May 31, 2022

S2E2 - Driving Digital Performance with Dana Weber

By Shane Madden and Whit Harwood

Dana Weber, a growth guru with years of industry experience, talks to Shane and Whit about how to build out successful global digital programs, find new audiences in the digital ecosystem, especially in light of the App Tracking Transparency from Apple and a potential return to context-based advertising.

Show Transcript

Shane Madden (00:01):
Hi all, this is Shane Madden.

Wit Harwood (00:02):
And I'm Whit Harwood.

SM (00:03):
We're really excited to be back with season two of Off the Clock, the podcast brought to you by TPT Digital. TPT Digital is the full service vertically integrated digital marketing group of TransPerfect, the $1 billion language services and technology solutions market leader.

WH (00:17):
We're going to talk to some of the industry’s thought leaders, movers, and decision-makers to discuss all things digital throughout the course of the season. So let's get into it.

SM (00:25):
Let's go. All right, guys. Thanks. Thanks ever so much for listening in to today's podcast. It's Shane here.

And I'm Whit. 

And we're super excited to have Dana Weber join the podcast today. Dana is an esteemed colleague here at TPT Digital and runs our global client services division. Thanks ever so much for coming on the show. 

Dana Weber (00:48):
Sweet. Thanks so much for having me and great to be here with you all. Looking forward to today's conversation. Lots of great topics, lots of exciting and timely topics for, I think with a year of the unknown ahead. So, Shane, you know, happy to get started when you want, or if you want to hear a little bit about me, you can bore the audience for a few minutes.

SM (01:06):
I certainly would love to hear more about your background and then give listeners some context as to who you are and then why you're on the podcast today.

DW (01:14):
Gotta love it. Yeah. So, my background, as you know, Shane and Whit, since the dawn of SEO, if you can imagine, I'm one of those who've been in performance marketing since 2008 back when the internet was actually becoming this influential platform, you know, with the presidential election of Obama. So, going back to, you know we'll talk about, some of the social and influencer components of how that's evolved to today, but, you know, agency rat, as we like to call them. So, I have worked for the big public agencies, the small private companies, but more importantly, have been able to see what just leading global brands do, what they do well, what they do wrong. You know, these are brands with logos that have blue squares in them or orange smiley faces in them, if you can put two and two together. But happy to share some learnings with the crew here to learn from others' mistakes and others' wins as we go into this exciting year and, I'd say, decade ahead.

SM (02:08):
Yeah, well, we really appreciate your time. So thanks. Thanks for joining. I know you're honestly pretty busy. So the topic of today's episode is understanding what makes for a good global program execution in terms of digital marketing, then what pitfalls to watch out for, and then everything in between. So I think given your agency background, given your mandate here at TPT Digital, there's probably no one better qualified to speak to those different data points. So yeah, we're super excited to have you on today's podcast. So thank you for joining. Let me start by setting the context. So 2022, a few things have happened. So COVID looks like it's kind of disappearing, although am I tempting fate saying that, who knows. Secondly, the geopolitical dynamic is intensifying with what's going on in the world at the moment. And then I would say the big sweeping change in digital, and Dana, I would love your thoughts on this, is I suspect in 2022 companies that come out on top will be those that unlock iOS 14 and the privacy policy changes with Apple and then leveraging influencers. So I know that's kind of a broad sweeping statement, but would love to gain your thoughts on that as a theme. 

DW (03:19):
For sure. And you know, Shane, this is a topic that's been ongoing for a few years and it's almost like Google has been pushing out, you know, doomsday of the third-party cookie going away, but in advance of that, iOS and Apple definitely, you know, had a disruption with their data privacy and their privacy settings. And you're starting to see, you know, other organizations follow suit just through the lens of people wanting to own their data. I will say, you know, just kind of been doing a lot of research on this topic recently, just so I don't look like an idiot talking with our clients. I don't think people actually realize what they're opting out of, you know, and as a consuming culture, a culture of people who buy a lot of stuff, I don't know if I could say if I concur.

SM (04:01):
So let's say a lot of stuff, right? And you look at the purchasing power of millennials and gen Z right now, they run the world. We're consumers. By not being able to have, what I'll say, the shoes follow you around the internet, I mean, are people going to start to get frustrated and say, man, I don't even know what's cool anymore. You know, I really wanted that thing. Where was it? Because we could save ads. We could save things now, but you know, this morning I was just thinking and I'm like, I wonder if people don't realize what they're opting out of. So, kind of flipping this a little bit, because it's the first-party data collection we'll get there is a super important, but little coffee thought for you. Yeah. I went, I don't know what you think, but I wonder if people just don't know what they don't know and we're going to come back to, “Give me my tracking.”

