Simpli.fi’s Performance Marketing

A Conversation with James Moore, Simpli.fi’s Chief Revenue Officer
 


 

Transcript

 
David McBee:
joining us on the second Monday of each month for industry news, interviews, product roll outs, and training on all things related to targeted advertising and connected TV. And if you missed us live, you can visit the webinar’s page of our website or request access to BULLSEYE, our learning management platform for all of our previously recorded episodes and other valuable resources.

It’s April 2022 and this month I am speaking with Simpli.fi’s Chief Revenue Officer, James Moore. James has volunteered to talk to us today about performance marketing, specifically how attribution is the key to measuring return on ad spend, ROAS, and how Simpli.fi is an industry leader for advertisers who are using attribution as part of their performance marketing campaigns. James, thank you for joining us today.

James Moore:
Yeah, I’m coming to your life from Phoenix, Arizona, and happy to be here.

David McBee:
Awesome. All right. Now James, before we dive into things, I’d just like our listeners to know just a tiny little bit about who you are. Can you briefly share with folks what it is you do here at Simpli.fi?

James Moore:
Sure. I’m the Chief Revenue Officer here at Simpli.fi. So my title and a quarter will get you a phone call at most pay phones. But that basically means I lead the sales organization. And when I started in this company 11 years ago, we had three sales people, East, West, and Central. Today we’ve got a rather large sales organization and we support a very diverse set of customers that include brands, agencies and of course media groups who represent our products as part of their stack in the marketplace. And so I lead the sales organization and I’m actively involved in sales calls and obviously trying to learn myself as well as communicate what I know.

David McBee:
Thank you, James. All right. Now let’s talk performance marketing. Now, so that we’re all on the same page, I’m going to start by defining the term. Performance marketing is as it sounds. It’s marketing based on performance, specifically some kind of action that can be measured. And it’s normally associated with online sales, but it could also be applied to other desired results like web visits or lead generation or even foot traffic. And it’s definitely not a new term. And it’s often tied with social media and other paid search. But James, what would you say about performance marketing and the role it plays in the world of programmatic or what I like to call targeted advertising?

James Moore:
Yeah. I mean, in my experience over the last 11 years and actually predating here at Simpli.fi is that almost all forms of advertising is somebody basically selling a product, a service or point of view. And I think most people would expect that they want the consumer to exhibit some sort of behavior after being exposed to that message, whether it’s calling their business or visiting their website or making a purchase or completing a lead form, or just generally walking outside and telling your neighbor and say, “Did you see that?” because they’re trying to increase the brand. And so people expect marketing to perform.

Programmatic advertising, by definition, I think really has been a catalyst in converting what has been largely a branding exercise and bringing all media closer towards performance marketing or the belief that you can measure to a specific outcome, most notably because the whole idea of programmatic is that you’re buying one ad impression at a time. And then based on the performance of that ad impression, you’re determining whether you want to buy a second impression for that consumer or for that publisher based on whether you got the return or expected outcome from that particular impression and then modifying your purchase behavior for all future impressions. So by definition, programmatic is performance-based advertising even when it’s being applied to branding-based campaigns, because we’re be given a very finite budget and a specific audience to target in a sea of people and we’re trying to pick and choose the advertising impressions that are going to result in the kind of outcome that an advertiser wants. By definition, that means every impression needs to perform better than it would if we were to just buy an impression as a run of network.

David McBee:
Performance marketing is often tied with, like I said earlier, ROAS or return on ad spend. So what would you consider the process for determining if a digital ad campaign is truly performing and providing that positive return on ad spend, James?

James Moore:
Well, I would just say when it comes to return on ad spend, there’s many different definitions to performance market and ad spend. And by the way, we hear CPA or cost per acquisition. We hear CPL, cost per lead, often associated with form fill. Return on ad spend, which is typically associated with one of those, is a direct divisible, like what did we generate is a direct result of the dollar spent to equate to an equation of return on ad spend. But it’s a complex issue that it can be misunderstood at the point of sale.

