Alicia's Digital Marketing Framework

You have a number of options in digital marketing and as a result, you need a way to think about your approach. You need a framework. A framework is just a way to organize how you will do your marketing for your company, business, or client. There are a lot of ideas out there for how you should approach your marketing. You might have heard of the 4Ps

-Product

-Price

-Place

-Promotion

or  Avinash Kaushik’s Digital Measurement Model

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There are a number of marketing models or frameworks, but they all say essentially the same thing: get organized around what you're trying to accomplish.

The model or framework used often depends on the lens through which an organization or person sees marketing. Product marketers may have a different view than those who are branders than those who work in e-commerce.

In the end, though, whatever type of marketing you are doing, it's important to start with the big picture. In my teaching, I've come up with what I call a marketing map approach. You need all the pieces of the map to get where you're going.

The pieces are

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Most junior marketers dive into a specific component of the where - the channels - like Facebook or AdWords but have little insight into the rest of the components.

The problem is if the other pieces are not aligned, your work in channels can all be for naught.

The lesson is this: before you set out to market anything, make sure you have a marketing plan that incorporates each piece.

An Ad Network Story

When I started Consorte Media I talked a lot about how Hispanic marketing relied on anecdotal evidence as opposed to actual data. Now I have a different story to tell. I started Consorte Media in the closet of my one bedroom apartment in July 2005 and at the time I was solely focused on online lead generation. My first problem, however, was that my customers loved my leads and wanted more.

In the summer of 2005, if you entered a Spanish language search on Google in the U.S., more often than not, you got back English results. This meant that many people in the U.S. didn’t use search to find their Spanish media and instead went directly to Spanish language websites they knew of in the U.S. or Latin America. This also meant that the volume of Spanish language searches in the U.S. on Google at the time was low and therefore I was constrained in the number of leads I could generate via search. The alternative was to buy display media on the leading Spanish language publishers in the U.S., like Univision.com and AOL Latino, etc. The only problem was the cost of media on those sites was exorbitantly high. They were charging upwards of $25 CPMs at the time and I could not get the math to work to generate leads and not lose money on the deal. That’s what led me to uncover hundreds of websites in Spanish – from the very large to the very small – sites I had never heard of before I started my digging.

I started calling on these websites and would invariably end up on the phone with the CEOs or owners. These sites often did not have full-time web developers or webmasters much less ad sales teams. I started talking to these publishers about their problems.

This was the story they told: no one was calling on them to buy ads on their sites, their only monetization alternative was Google Ad Sense and that often resulted in English ads, their only alternative was large Latin American Ad Networks that only served ads to Latin American visitors and almost all CPA campaigns (remember those horrible flash smiley face ads? Then you know what they were contending with) or English Ad Networks in the U.S. who only served publishers with large amounts of traffic and of course, only served English language ads.

A lot has changed since those initial calls with publishers. First, a little history:

Two of the original ad networks in the Hispanic space were Click Diario (started in Guatemala in 2003) and Directa Networks. Both networks were focused on Latin America and mostly served CPA campaigns. In September 2005, ClickDiario was acquired by Livedoor and in June 2007 sold to Fox International Channels. Shortly after, it was merged with the purchase of Click Diario by Fox to create Punto Fox.

At around the same time (2003), in the U.S., the Hispanic Digital Network (HDN) was formed. HDN started out as a web development company and built websites for leading publishers. As part of their web development agreement with publishers HDN acquired a publisher’s advertising inventory. HDN itself was acquired by PR Newswire in 2008.

Then in 2004, Hispanoclick came along. Started by a husband and wife team in Canada (the wife is a Latina), Hispanoclick was also primarily focused on performance campaigns. Hispanoclick was acquired by Batanga at the end of 2007.

In 2006, Consorte Media purchased ad inventory on Directa, Click Diario, HDN and Hispanoclick in an attempt to drive leads. Finally, necessity being the mother of invention: the Consorte Media Ad Network was born in the spring of 2007.

When we started calling on publishers to join our ad network we heard more stories. Publishers were often locked up in year-long exclusive ad network agreements with ad networks that either didn’t provide campaigns at all or only rarely. These publishers were then justifiably skeptical about “ad networks” in general.

When we hit the advertiser circuit, we learned exactly why many of the early Hispanic ad networks had trouble – the shift to online advertising dollars was only barely starting to happen in the Hispanic market. A situation made worse by the fact that many Hispanic agencies at the time had not developed digital expertise and were focused only on television, radio or print.

