Punching up: How smaller publishers can compete with the Condés

Great audience data is the key to the marketing kingdom. Big publishers have oceans of the stuff. Take Condé Nast, which just bought big data outfit 1010data in a $500 million dollar deal that lets the high-end publisher plant a flag squarely in the tech world. Of course, we can’t all be Condé.

Still, even mid-sized publishers know their data is gold – and that they’ve got to have the capacities to handle it right. The big play looks like this: a publisher talks up its ability to deliver precise audience segments using the perhaps millions of consumer profiles in its database. A brand wants access to those segments. The result is a marketing marriage of convenience. The brand gets the eyeballs it’s looking for. The publisher gets a chance to compete with Facebook or Google in the people-based marketing game those giants have been dominating.

But how can a not-Condé get from here to there? Use this four-step plan to ensure your clients’ precious ad spend brings maximum results and repeat IOs.

Step one: Gather the people you need
That’s right: people. “Set it and forget it” is a slogan for coffee machines. You’ll need an audience team that enjoys the confidence of the C-suite, naturally. But you’ll also need a leader with deep skills in both IT and marketing, as knowing just one or the other doesn’t cut it anymore. Team members themselves need to have noses for how to follow data to the far end of the rainbow, where the pot of gold awaits them. The audience team, from the top on down, should also follow a set of process and work-flow principles that will guide decisions on how to apply data. More on these below.

Step two: Plan your attack
Those principles are designed to ease decision-making and action. Say an RFP comes in. A dedicated audience team member fields it, deciding which consumer segments to best target given the client’s goals. Then she works with her sales team, which will hammer out the financial details and close the deal.

The job doesn’t end there, though. Once the campaign is live, the team continuously checks performance and makes optimization recommendations to the client. Maybe the client is targeting people who have shown interest in healthy living. During the campaign new data indicates that “parents” are a highly engaged subsection of these health enthusiasts. Time to shift a portion of ad spend towards people interested in family health and away from singles, no? Maybe tweak the creatives to appeal to kid-owners a bit?

Make sure the team is integrated, with each member knowing enough of the entire process to make sure that the process goes smoothly, from RFP, to IO close, to optimization, to campaign wrap-up.

Step three: Use the right tools
A successful carpenter needs the right tools. So do you. An integrated data and ad-serving infrastructure is obviously key. You don’t want to be spending time wading into data investigations to figure out what went wrong or working with duct tape and baling wire to get various point solutions to work together on the fly. The proper tools allow for scalability upwards and precise segmentation downwards. The point is to free humans to do the creative analytical tasks that the machines can’t.

Step four: Repeat
Now we’ve got the right team, the right internal work processes, and the right infrastructure and tools. All of which has allowed us to get down to the important business of interpreting the data available at our fingertips. And in that we’ve got one goal: to make money for our clients. And since we’ve reacted in real time to the challenges we’ve encountered, we’ll be in a better position when we do all this again – using the precious resource of data to achieve maximal results.


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