For instance, somebody may associate a single value, a single cart value or user value associated with a transaction happening on a site and whether they attribute that to the impression and divide it by the amount of dollars you spend. Others may be looking at the actual credit card swipe or transaction value of that cart so it becomes quite a variable number where the value of an individualized response to an advertise varies sharply from consumer to consumer. Somebody bought $5,000 worth of a product versus somebody who bought five dollars’ worth of a product, and then capturing that and divided that back into basically the ad spend.

And then there’s, of course, this complex landscape of how do we know that even though you served an impression of somebody that it genuinely was the reason or one of the reasons why they actually took that action? And you get into a complex discussion about attribution windows, whether somebody took an action within an hour or a day or two days or a week or three weeks of being served in an ad impression, whether somebody clicked on an ad unit and therefore that we should receive credit versus being exposed to an ad unit and whether they should receive credit.

And so I think part of the issue here is that when you get into performance marketing, digital media, it forces you to have a very intellectual dialogue with your consumer about what they frame to be a conversion event or a business outcome, what context are they processing that through, what are they comparing it against. And at the point of sale, the average salesperson can win or lose a deal based on having a clear understanding of these things and not being afraid to push back if maybe the client’s particular position is misaligned with what your technology can do.

David McBee:
It really comes down to the conversation with the advertiser and understanding their goals, doesn’t it?

James Moore:
No, I think it does. And I don’t think any advertising happens in a vacuum. I mean, we are obviously in programmatic digital advertising. But if you get to talk about the average brand, they’ve got a big budget and that big budget’s going through a number of channels in order to achieve an outcome. It could be a combination of linear buys. It could be a combination of traditional media, terrestrial radio, print and then, of course, there’s digital channels to include programmatic advertising, social and any number of things. And this is a cocktail to create an outcome. And I think what a lot of performance marketers are generally trying to get their hands on is the incrementality of when I spend additional ad dollars on any particular media source, what transactions or business outcome or visitors or sales or leads am I getting that is generally incremental because I added you to this otherwise known cocktail?

I mean, at the end of the day, I can show an ad to somebody. They can receive that ad and then come to the site and take action. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t also exposed to the linear TV ad in the same household or that they didn’t also get a direct mail piece in the mailbox. And so I think marketers are playing with scenarios and have different fundamental core beliefs and tips and tricks that have worked for them or that they’ve been taught about how they should structure their campaigns, their dollars and their vendor choices to try to isolate and identify the incrementality of what you’re providing in terms of impact.

In fact, I would say one of the core reasons, the way we built our foot traffic attribution the way we did is we have this ability, of course, to build geofences and to target individualized households. And then we’re measuring the natural rate of visitation from those households to the locations we’re measuring. And then we’re measuring the rate of which those are exposed to ads. We’re measuring whether it’s the first time somebody’s been at that location in the last 30 days or whether it’s a repeat visit. So we’re trying to provide dynamic metrics by which you can understand the incrementality or lift associated with the ad impressions when in fact those users may be exposed to a broad range of things that you might be doing and with your marketing budget.

David McBee:
That inspires me to ask you about last touch attribution. I know you wrote an article 100 years ago about last touch attribution. What are your thoughts on that as it pertains to performance marketing?

James Moore:
Well, I would say it’s like everything else, it would be all about defining what do you mean by last touch? Do you mean last touch as in I served an ad and the last person to click on an ad unit? Do you mean the last person to get an actual impression in front of some consumer? One argument would be perhaps the first touch matters. If there’s a series of sequential messaging that’s taken place over a series of creatives over a series of devices over a bunch of different mediums, was it the first ad impression that started the consideration cycle or was it the very last one that started the consideration cycle?

One of the things I just kind of caution consumers on when I’m engaging these conversations is that there’s a consequence for every decision. And whenever the consequence, for instance, is last touch, you’re basically communicating to all vendors who are utilizing your advertising dollars to do whatever is necessary to try to manipulate the frequency, the timing and the position in those ad units in order to look the best in an otherwise flawed system when logically, we all know that it’s not just a single impression that triggers a response.