WH (04:46):
I think it's a great point. And I think that, you know, I always update with IDFA and the ability for users to opt out of tracking. Some of the public numbers that have been produced have said that about 20% of users are opting out of tracking actively. Personally, I've seen much higher figures than that and obviously escalating cost, and there was a piece in the Wall Street Journal just about how this is having an impact on small businesses because so many small businesses have grown via Facebook and Instagram ads and Facebook now is on pace to lose 10 billion in advertising for, you know, what was predominantly a behemoth within the industry. And I really did not that… it's funny to talk about advertising mattering, but also not mattering, but I, you know, I think about the impact of that Apple commercial over the course of last year, which was basically, you had all these people following an individual user and then they kind of “poofed” and went away and you know, it may be how users think of it, but the positive side of trackable advertising is one, more efficient uses for small businesses.

WH (05:49):
Right? And most users are also operating in business in one way or another. But two, I mean, contextual ads are also diced when you are looking for something. And sure, everyone talks about the fact that I subscribe, I got a new Wi-Fi over the weekend, and now I'm being bombarded by Wi-Fi ads and the transaction's already done, but there is something to the fact that marketing is content in a sense too. And the more that people can be closer to the content which they are interested in is a benefit to the user, but I think again to your point, to culture at large.

SM (06:22):
So I think what's interesting about the discussion here is… so Whit, you and I are in New York, we both love to eat at restaurants. I'm a huge foodie. Dana, you're a nomad at the moment. So I don’t know where you are. But my point is like, what I like, do I like the idea of personalized content being advertised to me as it relates to small business and the answer is yes. So I guess I would agree with both of you. Dana, what are your thoughts in terms of how do companies circumvent this? What are programs and frameworks they can develop to make sure that there's still engaging consumers in the right way? Basically, what can companies do to circumvent this?

DW (07:04):
Yeah, it's funny. So I'm in Texas at the moment, by the way, I have been a nomad and it's been super fun seeing how small businesses to a point around small business are even operating all these different US cities. Everyone's been talking about the need to create first-party data, right? First-party data, first party data. I think that's this big ambiguous theory to business owners, and I'd say even just large companies because all of their teams are siloed. I came across an article recently from AWS and they actually break it down quite easily as to what does this mean and how do you plan for it and how do you bring first-party data together? So, I think one of the easiest things, you know, at least Google, I've seen my friends at Google and then, in my conversations with my friends at agencies and on the client side, it's making sure you're cleaning, well, capturing and cleaning your first-party data.

DW (07:55):
So what does that even mean? Right. So we have like CRM systems, you have, you know, e-commerce systems, you have onsite analytics and all this information lives in disparate places. It's usually the bigger the company, the messier it is. So what I'm seeing, you know, large companies and publishers and the platforms trying to advise clients to do, is find a way to get that together into one data set. It starts to make sense of your true customer journey. So what is that customer journey? It's interesting because all these little micro points that we've been talking about in marketing over the years, like what's the customer journey or, you know, bottom funnel ROI, it's got to be one system now and one data set. So, you know, seeing some stats too on just like kind of the re-rise of CRMs and the amount of money that's getting put into CRM systems. So that's coming back for sure. But then just even like where to start, I think that's the hardest piece for businesses and it's getting somebody to own that. Right? So, you know, making that somebody's job to be not just the chief data officer, but the data owner of the client life cycle. So, I'm curious, Whit, what you're seeing on your end, but we got to make it easier for people to understand this concept and plan for December 2023, because that's D-Day rescheduled. 

WH (09:12):
I mean data ownership is certainly an interesting component. I think what I'm seeing from that acquisition side more explicitly is we're in like the third phase of this natural pendulum swing back and forth, which is broadcasting cable advertising predominantly built on top of Nielsen metrics and a lot of, well, flawed, but like contextual information that has been used as currency, digital integration and kind of the digital ecosystem. Then we have all of this data. We have all of this targeting and there's still like a lot of BS within there, which is valuing impressions and not valuing down funnel action. Ultimately, we get to this place where we go to the last few years, which is, I know exactly who I'm acquiring and I can map LTV to that type of user based on the channel that I'm acquiring them. And because I'm able to do that, maybe I'm not as concerned with owning the data.

