Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Will Price Headshot

Co-Opetition: The One-Size-Fits-All Solution to Bringing More Brand Dollars to Digital

Posted: Updated:

In the United States, around $91 billion is spent by advertisers to build their brands, according to Ad Age's Building Brands Online study. However only about 7 percent, or $6 billion, of the total goes to digital media. Direct response marketing -- ads designed to generate an immediate response -- is a smaller market at just $55 billion, but it contributes as much as $18 billion to digital media.

Why is interactive earning such a small share of brand advertising dollars? You could reason that it's cultural; historically marketers have looked to TV as the optimal brand-building medium, and you could assert that this thinking still dominates their point of view. You could say it's because producing an online advertising campaign can be complicated. As Bill Wise, CEO, MediaBank, recently said at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Annual Leadership Meeting, "You can execute a seven-figure TV buy easier than a $10,000 digital test." Or you could argue it's because advertisers find it too hard to reliably calculate their return on investment for digital campaigns.

One or all of these issues could be the culprit -- but it really doesn't matter. Because the one thing we could be doing to solve any of these hindrances, we're not doing enough of: co-opetition. We as an industry need to spend more time working together to increase our 6-percent piece of the pie than fighting for slivers of it. We need let down inhibitive elements of protectionism to solve our common fundamental challenges. We need to learn and share insights that will benefit our greater good.

Effective co-opetition should come to life in three ways.

Case studies should focus on the high-level goal.One of the primary ways we share our success stories is through case studies. But all too often, case studies demonstrate how we competed for a greater share of the 6 percent or how we met the limited goals of a campaign. A better takeaway would be: a synapse fired in this process that gave the advertiser a greater degree of comfort in digital brand building and inspired them to spend more on it. Admittedly this can be hard. Marketers reasonably hesitate to let their vendors share candid stories like these. But we must work toward that, and I'll bet the executives on the marketer's side who are dedicated to digital media would be willing to help -- their careers ride on this too. Each spring, I try to do my part by participating in the IAB Case Study Road Show, a series of events across the country, where interactive advertising industry participants reveal what works and why. This month I'll be presenting with my client Charles Schwab. We helped them update their ads in real-time to align the messaging with investor fears during a period of intense market volatility.

We need to standardize our data. I've been in plenty of meetings where we intend to discuss user behavior or campaign performance based on data provided by various proprietary sources, but inevitably the conversation devolves into what we can't learn from it. It goes something like this: "We can't draw conclusions because the sets aren't comparable. One was based on Central Time, the other Eastern. They used different definitions of engagement. Audience segments were defined differently, too. "It's impossible to make meaningful conclusions when apples-to-apples comparisons are themselves impossible. Currently, each of our systems is an island. We need to build bridges by creating universal standards and definitions for data and by developing ways for our databases to easily share select information. These efforts would make it easier for brand advertisers to use our products and measure the true value of interactive advertising.

The campaign creation process should stop resembling a relay race. In the creation of a digital campaign, there are clear hand-off points from one stage to another. Each participating company, and department even, is on its own to do its individual best. Creative agencies, media planners, media traffickers, and the various vendors each function independently to optimize their own distinct part of a campaign. But this means we can't optimize across stages to improve the campaign as a whole. We must align ourselves toward our shared goals and incorporate feedback loops into the workflow, so that each participant's experience informs the actions of the other participants to create a better product. Independence allows for efficiencies, but all too often it's at too great a cost.Too many independent operators lead to limited opportunities for advancement, advancements that would make creating a digital advertising campaign more simple, measurable, and attractive to brand advertisers.

While each one of these recommendations calls on us to share information and work more closely, not a single one compromises our competitive advantages. Rather, if we acted on these suggestions, it would boost the competitive advantage of the interactive advertising industry itself. When that happens, we all prosper.