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“We’re moving from precision to prediction”

So said Google’s Jo Baker discussing the future of marketing, and the future of brand building, in a disrupted future… The Campaign Breakfast Briefing is back – here are the best bits.

“We’re moving from precision to prediction”

“Brands want a combination of fame and first-party data.” Jason Spencer, business development director at ITV, explained the post-pandemic experience of media owners. “But for successful brand building it is all about delivering that performance. And successful activation is about delivering that performance too.”

As a cookieless future looms and the aftershocks of the pandemic continue, brand marketing is up the agenda once more: with old digital models and consumer habits breaking – what are you left with? “You cannot manage any brand unless you’re thinking about your core principles of distinctiveness; those basic principles of marketing,” said Simon Lloyd, chief marketing officer at IceLolly.com, a price comparison website. Continued below video.

These issues were central to the discussions at Campaign’s Breakfast Briefing held in Manchester’s Everyman Cinema in November, in partnership with MediaCom: Bridging the brand v performance divide, combining fame and first-party data. Through a series of short panel sessions, presentations and a fireside chat, an audience – thrilled to see each other in the 3D! – heard from a range of brand, agency and tech marketeers. Here are the key takeouts…

The brand-performance convergence… but not always
Luke Norman (pictured), head of digital at Specsavers, said that Specsavers does want to get to a place where brand and performance has a bridge between its divide but it “can be useful to have them split”. 

“We say this activity, using this budget, is about driving action and delivering on that CPA – and this activity is about delivering something different. Ideally we bring this together with one holistic measurement framework. At the moment we can’t. Looking at them slightly separately is not a good thing long-term but is useful today – because of the gaps we have.” 

This means, he added, that they avoid conflating metrics – “that’s our search-spend budget, that’s our brand awareness budget”. 

Geoff de Burca, chief strategy officer at MediaCom, said that although everything has changed – nothing has changed. The task of a good media planner is “how to maintain those brands”. Yes, the platforms may grow, but the principles of good marketing don’t: you need to balance value and vulnerability; build for the long term; understand the nuance of a sector.

Lloyd acknowledged that the pandemic has turned everything on its head, particularly for brands (like his) operating in the travel sector. “Brand is always king, you can’t manage any brands without your basic rules of branding.” 

He described how in the past, his platform competed through outbidding rivals. But that kept their exposure – a performance-driven exposure – purely online and limited. “TV has given us the opportunity to widen the audience. We could see some immediate returns – direct uplifts of 10-15%.” He said that the TV strategy was more than just fame, it widened that audience.

From what was – to what might be
Jo Baker (pictured), agency industry head (WPP), Google explained that, due to the end of the cookie, there’s been a brand obsession with first-party data strategies. “Investment in automation and machine learning has enabled brands, particularly in terms of measurement, to plug those gaps. We’re moving from a world of precision, with cookies everywhere, into a world of prediction. We’re working with brands to be comfortable with technology and its accuracy to build models of much smaller sets of data.”

“The google business plan for next year,” said Baker, “has two big priorities: how we work with brands on how we deliver durable, measurement solutions in a world of no cookies and also how brands can best use first-party data to grow their business.” 

She added that partners like MediaCom are central as they’re able to have a very consultative relationship with their clients, essential to spread Google’s message.


From left: Nick Henthorn; Nicola Marsh; Jo Baker; Gideon Spanier (Campaign UK editor in chief)

To measure is to collaborate
Advertisers need to know what’s going on – and this means better measurement but also better collaboration – Norman wanted to establish “three indicators” for activity and relies on his relationship with agency and tech partners for establishing split testing with controls to measure uplift. 

Nicola Marsh, managing director, MediaCom North & Google Practice UK, said that when it comes to first-party data media owners and publishers need to become strategic owners and consultants in the planning process. “That is key. Look at how we work with Google Maps and the success that’s delivered for our clients. The best relationships are where clients, publishers and agencies are all working together as one to deliver for clients. This is increasingly important.”

Same route, different trajectories
Clients are at very different points of the same journey, Baker said: “Some clients are very comfortable in the prediction space – they’re there. But the majority are at the beginning. It is really exciting and there is a huge opportunity. It is the topic of conversation.” 

Spencer (pictured) described the strategies of three leading supermarkets on ITV’s platform. They all had different aims, but three things underpinned them: fame, first-party data, measuring. And being creative and flexible was essential to balance and achieve their specific goals. Again, collaboration is essential: “This is not done in isolation.”

Data dump v data select
“Clients have always had a lot of data,” said Marsh – but it’s about questioning what is that data, what do we have access to, what is really important and what is the use-case. “How do we take that data and transfer it into activations that become meaningful.” 

Nick Henthorn, sales director on InfoSum, a privacy-first data-partner platform, said there has to be some form of identification for marketing to work. “So it’s about having the right tools at the right part of the process. But you don’t need lots of data. Quality is key, not quantity. Building a trusted relationship with your customer, capturing their data based on a premium value exchange and capturing the relevant behaviours that are going to drive personalisation – you as an organisation don’t have to have the complete answer.” Doing all this well can only build brand perception.

He explained that through collaboration you can start to understand more about your customer. Trusted collaboration means everyone doesn’t need to hold all the information on one single person. 

Baker added that you can do “a lot with very little” in terms of data nowadays. We have become obsessed with getting all the data – and we’ve not necessarily needed it. “We have to understand the value exchange.” And now machine learning can help you understand the value of your advertising as well as predict the future spend. 

The people are still the people
Katy Woodward (pictured), planning director, MediaCom North passionately implored us to remember that these data sets, this activity, the results of these strategies… are all about people. And people don’t operate in silos, they lead complicated lives integrated with technology. They’re happy for brands to use their data as long as there’s transparency and a value exchange. 

We need to be thinking about a “meaningful measurement framework”. We need to think people first; ensuring ethical and inclusive standards is fundamental. “As well as minimising data collection – where it’s useless or irrelevant.” We need to involve data experts.

“The future of planning is about breaking down those silos, not just between the data and sources but between the people.”

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