be powerful. It’s like “In The Motherhood” with Sprint. When the stars align and a great idea is hatched with a publisher, the returns can be disproportionate. But it’s very labor intensive. You can maybe do 3-5 [of these big ideas] per campaign. But you need 20 or 30 [to round out the plan.] It’s too labor intensive to buy 20-30 directly. That’s where networks came in to make it convenient.

Networks aren’t always transparent though and they control they data. [Nonetheless,] of all the crap you buy, your returns will outstrip going direct to large volumes of publishers. Agencies need to use demand-side platforms to [regain control] and maximize the dollars. The question is how much [do] you put and where? Is it based on audience definition or overflow from big, good ideas.

I predict that the aggregate value of data has potential to be more valuable than the aggregate value of inventory. Any banner response rate is 0.02%. [You can] reduce that waste to 1% [by applying data targeting]. If someone offers to sell data to make it 10 times more effective, [I’m going to take it.]


What’s your philosophy on digital content distribution?

[When I was] at Organic, we had a client [who owned a global winery] ask us if we wanted to pitch for a 300k project to create a microsite for one of their brands. My [admittedly] provocative comeback was, “Stop building websites that no-one comes to.” When was the last time you [polished off] a bottle of wine and looked at the label, saw a URL and went looking for recipes?

The biggest mistake marketers make is creating “objects” with no consideration for how consumers will experience them. That’s a mindfuck for the 35 year-old creative director. [His or her] whole mindset is to create a 30 second object that will elicit an emotional response to interrupt the programming.

The web is a way for consumers to prevent that interruptive model. Every time you try to disrupt the consumer patch, you run into problems. Wouldn’t it be smarter to be in places where people already are?

I’ve coined a new phrase [riffing from] “Fish where the fish are” and “Skate to where the puck is going.” I like to say, “Escape to where the fish is going.” You have to carefully consider where the consumer extracts value and lead with utility, not the best, most-interruptive banner.

[A great example is] Sprint going after “mobile moms.” The best message in the world will only get you so far. Instead, [you have to figure out] where is the mobile mom? If she’s on the Food Network website, how can you make that experience better? How can you show off your brand attributes? How about creating a segment where moms can enter their phone number and get the ingredients for recipes sent via SMS? This is a useful, brand-led set of utility, not an “object.”

[Another example we did is in] China around World of Warcraft. For Intel, instead of doing in-game banners, we created boots for Centrino that allowed gamers to run 2 times as fast. We had 2.5 million kids download these in the first day. They now get the value prop of Centrino.

That’s the value of Google — creating additive experiences and leading with utility so people are more patient [with your brand] than if you interrupt.

Where does the line get drawn with creating too many disparate “experiences?”

If you distribute assets in a meaningful [and relevant] way, [you’ll do fine]. The key is , how do you smartly sequence the experiences? If I already own your product, why do you put me through the same experiences? Tailor it to something relevant, when I need it. Intelligent sequencing of objects creates intentional experiences.

What’s the role of SEM in the marketing mix?

That’s a bit too narrow for me. I like to think of it as, “What’s the role of digital?” If you look at individual components, you stand the danger of considering point-solutions, not overall solutions.

The most evolved way of thinking about search is how can we create a topography of keywords — a map of how customers see my business? What types of words and what themes do people experience with my brand?

Everyone wants to buy keywords and optimize [but] anyone with a four-function calculator can do that. It’s not about homepage, about us, investor relations. You need to think about how people experience the brand and make it meaningful. Search gives you explicit intent — how people really see your brand.

[A great way to think about SEM] is how can you use search to define how customers view your product? If you use search as business intelligence, [you’ll find] the clearest intent of how your customers want to experience your brand and how they see you. That’s very smart. Search powers and empowers all marketing.

How do you respond to the business owner that says, “I have $500k to spend on marketing. I’m just going to dump it all into AdWords.”

I’d ask, “Does it work?” The same way I’d ask a client who asks me how much they should spend on SEM, “Not a penny more than is necessary.”

Sophisticated marketers realize that consumers want to experience [their brands] in different places. How can you use the data [from SEM and other channels] to make the efficiency and efficacy of marketing better? Search is an input and an output.

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