WH (10:05):
As I am with acquiring high quality users. Now we're clearly going to a place where everything is going to be more contextual. What I'm explicitly seeing is the cost for acquiring an individual user is much higher because Facebook doesn't have the data to target the right users. And also the effort is now Facebook and other app platforms have put the engineering work back on individual operators to say, “Hey, if you want to be IDFA compliant or at least have a second step in targeting, you have to do all of this other engineering work.” So what does all that mean? People are shifting budgets away from Facebook, obviously back more towards Google. Google has kind of put that two-year timeline in terms of when they will implement some broader privacy restrictions. Believe they talked about that last week, which is as we're recording this, February 18.

WH (10:57):
So yeah, we're getting back towards this place of, okay, how are we valuing quality impressions and quality top of funnel data. And I think that Google goes a long way towards making advertisers comfortable in the near term. But longer term, you don't have the ability to put your money in the slot machine and guarantee a certain acquisition cost, no matter where you're putting your money. And so, will people, will operators look back more at buying contextual advertising, buying site specific and, or just candidly move away from digital marketing as we've thought about it writ large and more towards other topics which may get us into creator advertising and, and content marketing.

SM (11:40):
That's right. And that's the old ad age of, 50% of my marketing budget works. I just don’t know what 50%. So if you look at the data, Alphabet's core ad search business, Google grew 43% year over year, last quarter, which is pretty, pretty considerable when you consider that their business is already a massive $200 billion plus year business. I guess this is for both of you. So how have they been so largely immune to these privacy policy changes? Is it because they're in a different echo chamber? Are they leveraging platforms like their video platform? Like what, what do you think the reason for that is? Are they just, do they have a different guardrails? Like it is just a different playing field? Is that it?

DW (12:19):
Aren't they kind of creating the rules though? They keep pushing out the platform, that's driving behavior and shifts of behavior and marketing.

DW (12:26):
Well, one of the benefits of being a monopoly? Sure. I agree. So what, like what do you, so you think it's because they are the ones creating the market rules?

DW (12:33):
I'd say yes and no. I mean, they're responding, you know, from my perspective, Google's creating the behavioral shift and the need for a behavioral shift or they're driving it. I shouldn't say they're creating it. They're driving it by putting a deadline or a timeline on when this needs to happen. Right. So, and I think that's what people are mostly responding to. Because everyone knows Google, probably half of our population, at least in the states doesn't know that Alphabet is Google. But that's for another day. But you know, the need and the drive for privacy, I'd say that's there driven by governments. Right. And then so people are trying to adopt that to probably not get sued, but I think Google's the one that's putting the timeline on it and creating, I'd say, the apprehension. It's kind of like this speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down, like hurry up and wait.

DW (13:21):
And, and I don't think we're going to see sweeping changes in, let's say like business behavior and business culture and data culture until it actually happens. I think there's been a little bit of the boy who cried wolf from a timeline standpoint. So now I wonder if people are just like, is this really going to happen because to your point so much money is invested in this behavior of marketing online and trying to get people to take an action. But if that goes away even 50%, what does that mean? Right? It's kind of scary.

SM (13:56):
Yeah. It is scary. It is scary. So, I guess if I extract what you're both saying here, as data becomes kind of more opaque and less clear growth marketeers and operators are going to be forced just to be more analytical and technical. One of the things that I do want to unpack with you Dana and Whit is, so with all these new sweeping privacy policy changes or threats of in the case of Google, like on Whit you just mentioned this, companies are going to pivot and look towards the creator economy to reach new or existing audiences. I believe influencer marketing is set to reach $13.8 billion in 2022. And I'm sure that's going to continue to grow. So, Whit, I'm going to start with you given the line of business you're in, like what do you think of the whole creator economy, the ecosystem, the influencer marketing piece, and then maybe we can pass over to Dana to get your thoughts.

WH (14:53):
So I would say in general, this is coming from someone who was by and large a skeptic of the creator economy, whatever it was, two-plus years ago. And in the sense that I didn't understand how it would scale and I didn't understand the ability for an individual creator to get the user to take a downstream action. Right. And I think that one of the things that we're seeing is, okay, this isn't just 23 year olds with iPhones at events, right? These are people who have been really thoughtful about the content that they've created and how they've built and grown their audience. We actually have done a deal with a creator who's 25. He's been creating since he was 19 years old, freshman in college, he built his audience to be a million users on Snapchat and they will follow him to any platform.

