IMA POV Series: Optimization

Should you ever invite InterMedia Advertising to your office for a conversation about working with our agency, that discussion will quickly turn to InterMedia’s philosophy of marketing optimization.

InterMedia is, after all, a performance-centric marketing agency. We measure success not only in terms of what our clients are able to achieve, but in how that success is achieved. By that, we mean managing how well campaign tactics are converting our client’s media dollars into sales and revenue.

The key performance indicator is, after all, profit. And our optimization procees is what we use to contain and manage those costs.

Let’s spend a little time taking you through what that conversation might sound like.

First, we would start by reminding you that the root of the word Optimize is Optimum which, in most dictionaries, is described as the “best output or result from a process or system.”

Optimization, therefore, is the act of obtaining that most-favorable performance. To do that we need a system to measure marketing inputs and outcomes and, for InterMedia, that is the role of AccuTrak®, our proprietary media analytics platform that has been continually enhanced and updated over the last 30 years.

At this point, the conversation would shift to a description of the eleven (or more) basic variables that we regularly collect data on every time an advertisement runs.

We consider every ad we run to be a unique marketing experiment. We collect information about media channel, geography, and vehicle; day of week and time of day; creative format, version and offer; and of course, the cost of the advertising. That information is then matched to the response generated by each ad, from disposition through conversion, sale, and downstream revenue.

We’d describe how campaigns evolve via optimization, and how the thousands of datapoints we collect are integrated to become part of an ever-growing body of marketing intelligence that is subsequently mined for actionable insights to improve existing campaign practices and performance.

At this point, we would stress that any optimization strategy, no matter how effective, is meaningless without having a rigorous testing plan up and running at the same time. This plan would constantly incorporate and evaluate each of the relevant basic advertising variables (primarily media-, creative- and offer-related), then integrate any actionable findings into refined optimization strategies and tactics.

All good students of Newton understand that any system, no matter how well-functioning, will eventually succumb to chaos and entropy.

Testing is our hedge against that because it can quantify, and therefore, prove or disprove, new approaches without risking the overall health of the total system. With testing, new elements become proven, and then incorporated, with the same or better results than the existing campaign elements.

Without testing–well it’s a bit like driving a NASCAR racecar down a cul-de-sac at 200 miles per hour — pretty soon you run out of road and when you do, it’s a bitch to turn around.

The final point we’d make is that the best days of marketing automation are ahead of us. This belief has spurred us to develop our proprietary campaign analytic platform, AccuTrak. This system has evolved over the past thirty years to reflect the complicated dynamics of a multi-dimensional offline/online media landscape.

That said, it’s probably best that you exercise caution and be wary of any company that relies soley on ‘black-box’ (machine learning) media optimization. Right now, and for the immediate future, the best results will be obtained when — as the engineers put it — there’s a human in the loop.

We use AccuTrack to ‘reality check’ our planning assumptions and buying decisions, and to seek new tactical insight from all our current and historic data. And while machines can generate and transmit orders, we rely on our buyer’s ability to successfully negotiate with our media partners to place and clear optimized media schedules. That’s why we combine AccuTrack data with InterMedia’s collective experience, which has been gained from literally tens of thousands of campaigns.

We’d remind you that even with technology as mature and evolved as aviation flight control systems, an experienced, qualified flight crew is still required on the flight deck. We are too often reminded what bad things can happen when pilots stop paying attention to what’s going on around them, and rely solely upon the machine to carry passengers safely through the air.

That’s about it. Naturally, we would address any specific concerns you might have about how the InterMedia process aligns with your workflows, and we might dig deeper into some relevant case studies.

But mostly we’d cover these three points: at IMA, optimization would focus on making your marketing as efficient, and as profitable as possible; to assure consistent performance levels, we’d be constantly testing new methods alongside existing tactics; and that our people will always be there to add their experience to the output contributed by AccuTrak.

And then we’d break for lunch.