It's incredible to witness the speed at which the scope and volume of marketing data has been increasing. It's laughable what was considered big data for most of us even as little as 7 years ago. I distinctly remember being brought in as a consultant in the mid 2000s to work with a top tier, global retail bank on a 'big data' project to analyze a customer portfolio of roughly 500,000 records. It was considered a big data project at the time because their analysts could no longer handle the quantity of records since Excel at that time capped out at ~65,000 rows.
Now it's common for marketing analysts to work with millions or even billions of records in impression logs, transaction files, etc. Oddly, most agencies and ad tech companies don't ultimately provide their clients with any of this detail, choosing instead to report entire campaigns as a single line item in a document generated once a month (like it's still 2002). If the data is available, you should have access to it.
In my opinion, here are three rights you have as a client when you work with an agency or ad tech partner these days:
#1: Knowing where your campaigns are running
Strong campaign performance is usually a function of some very basic economics. Take return on marketing investment (ROI) for instance - this ratio improves as you increase the top line (e.g. revenue) or decrease the bottom line (e.g. cost). To oversimplify… you can double your ROI by either doubling the amount of revenue you generate per sale or cutting your costs in half.
Let's use display as an example. The easiest and most common lever for an agency or network to pull in order to improve ROI is to reduce purchasing costs. The quality sites that most advertisers want to appear on are expensive. Premium sites don’t need to budge too much on their pricing because everyone wants to buy from them. Reducing costs then usually comes down to casting a wider net to create tonnage by buying the cheapest impressions possible. Many of these impressions are on sites you’ve never ever heard of - and are often sites that have no relevancy to your brand or core audience. When it’s not done properly it can be very damaging to your brand.
Don’t think it matters? Here’s a good question to ask yourself, "Do I really want my marketing showing up on bottom feeder sites advertising get rich quick schemes next to 'punch the monkey to win a prize' type ads?”
You have a right to know where every single one of your ads has run. A quality agency or ad tech company will have no issues showing you details of every impression they served.
#2: Understanding what strategies are being utilized
There are certain media strategies that generate great short term performance on paper but result in poor customer experiences and, ultimately, eroded brand value. Ever been to an eCommerce site and then started being mercilessly retargeted by the pair of shoes you decided not to buy for the next three weeks? The same thing could be happening to your prospective customers.
You have a right to know the inner workings of your campaigns. If you're not sure where to start, here are 5 good questions to ask to get the dialog moving:
- What strategies are being utilized, how does each work?
- Who are the third party partners being used (e.g. data sources, networks)?
- How many of our ads does a typical prospect see in a day / month / week?
- What kinds of optimization decisions are being made on a regular basis?
- What are the top / bottom 10 performing tactics, placements, or sites?
#3: Being kept in the loop (e.g. more frequent and robust reporting)
All the pieces that have been discussed should be part of the reporting you get from your agency or ad tech partner and should be provided to you on a regular basis. How regular? It’s up to you, but it’s not unreasonable in this age of highly available data and reporting automation to expect this level of detail once a week or more. There's no reason to be kept in the dark.
Why so frequent? You shouldn’t need to wait a month before knowing that a particular strategy has negative ROI and should be cut from the plan, or a particular non brand safe site has been taking up 10% of your spend and needs to be blacklisted. Additionally, the insights that come from granular reporting can be use to inform decisions in other channels and strategies.
More agile reporting = more agile decision making.
The Bottom Line
It’s your money - you deserve to know how it’s being spent.