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Advertising Week Briefing: Why publishers are the new brand ambassadors

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Vanity metrics like viewability and click-through-rate (CTR), once beloved by marketers, aren’t cutting the mustard like they used to. 

The looming doom of the third-party cookie, the dust-up around MFAs and changing consumer behaviors online are all piling on pressure on advertisers and agencies to prove a return on their advertising investments. What’s more, social media companies are fighting tooth and nail to keep users on their platforms at all costs, and while this has led to a decrease in referral traffic for publishers, it’s also impacted the ways marketers can measure campaign performance on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, to name a few.

Looking for a remedy was top of mind for marketers on Tuesday at Advertising Week in Manhattan and two of the proposed solutions during the “Redefining Success: Culture is the New KPI session” sponsored by Condé Nast and moderated by this Digiday editor, were pivoting toward attention metric KPIs and relying on the reputation boosts that come from brand association with publishers.  

“CTR, or impressions, is no longer working in the same way that it once was. And so we’re seeing that attention and time is actually a better predictor of outcomes,” said Pamela Drucker Mann, global CRO of Condé Nast during the panel. “Our number one KPI is getting [audiences’] attention and we do that through culture.” 

Competition amongst advertisers is steep now on social media, with consumers viewing hundreds, if not thousands, of ads every day. What’s more, the video-heavy nature of social media has increased the overhead associated with creating ads for those channels, making it more appealing to find partners who can do it for you, versus investing in the resources to do it yourself as a brand marketer, at least that’s according to Emma Hilal, the consumer marketing director of Merz Aesthetics, a panel member for the session.

It’s not an overly new concept — publishers with the brand recognition of a title like Vogue or The New Yorker built their business by being the arbiters of taste. But with the changing digital media landscape, leaning on those media partnerships to generate buzz around their brand may be one of the only ways left to stand out amongst the noise on social platforms, argued Drucker Mann.

This concept has ultimately changed the way that Drucker Mann’s team is going to market for prospective client partnerships. The team is prioritizing fewer brands that are willing to invest in long-term partnerships in order to allow the word-of-mouth buzz to catch on and not only drive sales for the brands they work with, but also get the brands into the cultural zeitgeist amongst their audience. It’s also an opportunity to try and convince advertisers to redirect some of their social budgets through Condé Nast as well to earn a cut of what would have otherwise been spent solely on the platforms themselves, she said. 

“We are in the business of intangible products and services that oftentimes require long lead times … so we have a long ramp to build trust [and] learn [how to] test, scale and buy that metric,” said Tracy-Ann Lim, chief media officer at JPMorgan Chase, who added that it can be a tough sell to get a CFO on board with a longer term marketing strategy like this that doesn’t lead to instant gratification. That said, having these long term brand awareness plays brewing in the background of the three to four major marketing campaigns scheduled throughout the year gives the company more relevance and awareness all year long. “A lot of the trust metrics and attention metrics pay out over a longer period,” said Lim.

For eBay, the past year has been focused on shifting “from share-of-voice to word-of-mouth” by creating “brand ambassadors” out of the Condé Nast portfolio, according to the company’s global head of brand, Emily O’Hara. She said having eBay adjacent to events like the Met Gala helped to alter public perception of eBay to be more of a luxury reseller platform, adding that “it is a really rich territory for us to be in.”

Post-cookie solutions are going head-to-head

Taking a moment to look at the mental state of marketers around the impending death of third-party cookies next year, the common sentiment is that “interoperability is key” for making alternative identifiers work for the masses. Even so, relying on first-party data is the option backed with the most optimism. 

“The future is not going to be a one-ID future,” said Shiv Gupta, founder and CEO of University of Digital, during the “Audience Solutions in an ID-Less World” session. “We’re going to have a patchwork of IDs so those IDs all need to play nice with each other and be able to be translated to one another for a marketer to do what they need to do across different publishers, different ecosystems, different devices, etc.” 

Leo O’Connor, svp of advertising for Paramount Advertising, echoed that sentiment: “Scale is really what matters and … I think we need to rewrite a little bit of the rules here of how we’re going to do this.”

However, Laura Knebusch, svp of CPG marketing and consumer experience at Georgia-Pacific, said that she feels OK about the removal of the third-party cookie from the Chrome browser next year because leaning on first-party data has provided her team with “more data at our fingertips than ever before.” 

While people spend a lot of time thinking about the tracking abilities that will be lost, taking the time to centralize all of Georgia-Pacific’s first-party data into an accessible location to all of the marketing teams helped to make Knebusch’s team feel like the end of the third-party cookie won’t be ultimately disruptive to how they conduct their business.

Elsewhere from Advertising Week:

Coming up

10:00 Forget the CRO, the CMO’s best friend is the CFO, The Marketplace

10:50 Cracking the code of creative resonance and performance, The Great Minds Stage

11:20 Changemakers conversation: Gen Z and their CMO parents, The Marketplace

1:20 The hot buttons of agency leaders, The Marketplace

2:00 Building purpose-driven brands in toxic social media landscapes, The Marketplace

3:30 Transforming advertising via first-party data, The Tech Lab

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