Tell us a bit about Performics…
Performics is a global performance-marketing agency started in 1998 in the US. Originally, we did affiliate marketing, which is selling through electronics resellers online and then we added search services in the 2000s when Google and Yahoo were coming to life in terms of the search landscape. DoubleClick owned us at the time and in 2008, Google bought DoubleClick as well as Performics but only kept part of our business – taking all the folks that did search work – and spun the rest of it off, which ended up becoming part of Publicis. In 2010, we rolled out under ZenithOptimedia [in the US] and then Zenith took Performics to a global scale in 2010 and 2011 and today we have 1,200 employees in 34 offices around the world and we are doing all performance-based digital marketing.
What really is performance marketing in the simplest terms?
It is making sure that every dollar you invest is driving a measurable outcome. Lots of agencies and advertisers talk about it from the top down, as in: “I’m going to run a TV campaign, or do display advertising online and see what was the viewership, how many impressions did I get, what were the clicks and then how did it attribute back to sales.” The way we were brought up is starting from the ground level and literally accounting for and saying how much sales did we generate off this campaign and investment, how many leads did we generate; if we did generate engagement and video views, how did that convert to an actual customer and lifetime value. So really performance marketing is making every dollar accountable to ultimately [gain] revenue.
What are the main fields that are covered under performance marketing?
It’s media and content. We have a performance media group and their effort is to take dollars in paid [media] whether that’s search, social, mobile or display – all biddable media environments – and invest that money for proper return. And then we have a performance content group that does owned and earned optimization, creates content and places it as well. So between the two groups you end up covering all paid, owned and earned environments.
What are the new formats you see within content?
The biggest demand in the content realm right now – beyond the performance content – is more upstream; and that’s videos, in a huge way due to the boom on all devices to view content in video form. It’s also native advertising, which is what might appear to be an article but its actually placed media. So the biggest areas of boom in content right now are long-form, native and, absolutely, videos.
Does native actually work?
We’ve seen that it does…done right. In many cases, it has to be optimized in the same way that any other marketing would be: well structured, looks seamless to the environment it’s in, but it also points to the right landing page and that [the landing page] has been optimized in a way that drives proper responses so that becomes its own end-to-end experience. But to us, native advertising is not that unique; it’s just in terms of contextual advertising.
How big a role does programmatic and biddable media play in what you’re doing?
From a performance media perspective, it’s absolutely huge to what we are doing.
We have teams that focus on the different tools or forms of biddable media, through Publicis and VivaKi and the assets we have with Audience on Demand so we have programmatic capabilities. The goal is for agencies to work with the group’s resources to bring programmatic to market with [their] technology and teams. Programmatic is key because that’s the most effective investment of paid media to ensure that you’re continuously optimizing your investment on a real-time basis against the audience you are trying to seek.
Do you see programmatic converging with traditional media – for instance, buying TV through programmatic?
It isn’t at scale yet although eventually, it might be. But that’s going to be a function of both: programmatic capabilities and then publishers allowing that to happen. Today, there are two realms: the programmatic or biddable media environment and there’s the more traditional media buying. You need to do both to serve brands in the right way, but programmatic appears to be becoming a bigger part of the discussion everyday.
Is it just becoming a bigger part of the discussion or is it – along with digital – growing big enough to cut into TV budgets?
I think it’s integrating. When you look at the statistics – from a North American perspective – digital, along with the use of mobile phones and video viewing is booming but so is TV viewership. Other media like print and radio have suffered in many ways in many markets but you’ve not yet seen a major hit on TV. In fact, it continues to grow in viewership almost in sync with digital.
Why do you think that is?
Probably consumers’ propensity for sight, sound and emotion and having the full experience of what you’re seeing is still unique to TV in its own way and that’s why you see video viewership growing on digital channels. It [TV] is ingrained in consumers. It marked the beginning of mass media and it’s still there almost as air cover for everything we do.
A lot of what you do is based on knowing your consumers’ digital footprint. What are the technologies you use for this?
I don’t know if it is technology that does that as much as it is the analytics folks who do that. At Performics, other than the media and content teams, we have planning and insights folks to design the right strategy based on what we have learned and analytics and technology folks to do the measurement and optimization. Those folks will use first-party data, which is the actual click- throughs off the cookies, customer data in terms of what people bought and surveys of brands’ primary audience as they generate it. We also use appended third-party data from other sources and looking at all that data – plus surveys or whatever else we need – we will track through what happened with that engagement [with a consumer]. Whether it is all the way from viewing a video or filling out a form to an actual sale, we will find out what happened with that customer, his journey and how did he or she remain connected to the brand over time. It is not through technology as much as it is through data tools and then hopefully some really smart folks applying that.
Now part of why digital interests brands is the kind of detailed insight you can get from the medium. But this is also a concern for consumers in terms of privacy. How do you balance the two?
For agencies, data is the liberating force that hopefully leads to more relevant marketing on behalf of the consumer. Consumers, now more than ever, have all the tools at their disposal to decide what brands they want to engage with or not. They get to choose what they search for on a search engine, where they decide to socialize within the social realm, how they respond to the messages on their mobile phone, and even the apps they download…we have so much at our disposal. Even if marketers are using that data to create all this personalized messaging, we still get to choose where we play as a consumer.
Even though everyone talks about privacy as being such a major issue – and I think it is – if a consumer feels like they’re getting value in return for sharing their information, it would appear more often than not that consumers are okay with it. It is when they’re not getting valuable information in return or are being taken advantage of in some way, that they feel like their privacy is being violated. In my experience, I have not seen a groundswell of consumers pushing back on technology due to privacy concerns. It feels like there are more positives to them [consumers] sharing their information than the negatives.
Is that because of the value they get out of sharing their personal information or could it be that they are not fully aware of the potential implications of sharing their data?
I think it’s both. In some cases, it’s because they’re getting something positive [in return] and all the personalized content that’s coming back to them. In other instances they’re not aware of all the ways that data is being used. Another thing – and I don’t know if this is good or bad – is that it hasn’t come back to harm them in some way. Not yet.
What are the new trends you’re seeing, especially on a regional versus global scale?
Mobility. The mobile phone is the center of technology now so brands have to take a mobile-first lens to what they’re doing. We think about mobility because we are moving all the time so how do you use the mobile device as a connecting point [to your consumer].
The other trend is looking at the difference [in perception and adoption of technology] in established or developed markets versus emerging markets. In markets such the US or Europe people are pushing back on technology a bit because they think it has overtaken their lives and they see it as something they want to put some boundaries around.
Whereas in developing countries, they [consumers] are consuming technology because it’s a way to help the economy – and everyone within it – step up. So now, there is even greater adoption of mobile phones and social sites and even more ways to create infrastructure that supports technology and startups.