A consideration for this would be site retargeting. I think people would associate site retargeting, particularly dynamic site retargeting, with direct response. You visit a website, you look at a product, maybe you even put it in your cart, you leave. The next thing you know, you serve an ad to that consumer and at some point between the ad impression and the actual purchase, they come back to the website and they basically take action and they decide to make that purchase. Maybe they clicked on the ad unit and came back to it, or maybe they were exposed to the ad unit and said, “Hey, let me go back to that.” Or maybe they were always going to buy it no matter what and they simply got distracted by something or they had to go talk it over with somebody and they were going to come back whether you served them an ad or not.

But at some point, as you get further down that consideration funnel, it’s kind of like the rooster taking credit for the sun coming up. I mean, you’re getting way down there where you start to blend advertising with organic intent. And so I would just say, last touch is a methodology. I still think it’s important if that’s what you’re going to do, that we understand that upfront, that you understand the implications of how we’re going to set up the campaign associated with that expectation. And I would still argue that if it’s a video or a display or a native or now an audio ad impression, that it’s going to have to contain some form of impression-based attribution window because the vast majority of the value in the advertising, unless it is search, is going to be non-click based.

And we just have to assume and communicate that we are on the same page around the value of an impression-based conversion, if it’s happening within a certain attribution window, which by the way, we can control here at Simpli.fi. We can set an attribution window at 30 days and I can say anybody exposed to an ad who then takes an action such as making a purchase on the website is a conversion. But if you could say to me, well, James, we really think it’s a three day conversion window or a five day conversion window. Well, I can serve an ad, show you the total number of people who have been exposed to an ad who make a purchase on a website or fill out a lead form. And then I can show you a weighted conversion within that three day window or that five day window to tell you what weighted conversion is so that you can see that against the total.

Here’s the total value of what’s been produced from people who have been exposed to the ad and then here’s the value within the window that you’re considering, or that you’re assigning credit to so that we can have that kind of weighted discussion. Here’s what you wanted to see. Here’s how it’s calculated. Here’s the totality of what’s touching. And is there a value difference between the two?

David McBee:
I love that. That’s a brilliant solution that Simpli.fi offers. So what other solutions or features of Simpli.fi’s technology would you like to talk about that are relevant to advertisers interested in performance marketing and measuring ROAS?

James Moore:
Well, I mean, I would just say the thing about performance marketing and ROAS in general is that we control the ad impressions that are being bought based on the data that’s being communicated to us, with the creative that’s being loaded and the measurement that you intend by which to judge the success of the campaign. These are all, frankly, just individualized components of the campaign.

Other things that really a sales rep needs to consider, for example, is what is the process that you are actually dropping a consumer into? And what is the impact that plays on the conversion rate? I’ll give you a perfect example. I’ve been in more than one conversation, for instance, in the automotive field and I know a lot of our clients have as well where they’re talking, for instance, to an auto dealer or auto dealer groups where they’re going to say, for instance, the goal here is to serve advertising and to measure to somebody filling out a legitimate lead form to be contacted by a salesperson from my car dealership. And so we’re going to judge you based on a pixel firing that they completed this lead form.

And I would say, okay, that’s great. That’s a good direct response goal. Except, by the way, I went to your website and I got three lines into completing it and the world’s fastest chat operator interrupted the process and tried to hijack me out of that form and into a chat conversation. So I’m bringing them to the form by which you’re measuring me and then you’re actively trying to get them to not complete the form and to engage with you in a chat conversation where the advertising’s not getting any credit. Now, logically we’re delivering the traffic by which the chat operator is then initiating a conversation. That has to be accounted for in this conversation or you are misrepresenting and mismeasuring and misunderstanding the impact that this advertising is having. And I would just say that’s just one example.

I mean, if somebody had a simple three step process by which you can make a purchase or complete a lead form, and then alternatively, they had a five page process where they’re asking for tons of PII information and it takes a long time to go through that process, there’s no amount of creative, there’s no amount of targeting and there’s no amount of measurement that’s going to rescue a bad intake process. And so a direct response marketer typically is going to understand that. They typically will have optimized that. But it’s shocking how many people really haven’t actually optimized that and how oftentimes you just have to confront that issue.

