Getting the joke

“But why is this important?”

When we encounter a fashion, a film or some other cultural artifact that the critical establishment has celebrated, it’s easy to not understand it.

Taste, after all, is unevenly distributed.

But you don’t have to like something to understand why someone else thought it was important.

To move the culture forward, we need to have the empathy to imagine what others are seeing, liking and talking about.

Once you get the joke, you don’t have to laugh at it, but it definitely makes it easier for you to tell the next one.

What Are Google Discovery Ads, and Do They Work?

Paid SEM advertisers have often resorted to Google’s Display Network for awareness campaigns designed to grow the top of the funnel. The problem many advertisers run into when doing this is that the quality of traffic can be questionable at best and dismal at worst. Some of this is to be expected when expanding advertising outside of search; you’re less likely to show an ad to someone lower down the funnel with less reliable intent signals than a search query. Your site usage metrics aren’t going to be as good as they are in your paid search campaigns. However, it can be deflating to an advertiser to browse through their display placement report and see a majority of the domains and mobile apps showing up to be irrelevant and spammy-looking.

Realizing this, Google sought a solution that would allow advertisers to use more robust, visually appealing display ad units and keep them on properties that were more likely to attract a higher-quality, or at least more reliable, user. In doing so, Google created campaigns for a new ad unit they called Discovery ads. These ad units were designed to fit a mobile-friendly environment and appear only on three apps owned by Google: Gmail, YouTube, and the Google app.

Image courtesy of Google

How Discovery Ads Work

Discovery ads work similar to responsive display ads in that you, as the advertiser, provide Google with a series of images (including your company logo), headlines, and description lines that Google then automatically rotates through to find the best-performing combinations. The difference with Discovery ads is that these ad units are designed specifically for three Google-owned mobile apps and tailored to be aesthetically congruent with them. For example, Google has more stringent image guidelines for Discovery ads meant to encourage a higher-quality standard of lifestyle and product images.

Once an ad unit is created, you can target it to your specified audiences. These audiences can be as broad and as simple as an interest target or an in-market segment Google provides for you. They can also be more complex or specific such as a remarketing list or a custom intent audience. You then finalize your other settings as you would any other campaign (location, ad schedule, etc.) and select an automated bidding strategy to use. Discovery campaigns allow you to use a pay-per-conversion model if your account has the required conversion data, which is another way to help ensure you don’t overspend on these ads in the long term.

Results You Can Expect

With every instance a Discovery campaign runs, results will be unique to any given account. However, there are three things we’ve learned to expect:

  1. While Google does not explicitly divulge metrics by app, you can assume an overwhelming majority of impressions and clicks from these ads will come from the Gmail app.In this sample, out of 210,054 users who visited the site from a Discovery ad, 208,859 came from GMail, compared to 1,260 came from YouTube.In this sample, out of 210,054 users who visited the site from a Discovery ad, 208,859 came from GMail, compared to 1,260 came from YouTube.
  2. Once a user clicks through these ads, on-site usage metrics are typically comparable or better-than-average versus other incoming traffic from display channels.In this sample data set, users who clicked through Discovery ads visited 1.22 pages per session, which was the median pages/session for all display campaigns.In this sample data set, users who clicked through Discovery ads visited 1.22 pages per session, which was the median pages/session for all display campaigns.
  3. Using a remarketing list as your audience will typically give you the best chance at producing (relatively) high conversion metrics.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to grow the top of the funnel through display advertising and have been discouraged from previous efforts using standard display ad units or tactics, give Google Discovery ads a try. They’re not going to magically solve all of your outbound marketing needs, but they’ve proven to us they can be an effective high-funnel tactic that helps drive your desired KPI results beyond just going after more cheap traffic.

The post What Are Google Discovery Ads, and Do They Work? appeared first on Portent.

Questions for the founder

A friend shared a new business idea with me yesterday. Some business model questions came to mind, asked here rhetorically. If you get them right, everything else is easier:

How will you get new paying customers?

Why will your paying customers tell their friends and colleagues?

Will this business work at a scale that you can both achieve and are happy living with?

Is it easy to start?

If it is, what will keep others from starting it?

How do you avoid a race to the bottom where you’re trapped making a cheap commodity as a middleperson?

Will it get easier as you go? Why?

What incentive do customers have to stick with you instead of switching to a cheaper or more convenient choice?

Businesses that are cheap to start, depend on providing a useful service at a cheap margin and are largely fungible or invisible are often difficult to turn into thriving enterprises. Customer traction, the network effect and emotional connection can change this, particularly if you build them in from the start.


