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Why agencies need to step up their personalization game

Why agencies need to step up their personalization game Jaime Enrico Singson

The numbers are telling. Econsultancy recently reported that 37 percent of digital marketers consider targeting and personalization as top priorities in 2013. In fact, 52 percent say that website personalization is fundamental to their digital strategies. Yet only 21percent leverage user purchase histories to tailor content (despite 77 percent saying it has a positive effect on ROI.) Clearly, desire is not the problem -- it's the know-how that's lacking. The same study indicated that most marketers don't even know where to start when it comes to personalization.

Personalization is an even scarcer phenomenon among advertising agencies, because creative agencies aren't privy to the kinds of data their web counterparts are. 

This gap presents a huge opportunity for creative agencies to become indispensable strategic partners to their clients. But the work has to be high-value. In this age of big data and micro-segmentation, too many agencies focus too much time in low-value work, such as a copy/paste approaches to versioning and personalizing creative. Manual labor that can't be scaled isn't economically feasible or desirable for anyone. As Rich Guest, president of US operations at Tribal says, "I can't afford to produce 100 ad units when my agency is charging me $150 an hour to code Flash. Even if I'm going to offshore it and it costs $50 an hour, it's still too expensive."

But there are ways to automate and restore the economics of creative agencies, even when dealing with hundreds of ad units. Rich Guest continues, "It's finally efficient to produce enough creative assets that if I know you live in New York City and you typically buy unbranded pain reliever, I can deliver a message that convinces you to buy Advil."
Driving this new efficiency are dynamic creative tools that streamline low-value work so you can focus on the important stuff that clients really appreciate.

Help them develop their personalization strategy

Get to know your client's existing marketing segments. How would you create tailored messaging for each segment? Work with the media team to understand how addressable and findable these segments are. Perhaps there are other segments that make sense -- segments that aren't even on the client's radar. Perhaps those new segments and their respective experimental messaging can be rolled into the creative strategy.

Walk through your client's website and see what behavioral clues a browser leaves behind during navigation. It's not just about chasing a user around the web with the product they just looked at. There are a host of other behavioral segmentation techniques at your fingertips that could be used to create a richer personalization strategy. Are they a repeat customer or a first-timer? How do they prefer to shop? Do they engage with your client's content marketing efforts? How long ago did you see them last?

Get to know the data that's available to you, and use it to enrich your client's personalization strategy. Some sophisticated advertisers may have plenty of information about their customers to run personalization on their other channels (like email or the website experience itself). Some may already be leveraging their CRM systems to segment their customers based on their purchase history and brand interactions. You would surely want to deliver a different message to a loyalist customer versus someone who has never been to your site.

Create more compelling storylines and campaign strategies

A common strategy in e-commerce retargeting is to push multiple exposures of items the user looked at but didn't purchase, then revert to a generic ad. But there's a richer campaign strategy to recapture that seemingly disinterested user. Maybe the user decided they didn't like that particular style of men's shirt, and no amount of advertising will convince them otherwise. But they did leave you an indication that they may be interested in your brand of men's shirts in general or men's clothes in general. Try extending a campaign strategy, and see if it improves results.

Other users may engage with your ad's messaging, and it may be worth following up with a storyline in the same vein. Think of a political campaign -- some voters engaged with your in-banner video on environmental issues versus others who engaged with a video about fiscal issues. Follow-up ads and campaigns can take note of an audience member's previous interest and features messaging around the same issues.

Keep it fresh

For most advertisers, running an extended campaign is crucial to keeping the brand top-of-mind. However, long-running campaigns can burn out as users are exposed repeatedly to a single message. Something as simple as a message or image swap can be enough to combat banner blindness as a result of over-exposure. But agencies may not follow through because of the time and hassle involved with flash development and re-trafficking, etc.

With dynamic creative, however, keeping a campaign fresh in the eyes of consumers (and maintaining performance for your client) can be done with little effort. Intermittent, incremental creative refreshes are likely to be rewarded with more engaged audiences and more satisfied clients.

Experiment and discover

In the direct mail world, A/B and multivariate testing is common due to the pricy nature of physical mail. In the digital world, more than 57 percent of organizations don't run any A/B or multivariate tests at all. This is a shame, not only because we have all the tools in our hands to make the testing process fully automated, but also because it provides some great insights into what resonates with an audience and what doesn't.

Accumulating a store of knowledge about a client's audiences and applying that knowledge on your next campaign is something a client will genuinely value. Plus, sharing new discoveries with your client further strengthens your relationship. Personalized advertising is something brands want yet don't fully understand -- the perfect time for your agency to step up.

Jaime Enrico Singson is head of dynamic creative optimization at DG.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Jaime Enrico Singson heads up a number of Sizmek products, including dynamic creative, attribution and device recognition, where he is responsible for developing product strategy, market positioning and go-to-market. He delivers POVs and insights...

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