So at the beginning there was a lot to overcome and a lot to balance. Since then we’ve switched ad servers (from Zedo to Right Media to DFP). We’ve had reporting issues and had to finally build our own system. We’ve had to create our own payment processing solution, which, as any ad network (general market ad networks, too) will tell you is terribly manual and involves a lot of juggling. We’ve been paid late by advertisers or not at all and had to pay publishers anyway. You get the picture. We made a lot of mistakes but we also learned a tremendous amount.

Since our entry there have been some general market ad networks that announced they were entering the space: for example, Glam Media and Gorilla Nation - only to pretty much abandon the efforts a year later. And of course, many of the large U.S. general market ad networks like Advertising.com and ValueClick started yelling, “Me, too!” in the advertising marketplace only to turn around and ask companies like Consorte Media to fulfill their campaigns.

After the advent of Adify – a company that licenses a packaged ad network infrastructure platform - some of the big publishers have jumped on the Ad Network bandwagon, like Orange/StarMedia, Terra (EZ Target) and Univision.com – each now touting their own ad networks.

Fox is still in the Hispanic Ad Network market, too but primarily focused on Latin America as opposed to U.S. Hispanic, as is Jumba. More recently, newer, smaller players have entered the U.S. Hispanic field like Hola Networks, Alcance (started by an ex-Consorte employee) and PulpoMedia (staffed with ex-Consorte employees). I actually get a kick out of the fact that some of these competitors have Consorte alums.

So a lot has taken place in the past few years. In essence, the Hispanic Ad Network market has evolved in a very similar manner to the U.S. general market ad network industry. Today, we’re definitely facing some of the same issues the U.S. general market is including the problem of several ad networks that are hard to differentiate.

Joe Kutchera recently wrote an article on Hispanic Ad Networks and left us off the competitive matrix. To give you a sense, Comscore has our reach at 2MM monthly unique visitors, Quantcast and our own servers show ten times that amount. Reach, however, is not what matters to publishers. Publishers care about eCPM. And frankly, reach is often not what matters to advertisers. Advertisers care about brand safety and thus, transparency – where is their ad going to show up and will they be happy it did.

The reality is that all of us say the same thing to attract publishers: we promise high eCPMs and leading advertisers. We say the same things to attract advertisers: we work with great sites, can target anything and everything everywhere, and have great reach. It’s difficult to stand out from a marketing viewpoint when we’re all basically doing the same thing: matching advertisers with publishers.

How to truly differentiate Hispanic Ad Networks? The proof, you see, is in the pudding.

I drive Lizie, Consorte’s head of Publishers, crazy when I tell publishers, “You don’t have to choose Consorte Media and you shouldn’t only choose Consorte Media.”

I tell publishers, “You want to run as many ad tags as possible and you’ll soon discover how we’re all different. Some networks mainly serve CPA campaigns, others promise high CPMs but only have campaigns intermittently, some guarantee a CPM but it’s low and fixed and requires guaranteed inventory, others simply do media buys on websites when they have the need for traffic – whatever their goal.”

One publisher we were trying to recruit called to tell me he was going to sign an exclusive deal with another network. I said, “That’s great but why would you sign an exclusive deal?” He said another network could guarantee a $0.40 CPM for 6 months if he guaranteed X impressions.

“Wow,“ I said, “That sounds interesting, but is that a gamble you want to make? Especially when you don’t have to?”

He paused and let out a big sigh of relief.

Turns out the ad network story is not that different from my original story: actual results matter. There’s no need to rely on anecdotal when you can test the offerings available to you.

At the end of the day, we are happy to have competition because the growth of the Hispanic Ad Network industry is important. It means the content gap that existed a few years ago is being filled and that’s a good thing for everyone. Today, when you search in Spanish on Google in the U.S. you don’t get English results. The more ad networks make monetization possible for the content creators focused on the Hispanic market – the better. The eco-system grows and validates the Hispanic market and the Hispanic consumer – all I’ve ever wanted.

The End.

Why I do What I Do

I started to tear up at lunch today while talking to Lizie, a young woman who works with me. She’s from Mexico, and about a year ago she didn’t know a CPM from a CPA. But I hired her because she was bright, driven and eager to learn. She’s so driven that this past holiday season, while home in Guadalajara, she took time out of her personal schedule to visit some local advertising agencies. She came back with stories of how she’d ended up teaching an impromptu class on online advertising to a hungry audience. The pride I felt when she told me this took me back to my motivations for starting Consorte in the first place.