I would also say creative is a strong consideration here. One creative may perform better than another creative. One message may perform better than another message. One offer may perform better than a different offer. And so the ability to AB test different messaging and creatives, I think is something that probably is underappreciated and underutilized in the concept of a programmatic advertising, because we can deliver the right ad to the right consumer. But in large part that creative is sending the message. And so that creative really needs to be looked at to say, is it driving the behavior that you want? And how can that particular message be adjusted to drive a different outcome? So these are just some of the things that are top of mind.

David McBee:
Yeah. That reminds me of a quote I heard from one of our intelligent developers or someone who was running campaigns. Many years ago, they told me creative is the number one element that can make an ad campaign sink or swim. And usually we don’t have much control over the creative, so I’m glad you brought that up.

James Moore:
Yeah.

David McBee:
You’ve kind of already touched on this a little bit, but what are some of the other mistakes that you see people make when they’re running performance marketing campaigns?

James Moore:
Well, I mean, so I do think I’ve touched on a lot of this. So I’m trying to think if there’s anything incremental that I can add to the conversation. But I would say that as a programmatic media buy-in platform, all signals are not created equal. So part of the beauty of Simpli.fi is our ability to work with unstructured audience data to try to drive greater value out of this idea of taking data or behavior associated with audiences to define whether that consumer is the consumer we want to get that impression in front of.

And I like to use the example oftentimes of a jeweler. You could go buy a prebuilt jeweler segment. It would be easy to just go grab one or more segments of people who are in the market to buy jewelry. The problem is if you talk to any jeweler, they would tell you that if they have a customer that’s looking for a diamond engagement ring, that they make a lot of money on that diamond. That’s an incredibly valuable customer to them. But if they, for instance, have somebody who’s looking for a class ring, they make almost no money on a class ring. In fact, they don’t even want to carry those things in the store. And they carry it because they hope that when you come in to buy one, you bring your parents and they’re going to see something else that they can sell you.

So when you grab a segment and you bid on that segment with one price, at the end of the day, when you bid up that segment, you’re overpaying for the worst data in the segment. And when you bid it down, you’re now underpaying for the best data in the segment. And all signals are not created equal. So one of the beautiful parts about Simpli.fi is to kind of say, look, yes, I’m looking for jewelry intenders. That’s my direct response goal. I’m a jewelry company. I need to sell jewelry, but guess what? Not all signals are created equal. These signals are where I make more money. This is where I need to win a higher share of voice. These signals are where I make less money. This is where it’s okay to take a long tail approach.

And we can upload 10,000 keywords with 10,000 individualized bids to essentially account for that. Or we know that people are more likely to convert at your physical location based on proximity to your business. So can we adjust our bid rate or the share of voice that we would win associated with the proximity to your location and the further you are, the more long tail we would go or the different creative message we would serve. These are all things that are just variables that exist within the system that when you start to think about it, we have recency. We have bidding. We have unstructured capabilities. And you can really get in there and do some quite nuanced things, either through creative design or frankly, our system is designed to do this all automatically.

And that’s the beauty of multivariate, computational bidding or decile bidding, which is you’re dealing with thousands of variables. If you give me a clean goal, a clear measurement, a good creative and a nice intake process, the system will do all of this for you, take your feedback that you provide us into account and find ways to get you the best possible performance, as fast as we can in the campaign to maximize your return on ad spend. And that’s the beauty of automation in this process.

David McBee:
I can’t believe here we are, 11 years later, we’re still just so fired up about individual keywords in a campaign. I still think that’s just super cool.

James Moore:
Yeah. I would just add to that that data is data. And over time, we’ve collected tons of data associated with website behavior. And then we began collecting tons of location-based data as the world went mobile and people started using smartphones and the usage of apps. And of course, now we have just tons of household level data and offline data associated with credit bureaus and a number of sources that we’re mapping to not only individual identifiers, but the household level identifiers, which are essentially segments of one. And so there’s this broad range of data. And data is just data. And I always use the example, if I searched on the keyword kitty litter, I would naturally get put into a segment that says I’m a pet owner or a cat owner. But in fact, I grew up in Texas and my dad said if I had an oil stain in the driveway, use kitty litter to soak up the oil stain and maybe I don’t own a pet at all.

