Experimental Storytelling, Native Advertising, and CMO Calendars


In today’s media landscape, brands are forced to think like publishers and bring content to their audience in an engaging environment. This shift has forced structural changes within many organizations as they think of the best ways to tell their story. Peter Macey of Forbes joins the series to discuss the assets, delivery, experimentation, and decision-making required to successfully leverage branded content.

Leading Creative Teams, Hyper Relevancy, and Arby’s Social Media


The Internet has had a massive impact on creativity, especially on advertising. Justin Archer, Creative Director at the Roar Groupe agency in Atlanta, joins the ATOMIZED Marketing Series to talk about the challenges of working with giant international brand advertisers, navigating the changing media landscape, and how he motivates his team to develop content that is unique, differentiated and relevant to the brand’s audience.

Marketing The Home Depot, Customer Mindsets, and Content Iteration


It was an honor to have Mike Hibbison from The Home Depot as the first guest on our marketing series. He gives so many gems that weren’t included in the video above. Here’s more great content from Mike:

Continuing the conversation between ChRiS Gomersall (CEO, ATOMIZED) and Mike Hibbison (VP of Merchandising, The Home Depot):

ChRiS: If you look at the current ad tech landscape, so much is based around this move to DSPs and programmatic, but the real issue is the lack of innovation around the art side of the business (rather than science). This is exactly why we created a visual content calendar. The industry can no longer just simply tweak bits and pieces of the campaign, (headlines, products and calls to action). I think the change needs to happen with the storytelling itself.

Mike: I totally agree with this statement. If we go back years, advertisers had to build content that grabbed someone’s attention, but the number of “distractions” people were dealing with was very limited. Today, not only are there more ways to reach consumers, but, at the same time, there are more distractions. So first you have to build content that will grab someone’s attention while they are doing other things, and second you have to keep them and get them to react in some way, i.e. convert. This means the content that advertisers create has to be more relevant and that content must stand out from all the other noise marketers are creating.

ChRiS: That’s right — brands must do a better job of moving people sequentially through the marketing funnel or customer journey. This means our messaging must be coordinated and we can no longer be “all things to all people.”

Mike: There has never been a better time to be a marketer, because we are armed with more data and information than ever before. We have to be responsible with that information, but we can also use it to help consumers find what they are looking for faster. This means the creative must be relevant to where a consumer is in the classic purchase funnel. Someone just starting their journey needs higher level information about your brand and what you offer them in terms of helping them solve whatever they are trying to solve.

This should be very high level and not specific, somewhat old-school brand building. But when someone is showing signals through their actions that they are further down the purchase funnel the creative must be very targeted and specific. It must help them convert and the needs are somewhat different, such as “how fast can I get the product,” “how good is the product,” “how much does it cost” — both shipping and pickup if online, or “how fast can I pick it up locally if needed.”

ChRiS: What about this notion of “content marketing”? I mean- everything marketers do is content marketing, from TV to social, digital, all of it. If your brand’s marketing doesn’t consist of hundreds of pieces (deliberately placed) then you’re simply not doing it right in the first place.

Mike: Absolutely. Marketing is all touch points, regardless of medium. What I mean is if the creative elements aren’t tied to each other and relevant to a customer’s desired medium, then it will get lost as the customer’s attention span is challenged with all the marketing being thrown at them, inclusive of the many distractions I already discussed.

I also think your use of “deliberately placed” is the right term, but they can also get lost as you have to get deep into the customer’s mind and they have to recall what else they’ve seen from you. If I’m a fast food restaurant and I’ve created content that customers don’t interact with, it’s likely because other fast food restaurants are doing the same thing and the customer will remember only the last piece they saw and not the series.

That’s what happens with a relatively short lead-time conversation / conversion. But in some businesses, like the travel industry, the conversation is longer, and I might be a consumer thinking about a vacation and just started my “journey” that could last a few weeks or longer. If, as a marketer, I don’t recognize where the consumer is and create marketing that resonates with them, it will get lost in the sea of marketing and be forgotten before they are ready to take action.

ChRiS: This new day and age calls for a spectrum of content that must be coordinated. That means organizing everything from the cheap stuff (advocacy of people talking about your product) to the video pieces that cost between $300 and $50,000, all the way up to beautiful storytelling on TV.

Mike: That just proves the point that not all marketing is created equal and there are ways to interact with consumers efficiently and quickly. Advocacy is an interesting word, as it means finding and leveraging influencers to help “sell” your message. There are times the expensive stuff is important, but that might be higher funnel awareness marketing like a Super Bowl commercial or other kind of sponsorship. Identifying and leveraging influencers is mostly a lower funnel activity, but that also doesn’t mean it’s easy — even if it’s’ cheaper.

ChRiS: That’s why there’s never been a more important time for everyone to be on the same page, including the clients. Multiple agencies must work together if that’s the scenario in which they’ve been cobbled.