It was 2005 and I was working for The Carlyle Group’s venture fund. My job was to find companies for the fund to invest in, and I was actively watching the online advertising market for new opportunities. At the same time, I found myself at a crossroad in my life and was feeling very disconnected from my culture. I realized the only person I spoke Spanish with was Isabel, the woman who took out the trash at my office. I began to wonder how I could combine the business skills I had developed as an investment banker, corporate lawyer and VC with elements of my ethnic identity. I thought about who I was: a thirty-something, Mexican-American female, homeowner, number 8 of 11 children, Spanish-speaking, Ivy-educated, athlete, avid salsa dancer. As I looked at myself, I discovered that I am a bundle of contradictions… and as such, a pretty good representation of the Hispanic market today. We’re diverse, and no single approach will satisfy the entire market.

That’s when I hit on the idea of developing a new approach to Hispanic marketing. I really wanted to demonstrate that this was a market worth valuing: by advertisers, by publishers, by employers and even by Hispanics themselves. And not just with regards to the revenue potential of this growing market, but also the true value that comes from connecting on a personal level. The kind of true connection that all advertisers seek. The connection that breeds loyalty. The connection that can only be achieved by valuing your audience.

So I decided to start Consorte Media. It was important to me to move beyond stereotypes and anecdotes and to bring measurability and accountability to Hispanic advertising, so that advertisers based their campaigns on real, measurable evidence of which messages work and which don’t. I wanted to create a company that did this in a proven and effective way, using sophisticated campaign analysis and measurement techniques that drove real results. And a company that was of this market, and that valued often overlooked talent, like that of Lizie.

The number of U.S. Hispanics is growing faster than any other demographic group and will reach nearly 25% of the overall population by 2050. Yet advertisers are only now starting to understand the value of connecting with this large and diverse consumer group. Many marketers know they need to reach out to Hispanics online – but they don’t know how. It is my purpose to show them the way. At the same time, I also want to show the Hispanic market that we can build our community through building businesses and marketing them. And, I hope that I’m demonstrating to young Latinos that our culture can be an asset and that they can take charge of their destinies.

I am still evolving, as is Consorte Media, but we are as committed as ever to helping shape the perceptions of the Hispanic market and using the brightest minds and the latest technologies to do it.

A Publisher's Dilemma

I've never felt as close to the plight of the publisher than I have these past two weeks. The only exception being that instead of dealing with one site, I am dealing with hundreds. As many of you know, we recently switched ad servers. There were over 6,000 ad tags to think of, new reporting structures and capabilities, different publisher content management systems - it was an orchestration to be sure and one that, even after very careful planning and long hours, at times dropped a note or two. The new ad server allows our publishers to truly segment their websites and understand better the behavior of the visitors to their sites. This information is key to extracting more value from a publisher's advertising inventory. But it does mean that publishers have to place different ad tags on different sections of their site and even different spots. We've seen huge differences in ad performance just between top and bottom positions. After being up to my ears in ad tags, I am intimately aware of how difficult it can be to implement this type of segmenting, especially if you don't have a full-time web master, but it will pay you dividends to take the time now to do it. As the advertising market gets tighter in this uncertain economy, finding new ways to extract value from your inventory will become more important. Consorte can help you do that if together we've planned for it from the beginning.

A harried week became even more stressful after one particular call from an advertiser. Consorte had won the business through the advertiser's agency and then the advertiser decided to reach out to us directly. Only, to my horror, to try and negotiate down the price of an ad buy. While I understand that an advertiser wants to achieve its goal at the best price, this particular advertiser was pushing the limits. To the point that when I asked what cpm he was thinking about, he replied $0.10 and I roared with laughter. What networks do is a delicate dance - how to match advertisers with the right publishers while balancing the value publishers see. It's close to impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. But we try. And that's why I laughed at the absurdity of this advertiser. Publishers have choice and I consider part of my job to provide them with more choice. The difficult thing is that as the advertising market gets tougher and budgets get pulled or tightened, it's going to narrow the choices. How do publishers navigate this? Frankly, by focusing even more on what they do best - driving traffic through premium content generation. Advertisers will always pay for quality content. Unsure of the quality of what you're producing? Take a look at your site's publisher report card on the Consorte Publisher Portal. Which you're already doing, right?