And the problem with any kind of segment mentality is that it’s institutionalized stereotyping and sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s wrong. And so the whole premise of programmatic advertising is buying one ad impression at a time. But we still have this legacy approach of buying audiences in bulk. If we can take the process of buying ad impressions one at a time and then buying data one at a time and combine the granularity of the inventory buying with the granularity of the insight around the data that’s being used in the segment, then by definition, we should be able to create better performance faster on fewer impressions with less waste and greater insight than you would in a segment dependent system.

Our entire business is built around the hallmark of that. Keywords is just one of the data signals across tons of data signals all designed to accomplish the same thing. So Simpli.fi has been at the heart of performance marketing since 2010. And we’re more excited than ever because more and more, what was branding is increasingly becoming held accountable to business outcomes and standards. It’s CMOs are basically being held accountable by CEOs and boards for every ad dollar that they put into the marketplace. And so by definition, all dollars are increasingly becoming performance. And as it becomes increasingly performance, programmatic becomes increasingly important because it was built for that purpose.

David McBee:
Awesome stuff. All right. Now, I can’t let this webinar end without us having a conversation about television and the world of performance marketing in television. And I know Simpli.fi is doing some amazing things in that realm, and I’m going to let you talk to that. But I do want to ask you, this year Simpli.fi acquired CoreMedia. They’re a leader in direct response television. Now, how does that dovetail into everything that we’ve been talking about today?

James Moore:
Simpli.fi really began as a demand side platform. I think our vision is really to evolve into an advertising automation solution in the marketplace, which is a more complete workflow solution for our broad range of clients who are buying across multiple media types to include programmatic advertising. And to that end, we’ve made some investments. CoreMedia happened to be one of them. CoreMedia is the nation’s leading direct response linear buying software in the marketplace. The people who are using that software are buying billions of dollars in linear advertising, specifically for direct response advertisers, where they are serving television spots, national TV, national cable spots and then measuring real impact on consumer’s websites, on purchases, on phone calls within a few minutes of the ad air and within an hour of the ad air and so forth and so on.

And so their clients are already naturally aligned toward the concept of performance-based media. Traditional linear advertising has always been a concept where you’re curating inventory as a proxy to try to reach a certain audience. Well, performance advertising in a world of data is about curating audiences and having that dictate the content that you then serve across and then determining whether you want to buy another spot or another piece of advertisement based on whether it performs. So audience-based buying and inventory-based buying kind of converge and merge in that software and we all know what’s going to happen with linear advertising over the next 10 years, 15 years.

It’s not going anywhere in the near term. It’s got amazing branding power. It still has amazing reach, but increasingly select demographics continue to sever the cord, continue to become unreachable. So obviously anybody who’s leaning on the scale and mass of linear to drive direct response outcomes is going to have to begin co-mingling those buys with digital or connected TV buys. They’re going to want to plan on those things together. They’re going to want to execute on those things together. They’re going to want to measure on those things together. And by acquiring the CoreMedia software, it puts us kind of in a front row seat to begin having dialogues with advertisers who are buying both digital and traditional media such as linear to develop the kind of solutions that they want to see for planning and attribution in order to produce a better outcome with easier workflow than they might otherwise do in it by buying them separately.

David McBee:
Very exciting time. I’m so excited to see where we go with CTV. Well James, thank you very much. This was great information as you always provide for us. I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom with us today. Thank you.

James Moore:
Yeah. Thank you, David.

David McBee:
And thank you listeners for joining us today. We appreciate you joining us and wanting to learn about Simpli.fi and how we can help you and your advertiser leverage performance marketing tactics for positive return on your ad spend. We’ll let you get back to your day.

If you have questions about Simpli.fi’s offerings, please reach out to your Simpli.fi account manager or send an email to hi@simpli.fi. If you have questions about training, please send them to training@simpli.fi. And a copy of this webinar recording along with a complete transcript will be available in BULLSEYE as well as on Simpli.fi’s website at simpli.fi/webinars. Please join us on the second Monday of each month for the Simpli.fi Webinar Series. I’m David McBee, Director of Training. James, say goodbye to everybody.

James Moore:
Goodbye everybody.

David McBee:
You guys be awesome and we’ll see you next time.

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