WH (15:40):
And they, you know, he will actually charge advertisers on a cost per install basis, which is very different than how a lot of people think of this industry, which is okay, we're going to basically pay a young person to make content and make our brand look good. And while that is essentially what brand marketing is these days, which brand marketing used to be something you went and got an MBA for and you studied for like, how do we build and craft this brand? And now it's a 23 or 24 year old with iPhone, but it is that. And also, with down funnel actions in that, these people drive installs, not just views. These people are incredibly thoughtful and have been doing this a long time and they are more digitally native and content native than we know. And I remember some of the best advice that I got a few months ago from someone is, hey, you want grow your TikTok account?

WH (16:29):
Just like hire a 22 year old and have them throw a ton of stuff at the wall. And it works and the algorithm values it and users value it. And so I think that what's happening now is there's been a lot of early adopters. The creator economy is clearly at this place where everyone's talking about it, but not everyone is necessarily invested in. And what I think you'll see in the next year or so is you're seeing this wild swing away from digital marketing within the tried and true social platforms. And towards, Hey, I want to align with X, Y, or Z creator.

WH (17:03):
Yeah. It's interesting. Dana, I'm going to pass to you one sec, but I just want to talk about that for a sec. So Whit, spot on, and I think in season one, we spoke to Jack Cohen about how do you get consumers through the journey upstream? And his sentiment was very much around building your community. And so if you take Barry’s Bootcamp, Peloton, all those high viz, valuable communities, like to have an influencer in that community, representing a brand, as you say, it is just much more compelling than the old school kind of paid, organic. And we're going to talk about that in a sec, but Dana, I'd love your two cents on this topic as well in terms of creator economy and influencer marketing. 

DW (17:43):
I think to me, it's, it's interesting to hear people say, I want to be an influencer. You know, it's an occupation now. It's highly competitive, but it's an occupation. And to me, this feels like when social media and Facebook first came out, everybody needed a Facebook page. Now, you know, being on the agency side, I can't tell you how many businesses come in, they're like, we need influencers, we need influencers. They're like, okay, well, what are you trying to achieve? And you go through that whole what's the desired outcome and KPIs conversation. But I think it's definitely the new way because the influencer creator culture, this new UGC, it's not going anywhere. Right? You look at the largest demographic groups with millennials and gen Z’s purchasing power. Like I was saying, driving the economy, like it's here to stay.

DW (18:36):
And especially with like the Metaverse and all that stuff coming out, which we won't even go there. But I think what's interesting with influencers is also how it varies by culture. So in with, you know, TPT Digital, and the clients that we service, you know we're talking with businesses in APAC, Europe, South America, North America, and I'd say the impact and influence of influencers versus celebrities, it's still very different. Right? So while in North America, people are more trusting of influencers, and that concept of people like me, which pharma put out a while ago and they created communities, versus, you know, other areas, celebrities still have a space. So I think we're just scratching the surface of what's possible with influencers, but it's the new social currency.

SM (19:18):
I want to talk to you about that for a sec. But just to summarize, I think, Whit, what you're saying is the entire thing has changed. The dynamic has changed. You arm a 23-year-old with an iPhone, you know they get their narrative right and they really engage this community. And it's so powerful because it's so widespread. And Dana, you just touched on something that I think is really, really interesting. So experiences are the new social currency. So, before I get your take on what that actually means, because it sounds very marketing heavy, are you saying that against the context of influencer marketing and content creation and the creator economy, if I'm a marketer the best way for me to market, you know, or tell my story is through experience? I'd love to get your take on kind of what you mean by that.

DW (20:01):
Yeah. Can I just tell you how much I love the word marketeer? So, from like anybody from Europe, they say marketeer versus marketer. All I can think of is a little cartoon mouse. You know, I just think social currency… influencers are part of it. So, do you have an influencer strategy is probably the way I would think about it. Kind of like, I think it's going to start and, and Whit, it'd be nice to see what you're seeing, but influencers is part of a paid media, paid marketing, like digital marketing program, right. It's part of the overall media plan, but at some point, it's going to turn into its own strategy and we're going to have a decline in traditional media investments. So, probably you're searching your social and an increase depending on, I'd say the vertical and influencer engagements. So to me that engagement would be the social currency and maybe that's one experience, whether it's the influencer going through an experience and, you know, taking you through their journey in a virtual store or a brick and mortar store or some other sort of experience, but experiences plus real people. It's kind of the next wave of marketing from my perspective.