It's not easy being a publisher. And definitely not a publisher in a fast-changing, tough market. I had two tough weeks - I'm a rookie, comparatively, I realize. But if experience breeds empathy, I have nothing but empathy for our publishers. And lest you worry, we're working hard for you.

Dirty Little Secrets

It's no secret that I don't come from an advertising background. I do come from a finance background but that still doesn't explain my shock at what I've discovered in online advertising: nothing adds up. Yes I said it. And it's not a new subject apparently, just one many people don't talk about. Such as publisher reach numbers and ad network reach numbers. None of them make sense. Why? Because server logs don't equal Comscore or Quantcast or other third party methods. And it's no wonder when you get behind the methods. Yet advertisers and agencies, with few options, are forced to rely on these third party stamps of approval. Therefore I have to pay tens of thousands of dollars just for a little dose of legitimacy - but it's a farce - anybody can pay and the numbers mean nothing!

I mean does anybody find the fact that a major third party traffic analysis firm was grossly wrong about a large public company's traffic numbers even slightly incredible?

Even the fact that different ad servers consistently come up with different numbers is enough to drive a person insane. Apparently each ad server has a different definition of "delivered."

And if traffic numbers and ad serving impression numbers weren't enough, there is a whole host of plain ol' bad math. For example, the number of Hispanics online - how is that measured exactly?

Have you ever looked at the sample size of some of these research reports? Where n=800. 800 people? This is a sufficient sample size to extrapolate to the whole of 43 million Hispanics?

But why stop at traffic? How crazy is it that publishers don't know nor do they have a good way of knowing who it is exactly that makes up their audience? People always ask me how publishers can know this information and I reply: four ways: they have a registration path where they collect the information, they've surveyed their audience and extrapolated to all visitors, a third party analysis company has surveyed their site or used the panel system to extrapolate to the publisher's audience attributes or the publisher makes it up. That's it.

The reality or dirty little secret is that many publishers don't know for sure. And this information seems to have eluded most agencies and advertisers. I can't tell you how many RFPs we see where the agency/advertiser is looking for brown-haired, males, aged 18-25, interested in autos, in South Dakota, with only one brother. The specificity can border on the absurd and in most cases is completely unaddressable - exactly how are you supposed to tell if your audience has brown hair? Well the horrible secret is that it's just as hard to determine their age.

At Consorte - we ask, and we ask, and we ask. But we're only as good as the information given to us. And that's the horrible state of metrics and data in online advertising. Which considering the source is utterly disappointing. One of the beauties of online is its supposed measurability!

So, what's the alternative? Media Strategies Editor Jim Meskauskas in a recent posting suggested that advertisers and agencies simply refuse to use the numbers. I'm not sure that's realistic. What do you think?

Here we go...

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to deliver the lunch keynote at the NAHP's Annual conference in Atlanta, GA. Unfortunately, right before my trip, I came down with the stomach flu. Nothing tests your commitment like a case of the runs on a 4 hour flight. I was so sick that I whimpered through a taxi ride from hell to my hotel, through setting up my laptop and chasing an elusive wireless connection, and through begging room service for just plain rice. Thoroughly betrayed by my body, I curled up with a pillow and wondered Why the hell am I doing this?

Well for one, I thought it was too late to cancel and I'm nothing if not dutiful. But more than that I was really looking forward to the opportunity to talk to my constituents, those expressive, energetic, dream-seekers like myself: publishers.

My goal was to tell them all the important reasons why they should be online. There are many and not just the monetary ones - though that certainly helps. One vital reason is that this market, the Hispanic market, needs a voice - a voice that can only be found in the many voices that right now are missing online. Where are the sites that speak to this market? Sure there have been Spanish language portals for some time, but the Hispanic market is more than Spanish language dominant and can't simply be wrapped up by music, auto and news channels.

While build it and they will come doesn't exactly apply, it is a fortuitous circle - the more Spanish language/Hispanic focused content online, the more Hispanics online. Kind of like moths to a flame. We know the consumers are out there but up ‘til now if you weren't Spanish dominant and completely focused on entertainment content, you had few options. And this is why I really wanted to be at that conference - to convince publishers they hold the seeds of growth for this market online.

The next day during lunch my body was still shaky and I had to fend off well-meaning servers with heaping plates of food who kept calling me ma'am, but I was determined. My speech was decidedly short of brilliant and I'm not too sure was all that well-received, still I realized after I delivered it that I had proven something to myself. I'm on a mission. My purpose? To get publishers and advertisers alike to value this market. And not even a virus is going to stop me.