How do we spend more time on ideas, and less time on process? This was the challenge put to us in a recent discussion with a large global brand and its agency partners. The exciting part is that this is something the ad tech industry can deliver. Now is the time for the marketing world to embrace the benefits that cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) can offer. However, to maximise the potential of these technologies, customers need to know the right questions to ask their potential SaaS vendors.
During the past decade there has been an increasing use of software to help ‘manage’ the marketing process, mostly aimed at control. This has led to extra steps in the process rather than alleviating the pain points faced by marketing departments and agencies alike. Rather than simplifying it, this additional complexity has often complicated the traditional creative development and media buying process.
This complexity is best illustrated by the number of partners within the creative and media buying process that all play a role in the approval process. These include the lead creative agency, PR agency, media buyer, social media agencies, and in some cases the in-house digital campaign management teams, all of which are across multiple geographies.
In order to address the complexity, there are a number of solutions or tools that brands and agencies around the world are using to fulfill specific needs, including digital asset management, brand management, resource management, social media aggregation, programmatic buying platforms, production management, finance and purchase order approval systems, the list goes on. All of these systems can offer significant benefits to a brand or agency if implemented correctly. To ensure you find the best fit there are a few simple guidelines to consider when assessing potential software vendors before making a decision, cloud or otherwise.
Easy for everyone to use, globally
Choosing tools that are easy and intuitive to use for all people in the marketing process is the most critical factor. If it is not easy for everyone to use, including brand management, your agencies, and other suppliers, you will not get user adoption. And therefore you will not get valuable information as to what is happening in your world.
The people to consider in this process are not just your marketing teams, but also agency partners, production partners, social media suppliers and international teams. For example, if it takes too long for an international production partner to download a file on a local share drive, it will find a way around it; involving time and money, and often a system that you have no control over.
Alternatively, if a system is universally easy to use, you will get powerful information back as to what marketing is and is not working, and where you can improve. One large US-based studio learnt two things once it made it easy for the global production partners to upload local versions: first, that there was no need to create as many master trailers as it had previously; and second, through faster sharing they could reuse more content across geographies and departments.
The easier a tool is to use, the faster it will be implemented. Gone are the days of multimillion dollar implementations that require a large number of external consultants. Easy to use systems allow users to train themselves with limited assistance.
Sum of the parts is greater than the whole
The future is specialised, there is no longer one system that will fix all of your solutions; however, there are multiple tools that will ‘talk’ to each other (integrate through API) delivering even greater value on an ongoing basis. This gives you the best of both worlds: partners who are focused on value in their area of specialisation and a connected single system. You do not want your finance tool to manage your advertising assets, or your asset management to manage marketing automation. But you do want to know how many assets were used, and at what cost, automatically.
Highly customisable but low bespoke customisation
Is a ‘legacy system’ slowing down your processes, but too expensive to replace? This is where cloud-based solutions can help. Cloud solutions should allow you to customise without building bespoke features. Good vendors know that everyone is different so they build flexibility into their tools, without having to build a separate version of the system specifically for you. As a buyer, make sure you have the latest version of a system within days of everyone else. In IT speak, this is a ‘single global instance’.
This model will ensure you have a tool that is constantly upgraded based on input from the thousands of users just like you, customised to your needs, and most importantly, removes the need for large ‘upgrade fees’ in a year’s time.
Reporting and ‘contextual’ data analytics
Analytics should be at the core of any tool and more importantly it should happen as part of everyday use of the system. Making a process easier and requiring complex reporting should no longer be at odds. The information that is gathered in the different tools is still largely untapped by big companies and agencies, and collecting this data across systems should be core of any new process.
Importantly, the easier the tool is to use, the more data you will get – data that enables constant optimisation and flexibility in the way you operate. When this data is evaluated in the right context with an experienced eye, it has the ability to help deliver even greater insight.
It is critical to ensure your vendors do regular testing on their security by third parties. A lot of fear around cloud-based solutions remains unfounded. The surprising fact about the recent Sony Pictures hack was that it was systems that operated outside of the firewall that kept operating.
As boards and managers continue to ask for greater transparency on the impact of marketing and visibility across all forms of spend, the process of delivering this does not have to be painful or costly. It is firmly the responsibility of the ad tech industry to continue to collaborate and drive value for agencies and brands and, as a result, create greater efficiencies for the entire marketing ecosystem, giving brands and agencies more time for truly amazing ideas.