WH (21:17):
Yeah. I think in some ways it’s a reversion to items that we've seen in prior context before. But you know, it's a term that I technically hate, but it's like, sweepstakes is a way to get people to create content with you and for you or just relative context. Right. Like you're trying to experience in the sense of it doesn't have to be physical. It actually is just kind of a one-to-one version of making the audience feel like you're a part of it. I think it's a way to break the fourth wall and bring people along with you. But yeah, I mean, I think if we're talking about what this natural evolution is, and this is kind of like tying in all of what we're talking about, because we had that massive fire hose of impressions-based marketing over the course of the last 10 years via primarily the social platforms, naturally the generation that grew up in that kind of digital spots and dots ecosystem is going to basically entirely tune that out. Right. And so what they're looking for is they are looking for pieces of content that they like, that they can share, that give them social equity and social quality of experience. And then also a way to participate in that ecosystem because every 12 year old wants to be an influencer, but not every 12 year old can realize that. So then how can they experience something along with the influencers that they like? 

SM (22:40):
So, all right. So far, we're in agreement, data's becoming more opaque, which means people are going to have to be more analytical. This influencer marketing thing is going to take off. Experiences are the new social currency. So, Whit you just touched on something there, which is, I'd love to kind of explore a little bit further with you both, where paid media is becoming more competitive and commoditized and SEO is less game and more integrated, right? So there's this new wave of just, a new underbelly of where digital marketing going. I think it's really interesting. And I know Dana, you said you don't want to talk about metaverse, but that metaverse crypto NFT space, I think, is going to play a really important role in where this digital marketing thing goes. But in terms of paid becoming more competitive, more commoditized, and SEO search being more integrated, like, do either of you have any thoughts on that and kind of what you're seeing in the marketplace?

DW (23:35):
Admittedly, I'm very new to the metaverse. I am the person who Googled, how do I enter the metaverse? Cause I'm just curious what people are looking for. And I think there's so much to be had here. I'm, I'm excited to see how brands are going to participate and how competition is going to, you know, be fostered in these lands. We'll call them virtual lands and virtual communities. So for example, I have this vision of myself going to my closet with my NFTs. And if I open up my virtual closet, do I now have something hanging from a major retailer or a fashion brand that I probably wouldn't have considered. That's super cool. And I'd be like, yeah, I want to wear this. I wear it. But not only can I wear it, can I opt to purchase it in real life as well? So I mean, to me, that's a super interesting way to bring marketing and the virtual world together, you know, makes me think of like, when you can design your own Nike shoes, but just you know 10x that, so we'll see.

SM (24:27):
Yeah. And to Whit, to you, right, so paid is becoming commoditized, search is more integrated, where's it all going?

WH (24:35):
Well, I'll just follow on Dana's last point with some big picture ideas on the metaverse and kind of NFTs writ large. I think that one of the things that is bound to happen in this space is that naturally everyone's flooding it and probably like 4% of people know what they're actually doing. So there's going to be a lot of noise and not a lot of signal for an extended period of time. There are going to be a lot of NFTs that are valueless. There will be a lot of brands that enter this space, try something, and it won't find an audience. And so, I think that as we're going through the next, whatever it is, 12, 18, 24 months trying to ground the conversation in what's actually working in this space, why is it working, as opposed to it being natural. 

SM (25:20):
Alright. This has been amazing. There's one big topic that we didn't discuss as part of this sweeping change and executing global programs, and I think it's the exponential growth of global marketplace. Now, we obviously discussed a lot of this, and live streaming commerce with Mark Powers part of season one. But I think it's something to watch out for. We probably don't have the time to unpack it on this particular episode, but

WH (25:42):
We’ll have Dana back. We'll do another podcast.

SM (25:44):
Yeah. Let's have Dana back.

DW (25:46):
Hey, that'd be fun. Yeah. Can we actually go to the bar and record at the bar?

SM (25:48):
Yeah, let's go to Dublin, Ireland. Let's do it. Well both, Dana, we really appreciate your insights, your time. I think this is a pretty fruitful conversation against the context of all this change. So thanks ever so much for your time. I really appreciate it.