Clear Thinking in an Age of Confusion

[Viali di Circoncallazione, Modena*] “I’ll know it when I see it.” How many times have you heard your client or manager say or imply something to this effect? We do it, too. Most of the time, you’re also looking for something without knowing exactly what it is. All you and your client or manager are trying to do is to get a job done. Whatever fills the role with the least pain and the most gain wins. The two canonical examples of the Jobs to be Done thinking are: 1) drilling a hole, which focuses the question not on the…

The absurdity of a Scrabble hierarchy

People who are very good at Scrabble are not more kind, better judges of character, more facile with soft skills, better long-term thinkers, more fun at parties or much of anything except good at Scrabble.

Of course we don’t decide on who should have positions of authority or who should be trusted based on their skill at Scrabble. It’s simply a game.

Perhaps the same could be true for beauty, celebrity or the acquisition of wealth.

Building Great Brand-Agency Relationships

Brand-agency relationships thrive when both parties are ready to push each other towards a mutually agreed-upon outcome.

When built well, these relationships can flourish into truly meaningful work that both the brand and the agency are proud of.

Easy in principle. Hard to do in practice.

If you’ve been on the agency or brand side for any notable amount of time, you probably have a story about relationships eroding and unraveling quickly. Objectives get murky or completely lost. The agency can’t follow through or meet the expectations they sold their capabilities on. The client can’t follow through or meet the expectations they agreed to when the work began. Outside factors like current events, competitors, and technology dictate changes that neither party could foresee.

At Portent, when we dissect our strongest client engagements, we find a handful of shared principles that seem to be ever-present. When we look back at relationships that went sour (yes, it happens here too from time to time), we find that those same cornerstones are waning or absent.

Successful brand-agency engagements happen when:

  • Both parties share a mutually agreed-upon desired outcome
  • The client can hold the agency accountable to the work sold
  • The agency can hold the client accountable to the work dependencies

I’ll detail how to approach all three of these principles, so whether you are on the agency or brand side, you’ll be armed with how to set yourself up for success in your next engagement.

Up next: How to Set and Maintain Meaningful Marketing Goals.

The post Building Great Brand-Agency Relationships appeared first on Portent.

How to Set and Maintain Meaningful Marketing Goals

If you’re signing on with an agency, you’re hopefully entering the engagement with some kind of goal already in mind.

More traffic, more revenue, and lower cost are common places where our discovery calls begin. That’s not a bad start. But setting a meaningful goal or set of goals for an engagement is essential for both the agency being contracted and the brand hiring the agency.

When goal-setting goes right, both parties have a north star to point to as they work to set and meet expectations. When that central point of focus is absent or misaligned, you can bet that one side of the relationship will be left unfulfilled.

Both the agency and the brand must commit to meaningful goal setting for their work together. This should happen before any work begins and should be continuously refined over the entire course of a brand-agency engagement.

Here’s how to get it right.

Identify the Most Important Outcome

Marketing outcomes typically fall into three buckets:

  • Volume-based (like site visitors or revenue changes)
  • Efficiency-based (like conversation rate or cost per acquisition changes)
  • Functionality-based (think site migrations or usability-focused work)

Identify the single most important outcome as it relates to your engagement. The desired outcome must be relevant, realistic, and measurable. Missing any one of those pieces will strain both the work and the relationship.

The desired outcome identified must be relevant to the work scoped; alignment there is crucial. Can the work scoped actually drive the desired outcome? If the answer is ‘no,’ adjust the work scoped or your desired outcome.

When performance, budget, and turnaround time expectations don’t align, realistic outcomes slip away. It’s on both the brand and the agency to meet in the middle to align on what’s realistic. Agencies: if what you’re signing up for isn’t realistic, don’t take on the work. Stepping away or rescoping will save you a ton of time and energy.

After identifying a relevant and realistic outcome, ensure that you can measure progress accurately. Measurement difficulty varies based on the work. It can be as simple as following a linear timetable, or it can be as intricate as building proper attribution for online and offline consumers across a variety of marketing channels and devices. Either way, make sure there is a proper plan to collect and interpret data.

Creating relevant, realistic, and measurable projections will start to mold a solid top-level outcome, but setting a relative performance component clarifies the goal further. Couple your desired result with a relative parameter like:

  • Period over period time comparisons (YoY, QoQ, MoM)
  • Static checkpoints
  • Industry benchmarks

When the desired outcome is paired with a relative parameter, you’ve got a clear endpoint to carry the working relationship forward.