Mike: Just as consumers are pulled in many directions so are marketers (the agencies’ clients). They hire multiple agencies to help them with the different mediums they market in and the agencies must be working from the same book so the client’s activities holistically are effective. In order for this all to work together, the client must know and understand who they are targeting and what they want to say. If they have one agency building creative for social and another agency building creative for retargeting banners, and these things don’t look alike, we go back to the issue of keeping the consumer’s attention.

ChRiS: This kind of integration means that data also needs to be given to creatives. For so many years we’ve forgotten to give our creatives the real data that shows what’s actually working. This is true for both ends of the funnel. Look at how publishers test and iterate every word of a headline to find the best traction — agencies should be doing the same.

Mike: If the creatives aren’t seeing the data they will continue to build creative based on what they’ve already been told. The data collected is powerful for a marketer to understand what is resonating with customers. Given that creative can be tweaked on the fly and re-trafficked, it’s never been more important that the data is shared across the organizations, including the agencies helping the marketer.

I make that distinction because agencies cannot be held in the dark on how things are performing. They have to be in the know so they can also react appropriately and discuss potential changes with the client. All touch points require a post mortem of sorts where marketers look to see how the creative performed for the intended or sometimes unintended audience, so they can improve. The creative and the data should be interlocked in telling the full picture, not separated by time or medium.

ChRiS: I always equate this with the term “matching luggage”. Although our marketing strategies should be coordinated, they don’t necessarily need to match all the way along the marketing funnel.

Mike: This goes back to where the customer is in the marketing — or what should be called the purchase — funnel. The marketing funnel is too soft, as our goal as marketers is to help customers convert. We want them to go see the movie we are marketing to them, we want them to eat at our restaurant, we want them to purchase the product. All require an action on the customer’s part, but we as marketers have to be cognizant of what resonates with customers based on where they are in this funnel.

ChRiS: It certainly takes an army. As a part of that army, agencies need to do a better job of coordinating with internal brand creative teams. It’s pretty common to fire a brief over to the agency and wait for an idea to come back, but I think we’re finally in a place where we can truly work together.

Mike: We are one team working toward the same goal. We need to all “get along” for the sake of good creative and helping customers, and put aside our individual or business needs and focus on “What does the customer want” out of our marketing. It’s too important and we don’t have a lot of time.

ChRiS: Another big step is using publishers for content too. There’s never been a more creative time for media buyers because publishers are helping us fill that content spectrum. Look at publishers like Buzzfeed and Business Insider — the media buy is made to support great content. This content follows an overarching strategy but is designed to “blend in to stand out,” as I see it. How is this being organized? How are we iterating the ideas? Publishers are not a threat to agencies. It’s kind of funny that some people are making this claim.

Mike: The idea that everyone is a publisher has never been so right. Marketers should use all publishers as content creators for multiple reasons, but one that stands out for me at least is building real, authentic relationships with the targeted customer. By using publishers’ creative, that could mean the marketing isn’t perfect, or in some ways is raw. But that’s OK, as it creates authenticity, and consumers want to do business with brands that they like.

There are way too many choices customers have today — in a good way — and we have to ensure the creative is in some ways personalized to the customer. This doesn’t mean creating creative specific to each person, but to find something that resonates with large groups of people with similar interests.

For instance, weather is a big driver of consumer behavior, as it drives what people will do. So if I as a “publisher” am at a soccer game and it’s raining and I take a picture and tweet it or post on Facebook, other “marketers” should figure out how to leverage that creative and send out to others and engage with them. Or maybe I’ve taken a video of a parade and a restaurant nearby sees the content I’ve posted on YouTube. They should send out and say something like “don’t wait in traffic, grab a bite here and wait it out”.

The challenge isn’t a lack of content — it’s a lack of marketers who know how to use the content effectively. But that’s why we also need tools to help us manage the content both from a creative perspective but also from the data — what resonates from the customers’ perspective. We can get data much faster than ever before and there is no need to wait weeks or months until we get some consumer research study back to tell us what works. Consumers vote with their clicks and wallets.

ChRiS: You’re talking about creating concepts for the platform. The need for this massive amount of creative absolutely changes the game for the amount of money being invested in content. Brands cannot simply re-purpose stuff. The concepts for Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, pre-roll and TV should match the platforms on which that content lives.

Mike: No doubt this is important. Marketers have to be keenly aware of what a platform is used for, from the customer’s point of view. It can’t be what we want them to use it for, as that will never work. So while what works on broadcast television might be good to also use as pre-roll on YouTube, it probably isn’t going to grab my attention when I’m watching the little TV screen in the back of a cab, or certainly on Snapchat.

Every medium has a purpose and that purpose needs to be defined and at the lowest level. For instance, social doesn’t get bucketed in social, but needs to be defined as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Broadcast is narrower than radio and TV, but cable TV can get more specific than network, so how do I use the definitions to help target what customers are wanting?