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Getting in Front of the Right Audience: Worthwhile—and Costly


Andrea Riley
CMO
Ally Financial

As programmatic and native advertising shake up the way brands buy ads, some publishers are going the extra mile to keep their platforms lucrative. Andrea Riley, CMO at Ally Financial, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about how the bank is working with publishers to get in front of the right audience—but sometimes at a steep price.

eMarketer: In what ways is your relationship with publishers evolving?

Andrea Riley: We’re starting to push more dollars into content that aligns with the passion points of our target audience, and provides them with useful information. This approach works on multiple levels: It ensures that our brand is getting in front of consumers we typically can’t get to, and it also helps us grow brand affinity by delivering useful information. It gives consumers a new point of view about the brand.

eMarketer: Do you prefer for your content to end up on social platforms like Facebook, or on syndicated platforms like Yahoo or AOL?

Riley: The platform doesn’t matter as much as being able to track the effectiveness of our content. That’s the beauty of digital and social, and it’s why more marketers are shifting dollars there. On digital channels, every penny is trackable.

Regardless of whether content is pushed through social properties or syndicated platforms, we can tag everything, and we know if there was an action that took place as a result of specific content. That’s why we care less about where it’s pushed out and more about who sees it.

eMarketer: What are some metrics publishers are able to provide?

Riley: Impressions are a standard metric, but they can often go deeper than that. For example, we can determine whether or not a consumer clicked on our offer through Bankrate.com and then took an action, like opening an account. We can track the entire process—from awareness to consideration and conversion.

“Publishers are starting to guarantee a certain number of impressions. They’re doing a lot of their own promotion to secure eyeballs.”

eMarketer: How are publishers helping brands push their content further?

Riley: Publishers are starting to guarantee a certain number of impressions. They’re doing a lot of their own promotion to secure eyeballs. For instance, I recently reviewed two different proposals from publishers, and each outlined how they would develop what we were doing and help us reach certain impression levels.

eMarketer: Do you rely on programmatic advertising?

Riley: Yes. We’ve built a fairly substantive programmatic capability, and we have a team that monitors every variable, including impressions delivered. Programmatic has been a tremendous tool for us. It has given us the ability to leverage our first-party data and be smarter about who we’re trying to reach.

eMarketer: What are some factors that might make you either double down on programmatic or pull back?

Riley: Advancements in technology determine how marketers think about programmatic. Five years ago the word programmatic didn’t even exist, but now it’s a major part of what marketers do.

As artificial intelligence assistants or virtual reality begin to a play a bigger role in how people interact with brands, we might shift our spending away from programmatic and toward those emerging technologies. It’s all about where the consumer is going in terms of media consumption, and what tools are available for reaching those consumers.

“First and foremost, we think about the value of the content to the end user. Is the content informative, or [is it] disruptive?”

eMarketer: How do you value content across different publishers?

Riley: First and foremost, we think about the value of the content to the end user. Is the content informative, or [is it] disruptive? I am not a fan of gratuitous placement that feels unnatural or canned, so we look for content that we can match or integrate in a way that makes sense to consumers.

Audience delivery is also important. Are we reaching the right audience? How much interaction is occurring with that content, and then what actions are people taking as a result of the content they just saw?

eMarketer: Are you willing to pay higher CPMs to ensure brand safety?

Riley: Yes, we’re willing to pay more. There’s certainly a premium that publishers will charge, and it’s worth it because then we’re guaranteed not only impressions, but also validity of content. The idea of “fake news” is a new challenge that marketers are [facing], and we have to work to avoid being associated with questionable content. Sometimes safeguarding a brand means paying a premium.

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