Identifying a core outcome isn’t a major feat to write home about, but we often see marketers on both the brand and agency side set and agree to irrelevant, unachievable, and unmeasurable goals. Those missteps end in relationship and engagement turmoil.

Relevant, realistic, and measurable is the key to all of it. If you can’t come to an agreement here, the relationship doesn’t stand a chance.

Identify Secondary Metrics

Secondary metrics act as indicators towards your top-level outcome.

Looking higher in the marketing funnel or towards acquisition and behavior results, as primary desired outcomes tend to be conversion-based, is a good place to find secondary metrics. Timelines as milestones serve as good checkpoints for project-based linear work.

These are the trigger points where marketers can see how their smaller wins level up to impact the larger picture. Similar to your core desired outcome, they must be relevant, realistic, and measurable.

Once you’ve set those metrics for success, think about how to build effective dashboards to tell the story.

Set a Timeline

Assign a timeline to your top-level desired outcome. Just like the outcome identified, your timeline needs to be relevant, realistic, and measurable.

The relevance and measurability is pretty straightforward here, but the timeline for the work needs to be realistic. And there must be alignment between the agency and brand on what’s realistic. Budget and turnaround times are the usual culprits that impinge on realistic expectations.

Relationships fail when partners on either end of the engagement aren’t honest about getting the work done on a realistic timeline. For each party to get the most from each other, timelines should be mutually agreed to, not dictated by a singular party.

Get Buy-in From the Top

At this point, the brand-agency partnership should be aligned with a nice, neat, top-level desired outcome, a handful of secondary checkpoints, a clear tracking plan, and a timeline for the outcome to be achieved.

It always works nicely and neatly like that, right?

Getting buy-in from top-level decision-makers is the last step before your work should kick-off. And that buy-in should come from leaders on both the agency and brand side. Priorities will always shift during the course of an engagement. But if true buy-in comes from an executive level, you’ll start your engagement in a better place.

Get sign-off on your desired outcome, timeline, and budget before any work begins.

Once that’s done, it’s time to jump in.

Report and Course-Correct

Once you’re into the engagement, all work should tie back to the primary and secondary desired outcomes and metrics.

Work roadmaps, deliverables, meetings, and reports should all focus on how the work influences the desired outcomes. When priorities shift, course-correct to what builds your outcome most effectively.

Brands and agencies working together can often lose sight of the outcome they set off to reach. Identifying that the work is shifting away from the desired outcome is crucial. When it does, make sure to go back to the top to clarify or set a new course if needed.

Over the course of an engagement, factors always change. Budgets, technology for measurement, timelines, and buy-in constantly push and pull on each other. Through that, those leading the brand and agency engagement have to stay aligned on a clear outcome. When that happens, strong brand-agency engagements can establish meaningful marketing goals, refine strategy into actionable tactics, maintain the agility to course-correct, and set themselves up in the best way to hit desired outcomes.

Up next: How Clients Can Hold Their Agencies Accountable.

The post How to Set and Maintain Meaningful Marketing Goals appeared first on Portent.

Producing a Virtual Event

In this video, the final episode in a series of four, I interview TJ Martin, CEO at Cramer, a virtual event studio in Boston on how to make virtual events great. We discuss how to choose a platform to host a virtual event, how to work with a professional studio, and how much these elements should cost.

Are you a marketer?

Do you try to persuade people of your point of view?

Do you interact with customers? (Or patients, subscribers, fans or citizens)…

Are you a designer?

Would life be easier if your boss understood you better?

Is there a policy you’d like to change or a candidate you’d like to help elect?

Are you hoping to make things better?

Then you’re a marketer.

Proud of it.

Might as well learn to do it better. Because the work matters.

Today’s launch day for the tenth session of The Marketing Seminar. It’s the most effective, widely proven and popular workshop of its kind. I hope you’ll check it out. (Today’s the best day to look for the purple circle). It’s our last session of the year, and this is a great time to join in. That link gets you a significant time-sensitive discount at checkout.

So far more than 10,000 people in nearly a hundred countries have shown up and connected, contributed and learned to improve their craft.

We’d love to have you join us. (Check out what nearly 100 alumni had to say).

Blow Up Your Corp Comms

The world we knew at the start of 2020 longer exists. Covid has disrupted how we work, live, and learn, and the only certainty about the future is that we’re not returning to the past.

Therefore, it’s the perfect time to disrupt how your company (and how you) communicate.

No, it’s past time, and it’s not an opportunity, it’s a requirement. Your stakeholders require novel approaches, and your management wants better ideas that cost less money.

So, here are 5 ways you could disrupt what you do:

The Gauntlet To Mediocrity