A Social-Savvy Automaker Secured Transparency Into $40MM Of Previously Untracked Spend

OVERVIEW

In the continuous mission to reach the next biggest, baddest, social advertising goal, marketers are now realizing that a concerted focus on data and transparency is critical to success. However, when it comes to social, data ownership is 100% needed to achieve true transparency and better performance. And for a global company, the consequences of not addressing this issue could be colossal. For a Top Auto Brand, the stakes were especially high as they sought to streamline operations and eliminate all inhibitors in achieving optimal ROI.

THE POWER OF DATA OWNERSHIP

Essentially, data is only as good as its ability to help brands make better decisions—and this is typically what marketers think of when they talk about their “data problem.” However, there is a slightly more sinister issue at work when it comes to social advertising, and that is data ownership.

Changing The Marketer Mindset

Since the dawn of digital advertising, the brand-agency relationship has pretty much operated in the same way. Brand hires agency, agency works independently in a black box (controlling ad accounts, data, and select partnerships related to The Brand’s campaigns), agency creates custom reporting to communicate performance to brand. However, this situation is a little bit like having a checking account, but without any access to an online dashboard that shows transactions and fees.

If you’re like me, then the implications of the checking account example probably gave you just enough anxiety to make it a situation you would avoid at all costs. Similarly, brands like this Top Auto Brand are beginning to realize that their relationships with their agencies need to change if they are to truly make informed and intelligent decisions about their social advertising—the fast-paced channel that marketers have named as most difficult to execute successfully. Essentially, they must demand access to and control of their social data.

When Ad Accounts Add Up

As many of you are aware, ad accounts are connected to a brand page on a social platform, and allow marketers to create, deploy, and optimize campaigns. These accounts are critical because they not only contain valuable real-time performance and audience data, but also key financials such as budget totals, various costs, and benchmarks.

In fact, many large brands have multiple teams, partners, and agencies working on their social advertising campaigns, each creating disconnected ad accounts in silos. Case in point, the Top Automaker had employed three such agency partners to run their campaigns across Facebook and Twitter. The agencies, one focused on creative and the other two on media, had indeed created ad accounts to facilitate campaigns—ad accounts to which The Brand did not have access. Instead, performance was relayed through Powerpoint wrap up reports that were prepared manually and received weeks—often months—after the flight had ended.

Mi Data Isn’t Su Data

The situation The Brand found itself in was concerning to marketers for several reasons; however, one fear in particular became more apparent when The Automaker decided to change one of its agencies. The process of tracking down logins to the ad accounts this partner created while simultaneously attempting to stitch together fragmented raw data sets could’ve been a long, tedious, and, frankly, unsuccessful process. However, since each agency had connected their accounts into the Unified Platform, it became seamless.

48
hours to transition enriched, historical social advertising data, performance, and learnings from old partner to new partner

vs.

2,000+
hours to transition historical search and display data, performance, and learnings to the new partner

ACHIEVING TRUE SOCIAL ADVERTISING TRANSPARENCY

Data ownership, as we just explored, is just one important primer for brands who are looking to make a significant impact on their social advertising ROI. Another key component is transparency. When we use the term transparency, it is the ability to always know what was spent, who spent it, and how it is performing. This increases communication, allows for best practices to be shared, and holds all parties accountable for their activities.

Inconvenient, Inconsistent Reporting

The Auto Brand, who initially worked with 3 agency partners, was experiencing the consequences of having little to no transparency. While each partner was doing their best to execute business goals, The Brand itself was left in the dark in terms of how their campaigns were being set up and corresponding real-time analytics. Remember, each agency provided brand marketers with Powerpoint wrap up reports to relay performance, which were often delivered some time after the promotions had already ended. What’s more, each partner used a different methodology when calculating reports, leading to a skewed and incomplete picture of performance and an inability to track performance accurately against benchmarks.

A Communication Conundrum

Another key issue with transparency came with execution. Since the creative agency was not effectively communicating with the media agencies, The Brand experienced many errors in how the campaigns were executed. In fact, there were many situations where the wrong creative was implemented with objectives (e.g. photo ads were launched with an engagement objective) that were not well-suited for the goal, leading to mediocre results.

Bringing Light To Skeletons In The Closet

Once all teams were connected within the Unified Platform, communication was greatly enhanced, mistakes were mitigated, and Brand marketers were able to do the following:

314+
campaigns tracked in real-time with a consistent, normalized methodology over the course of a year
1
agency removed due to practices that were not in line with The Brand’s goals
3
years of performance data seamlessly accessed and transferred to new agency
$40MM
in budget and spend made fully transparent to marketers at the Top Auto Brand

GREAT PERFORMANCE REQUIRES IMMEDIATE INSIGHT

Imagine for a moment that your CEO calls you into his or her office to ask you an impromptu question about how your social advertising campaigns or initiatives are performing. Now as if that’s not stressful enough, you’re still in a traditional relationship with your agencies. This means that you rely on them to give you such insights, which at minimum, if your ask is straightforward, would take 60 minutes from when you submit your request. If it’s a complex question, forget it—now you’re staring down the barrel of 24 hours minimum. The problem? You’re in your CEO’s office now, they want answers now—likely because a board member asked a similar question of them.

This was the very situation executives at the Top Auto Brand found themselves in repeatedly, and as you can probably envision, this was a very frustrating experience. Marketers struggled to answer seemingly simple answers about their social advertising performance, such as how much budget was spent that day, or which agency was most successful in helping them reach their goals.

What’s more, executives were left feeling as if they had one hand tied behind their back in the fight for better performance. After all, how can you fix what you don’t know? And with the speed that social moves, this ability (or lack of) can make or break campaign goals.

Fixing The Problems They Didn’t Know They Had

Another positive consequence of data ownership, and ultimately transparency, is better performance. Once The Brand was able to connect their data into the Unified Platform, they were always plugged into what was going on. So when anyone needed answers, marketers were able to log into the platform then and there to give them.

Additionally, this also allowed marketers to make adjustments to campaigns immediately as needed, which had a significant impact on the success of their campaigns. As a result:

2x
the budget was allocated to social advertising, which ultimately outperformed other channels with better intelligence

New Questions Were Able To Be Answered

Examples:

  • How is this campaign performing against benchmarks?

  • Which initiative(s) is working best this quarter?

  • Is the new creative from the agency working?

CONCLUSION

In this case, the Auto Brand had several operational issues to overcome before they could see meaningful progress in their ROI. The first goal was to gain data ownership, which led to increased transparency that marketers used to make the adjustments that they didn’t originally know they needed. This was paramount in overall success, and significantly increased desired outcomes, saved time, and improved cost efficiency.