Gary Milner is director of global digital marketing at multinational computer technology company Lenovo. He was recently in Sydney, at the Programmatic Summit, where he spoke about “key considerations of global brands tackling this new world of software driven marketing.”
CMO.com APAC caught up with Milner at the conference to discuss the growing importance of programmatic advertising for Lenovo, his approach to implementing a global media-buying strategy, and how the company is developing its content marketing.
CMO.com: Programmatic buying, which is essentially automated buying and selling of ad inventory, is pervasive these days. How important is it? And how should brands get involved?
Milner: Brands really need to be engaged in the conversation and not just leave it to their agencies. There are still a lot of people in denial who believe this is not happening. But the reality is that it will all move to data buying at some point in time. If you are a brand, you need to start driving that conversation because the agency may not want to actually do it.
CMO.com: What is your media-buying strategy across programmatic around the world?
Milner: We are somewhat unique because we have so many different agencies globally. We are trying to get to a few vendors that we can run all our deals with. That will give us some consistency in what we do and help us to build scale and to develop best practices.
Often our geographies don’t have the skills in-house to do it, so we want to be able to help them. I think of it as an IT system for marketing, and we have to ask, “What do we need to do to create this?” With HR and finance, we have one system globally; why can’t marketing be that simple?
You can develop different creative for different audiences but still have the same software in the background running the marketing.
CMO.com: Do you have a lot of control over the platforms you use around the world?
Milner: We prefer to offer advice and guidance to the geographies while respecting their knowledge. If it’s just worldwide saying, “You must do it,” then it’s like a dictatorship, and people don’t really react well to dictates.
Interestingly, what often happens is that the geographies will actually take it further than we anticipated and come back to us with recommendations that then get shared with other geographies. That is the collaborative model we want to develop.
Where it gets hard is that Asia-Pacific is further behind on some of these issues ... because digital in the region is further behind. So it is harder for them to get on board if the inventory is not there. The truth is that global markets are complex.
We have looked at working with the geographies to do some centralised buying, and we did do some of our last Facebook buy that way. But you can’t lose sight of the fact that in any geography they all have their own products they want to drive. What’s selling in Australia might not be what is selling in the United States. But you can still have a framework for everyone, and that is what we are trying to do.
CMO.com: Do you think of digital video differently than how you think about broadcast TV?
Milner: We try to think differently, and we like to think video-first. These are not just 15- and 30-second pieces any more. Facebook, for instance, is a two-second impact. And for mobile video, touch is starting to come into play.
As an example, one of the things we learnt from ad verification in the UK was that 60% of the video is on mute. And that didn’t include Facebook because we weren’t running Facebook through TubeMogul, an enterprise software platform for digital video advertising, at the time.
If you are using YouTube, you are probably going to have the sound switched on because you’re in context. But on other content sites you are not there to watch videos–you are there to look at other things. When you know which sites are typically muted, you can serve a different creative. This is the sort of data that comes back to you through your programmatic work.
If consumers are interested, they will take the mute off, but it still begs the question: What’s your strategy for mute and nonmute? Do you put text it? Do you make it visual? Do you use cartoons?
CMO.com: How important is native advertising?
Milner: Native advertising is something we are looking at very strongly–not necessarily native advertising on the desktop, but certainly mobile. We have done Facebook ads, and we have done programmatic with text, image, and video. But right now there is a ton of content out there that is not monetised.
Native is going to be big, but the whole area needs work. When you think creatively–if you take video out of the equation–it’s really an image and a piece of text, and the whole creative model is very different to what the agencies typically build.
Once a consumer clicks on [a native ad], where are you taking them? The reality is that a dot-com site with some products is probably not the right place. Instead, you really need to ask: What is your campaign strategy, and where do you really want to take the consumer? We have run some content on Facebook and taken them to our blog site, for instance, which then goes deeper into that content.
You have to ask: What’s the Facebook strategy around content, and where will we send them? What does the mobile-first experience look like? We try to start at that level, and that then drives the creative side of the story.
CMO.com: How easy is it to get the skills you need?
Milner: Skills are a problem because at the agency level the talent is still very review-based, whereas what they should be doing is becoming more programmatic- and data-focused. And, of course, you get turnover of staff in the agencies when they lose business.
On the client side, you don’t necessarily have the people you need either. For instance, the people running product-marketing launches don’t necessarily have this knowledge, and bridging these worlds is not easy.
The role of the client is very different. You need more technology experts than you have had in the past who understand the capabilities of the platform. We have built it in our marketing team but probably more by accident rather than design. It’s about business knowledge and being able to draw it back to our own business.
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