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What happens when cross-platform digital goes wrong

Christopher Hansen
What happens when cross-platform digital goes wrong Christopher Hansen

We've heard it a million times: At a time of unprecedented media fragmentation and consumer usage patterns, cross-platform is a requirement. Today, no one executes single-media plans or uses any given marketing method as a stand-alone approach. Cross-platform marketing and media is the only way to target, reach, and engage your consumer in any ongoing, scalable way.

Thus, there are countless articles on how to do integrated media and ad marketing served up all day long in the trades. But, have you ever stopped to really ponder the ramifications of bad, haphazard cross-platform marketing? What happens when you don't think it through and you fail to connect the dots? And, believe me, in the trenches we see plenty of media teams without a clue. It doesn't have to be this way. Perhaps if we slowed down to better understand the stakes, we would more readily embrace the solutions and do right by our clients.

So, what are the stakes of cross-platform digital gone wrong? They mostly have to do with waste and inefficiency -- on dollars, media mechanics, optimization, learning, analysis, and workflow. Imagine these scenarios:


Budgeting and media mix allocation becomes a real guessing game if you have not done the work upfront to vet channels and choices, according to your audience intelligence and objectives. Channels and platforms need to be chosen, allocated and dialed in based on audience composition and engagement patterns. How do you justify a budget to your client without having done the media research or at least talked to the properties to validate your recommendations? You can't.

Missing the window on targeting opportunities

We should always understand when the user is most likely to convert and use that knowledge in when and where to "push" for more delivery. If we have not been rigorous in examining historical performance and considering the likely path to conversion across our media mix and within a given placement and its components, how can we map or speak to the probabilities?

Sloppy targeting and re-targeting execution

 It gets worse. If you don't start out with a solid game plan for re-targeting across your mix, you will see waste from continuing to re-market to someone via display that has already converted into a customer through another channel, like SEM. This is like stepping on your own toes, again and again.

That sneaking feeling of duplication

When a mix is hastily conceived without purpose or a game plan, you rightly imagine that there is duplication in conversions. That's a big problem. Yet, not having a grasp on conversion duplication leads to inefficient spending. That's a big problem, because you will not be able to pinpoint which media should be credited for conversations. You'll end up with poorly informed budget and media allocations.

No creative intelligence

On any given plan, you can optimize allocation, placement, messaging, creative, offer, landing page, and so on. But, you've got to have a matrix and a plan. When it comes to creative, if you are not in a position to methodically look at creative performance across channels -- like using learning from search creative on Facebook or display ads -- your creative observations to the client are nothing more than anecdotal. And your optimization approach will be random at best.

Irresponsible attribution

Yes, it's true that the industry still has a lot of work to do to support marketers striving for solid cross-media performance attribution. The tools set is evolving, and we will get there. But, in the meantime, you must do everything you can to understand what is going on across your mix -- knowing which channels are responsible for your most profitable conversations. Don't make the oldest mistake in the book and continue to blindly credit your last click, typically via search, for the conversion. Or, as a performance marketer using affiliate networks, giving undue credit to your affiliates.

There are many perils on this landscape, but there are solutions every step of the way. We feel it's key to truly understand the damage that can be done by not connecting the dots properly -- and then get disciplined at every phase of the work. Such as:

  • Making sure your team is operating from the same starting audience intelligence, using guiding insights beyond demographics on how, when, and how frequently your consumer is using different platforms

  • Defining performance from the get-go, making sure all are on the same page about what counts for a job well done

  • Basing your tracking and measurement configuration on that definition, setting up your systems to measure and perfect performance against your definition

  • Thinking your targeting and re-targeting game plan and mechanics all the way through

  • Choosing your tactics based on the audience mindset you've decided is at play for each platform

  • Actually having a creative optimization matrix

  • Situating as well as possible to monitor and report accurately on conversion attribution

When people talk about digital, they usually mention complexity. When we say something is complex, we are usually saying it's hard. But, being in the business of providing audience solutions, we believe it's as simple as the right starting point -- that operating audience intelligence -- and then staying very organized and aligned on choices, mechanics and execution.

Christopher Hansen is president of Netmining.

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"Business man having a headache" image via Shutterstock.


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