Ad:tech San Francisco was a coming out party of sorts for the Internet Oldtimers Foundation. Once a semi-secretive group of long time industry veterans, the Oldtimers are now coming out of the shadows to help educate the industry and promote best practices. Part of this public outing was a panel comprised of Oldtimer experts on "The Dynamics of Intent: Consumer Demand in the Digital Age."
By Brad Waller
The panel was moderated by David L. Smith, CEO of Mediasmith who had to reign in the personalities of analyst Doron Wesly (VP Media Practice at Millward Brown), relationship marketing expert Skip Graham (executive director of the Oldtimers Foundation and founder of Giant Head), pundit/crumudgeon Sean X. Cummings (Director of Marketing, Ask.com), and extremely different PR strategist Peter Shankman (Crisis Management, Social Media, Stunt/Viral Marketing).
Sean X opened the panel with a great demonstration of the way that people can be manipulated by marketers and have they free will co-opted with a simple request: he asked that everyone sitting in the two outside areas move to the center. Why did everyone comply? Because they were asked. That is the job of marketers, he explained, "getting people to do something that they would not think of doing before."
Stats man Doron opened with numbers, telling the audience that there is a correlation between what people tell us and what actually happens. If someone tells you in a survey that they will definitely do something, there is an 80% probability that they will follow through. Of course, the type of product and the ability of the person to actually afford the product will skew this precentage.
There was a slight debate on intent. Skip stated that people arrive at a site with the intent to buy, get information, or compare products. Peter said that "attention spans get shorter by the second. Intent might be the same, but it will change eight times during the path." To which Doron came in telling us that "those eight things can be influenced by ads. It's not like you don't have free will." Sean X countered this with "advertising reduces the free will we have." Skip's way of looking at this is that instead you "figure out what their will is and cater to that. Slide right into their particular mindset." Peter closed out the debate on free will by telling us that free will matures as people get older, "high school kids lost their free will" the second their best friend got the lastest cool thing. He added, "countless studies have shown the more someone comes back to your site, the more comfortable they are with it. Their free will is gone by the 3rd time."
At this point, Sean X commented that when we measure everything we need to look at the whole picture. When you are capturing the people who already had intent, Google gets all the credit because they had the last click. He says that "a lot of people are not measuring everything else." This led into a discussion of all things that influence an action. Dave mentioned that attribution management studies show you can influence the search funnel. Banner ads might not look to be "efficient for people doing Cost Per whatever. But when you take away banners you search volume will drop." Sean confirmed this by warning, "cut off the top part of the funnel at your own risk."
The subject moved on to what you can do to help the visitor reach the desired impact. How do you modify their intent? Doron explained that many sites do not let the person be alone. Live Person, Oddcast, and other services can be used to direct shoppers to a certain location, show them specific merchandise, even suggest colors. Sean said that most sites are great at driving traffic deep into a Web site from ads, but most undervalue the ad view. For example, a user may click on an ad and view your site and leave. He said "if they come back to your site, maybe that ad influenced them. Elevate what they saw (you do have a cookie?) to a position on your home page. You're helping them get to the product."
Skip related an example from client experience. He said that you need to "deliver on intent the second they arrive. A client had great click and lousy conversions because the page didn't address the issue raised in the banner." There needs to be a clearly defined path you want them to follow. "Let them see the path up front and they are much more likely to follow it," Skip concluded. Peter agreed and elaborated, "as stupid as everyone deems the public to be, they are surprisingly smart."
While it is great to let people know that you know where they came from and where you want them to go, there are limits on how much you tell them. Sean warned that "people are wary when they are told that you are tracking them and telling them what you are doing." Don't tell them we know you saw our ad, so here is what you need to know, just show them what they need to know. There were a few examples of very specific tracking that did work, such as targeting employees of a savvy company where they could appreciate that n advertiser detected them by their work IP address, or ads for Hertz LA appearing for someone who is a frequent traveler to Los Angeles.
the next subject was Metrics. Panelists were asked to talk about tools people can use to figure out what is going on with the consumer and campaign. Skip started off by telling the audience not to follow the usual plan of a ramped up marketing plan. He said to "put it all out there right away, giving a baseline for reactions later in the campaign." Sean also warned, "do not do the one off studies. They are just a point in time. You need the life-cycle." Sean suggested monthly or ongoing reports from Dynamic logic or Insight Express.
Doron mentioned using Spotrunner to quickly ascertain what might be happening in a certain region. He said that you could then compare search impressions where you have no ads and where you have advertising activity. Surprising many panelists, Doron even suggested using free tools and doing it yourself. He did argue that Skip was wrong and that you should stagger the parts of the campaign. He warned that there is a "tendency to justify decisions with research. Can you take the truth? Are you willing to revise your strategy?" To this, Skip said that "Doron is living in an imaginary world. Data will be better, but reality is that the client wants it all happening."
Sean summed much of the discussion when he said "the failing is that the level of understanding of analytics at senior levels is nascent. We need to educate our peers, set up meetings, and involve people from different fiefdoms." I think this session was a pretty good start at the education. Your next step is to act on this and disseminate your knowledge.