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Yannic Pluymackers, CMO, Lastminute.com: On management and creating moments for users

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You don’t have to be a data scientist to be a CMO these days, but it helps.

That might be stretching the idiom a bit – but a data-centric background certainly hasn’t hindered Yannic Pluymackers. The chief marketing officer of Lastminute.com for more than two years – while admitting he is no data scientist himself – studied economics and statistics at university, and feels being conversant in these disciplines is key.

“There is some truth to an extent,” he tells MarketingTech. “You need to have a very good data understanding, maybe statistical understanding, and some technical knowledge as well [to be a CMO].”

Yet all the data expertise in the world won’t cut it if you don’t have the people and management skills to back it up. “You need to be comfortable with leading people of various different backgrounds in order then to connect them and find a common purpose and a common goal,” says Pluymackers of his ‘very diverse’ marketing team.

The landscape for Lastminute, as well as the online travel agency (OTA) space in general, is a fascinating one. When the company was founded, out of the original dot com bubble, it was right at the cutting edge of technology. There was certainly no Airbnb in the last millennium. So how does Lastminute play today, and how does it differentiate itself?

“Looking at today’s marketplace, which is crowded full of OTAs, full of devices, full of platforms, the question is how to get our message across and how to reach those users,” says Pluymackers. “What we have done from a brand positioning perspective is to focus on experiences, to focus on moments, and to show to users that in the end life is about experiences, about relevant moments which you are actually experiencing when you are on holiday.”

So how is the company achieving that aim? Its marketing mix is naturally part in-house, and part vendor-led. On the former is a bidding algorithm for search marketing aimed at “bringing the right package to the right user in the right moment”, in the words of Pluymackers, while the latter involves a series of usual suspects. DoubleClick is the partner of choice for display, although noting it is a minor tactic due to the lack of ROI, while RTB House is used for remarketing.

Social, meanwhile, is of course an ideal medium for engaging the ‘moments’ concept, whether it is Facebook or Instagram. One of the key tenets Pluymackers maintains, aside from engaging customers at the right time and when they want, is the concept of retargeting existing users. He says it is where he would prefer to spend his time, rather than primarily on acquisition marketing.

“Sometimes when I talk with other players in the industry, acquisition marketing, especially for new clients, is still very important for OTA,” he says. “I don’t want to say that we’re much different, but I think our focus is absolutely on reengaging our direct customers, on repeating customers via all different channels. Competitive advantage for an OTA, particularly an OTA with the brand of Lastminute, is key that we have figured out how to reconnect with our users and how to become really the one stop shop where you plan, book, and manage your travel.”

The key is to focus on each channel in turn before putting it all together for a targeted marketing operation. “The need to have very good execution for each individual channel is what you want to focus on first,” says Pluymackers. “Do we have the right execution, for instance, on the SEM side? Then second is to really orchestrate those channels, especially on the display, email marketing, and social side, in order to deliver a personalised message cross-platform and across devices.

“If you don’t have good execution on the individual channels, the orchestration in the second level doesn’t really work.”

Last but not least in this mix is the old bugaboo of email marketing. As this publication recently mused when speaking with cold email strategist Jon Buchan, it remains a vital artery to any successful marketing mission. Indeed, recent research from Omnisend found that email marketing was the backbone to many successful Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays for retailers this year.

Pluymackers notes that Lastminute’s email marketing database ‘could be bigger’, but that the company is working hard on that front. But in this post-GDPR landscape, MarketingTech counters, a smaller but healthy and engaged database is more desirable than a bigger, dirtier one. Pluymackers agrees and emphasises the aspect of loyalty while still remaining true to his ethos – and keeping the needle moving.

“Today email marketing is tremendously important for businesses like ours,” he says. “So we are again, very dynamically and in a programmatic fashion, trying to deliver email messages to our users which are relevant, hitting the user in the right moment and with the right content, to engage them when they start thinking about their next trip.”

One of the primary aspects of becoming chief marketing officer, for an organisation of any size, is to ensure you think of all members of your team, from your data scientist, to your SEM optimiser, to your event marketing manager. “I think getting this understanding and putting yourself in the shoes of this individual person is very important,” explains Pluymackers. “I have conversations with Google, with Facebook, on how to better support us, and I always tell them I want to be in the details.

“I don’t want to get the big CMO message. I want to understand the issue for my team, what we can do together in order to be better at what we are doing, and by inserting myself into those discussions, I can then better guide what the team needs to do.”

For Pluymackers, the recipe has been sketched out and the ingredients have been bought. Now it is all about seeing how it comes together. “This is where we are today,” he adds. “Over the last two years, we have spent a lot of time restructuring the team and becoming a programmatic, data-oriented, and very technical team.”

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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Who should take advantage of IGTV first?

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YouTube has had a near monopoly on the long-form video space — until recently. Instagram’s IGTV is here and it looks like it could be a formidable competitor. IGTV is the popular social media platform’s very own vertical video app, which is designed to allow brands, influencers, and creators to post longer segments; allowing for videos up to one hour in length, compared to the previous length of only one minute.

IGTV will almost certainly develop as a bona fide YouTube competitor, at a time when YouTube may be in its most vulnerable state. Here are the most likely reasons why:

IGTV could be a brand safety oasis

YouTube is especially sensitive to IGTV at the moment due to brand safety concerns. For the past year, YouTube’s biggest challenge has been assuring advertisers that their buys will be safe. At one point, 250 brands stopped advertising on the platform altogether. And, while almost all brands have returned, and YouTube has invested heavily in being a better partner, half of advertisers say YouTube has done a poor job with brand safety and managing inventory quality.

For IGTV, this is a gift. Though it has been careful not to say so explicitly, Instagram will likely be positioning IGTV as a more curated and brand-safe environment than YouTube. Brands want an alternative in light of safety concerns, so they’re looking at options from Snapchat and other premium publishers. We see this in our own spend data, with YouTube ad growth almost completely flat; increasing by just 0.2% from January to May.

So, what can brands do in the interim, whose main concern is brand safety? The instinct is to be cautious. But that may not be the right answer. Instead brands should be clear and firm with expectations. Brands first to market will be able to push Instagram to be brand safe – to demand it – and IGTV has the opportunity to challenge Google Preferred by providing brands with a transparent, brand-safe solution to YouTube’s shortcomings. However, the platform has to prove it by example first.

YouTube has made significant strides in showing advertisers that they are taking brand safety concerns seriously (e.g. the implementation of whitelist and blacklist technologies, partnering with DoubleVerify). IGTV has to be brand-safe out of the gate — or at the very least, safer than its competitor — to draw those advertisers away from YouTube.

Advertisers will like IGTV for performance

Beyond brand safety, IGTV could beat YouTube on performance. Over the past two years, the demand for performance by digital media has exploded. Last year, brand frustrations culminated when P&G and Unilever, two of the world’s biggest advertisers, dramatically cut ad spend due to concerns around transparency and ROI. Ad budgets are being scrutinized more than ever and a growing number of operations are being taken in-house.

This ties back to IGTV and YouTube in a few ways. First, according to ANA data, influencer marketing has surged. Seventy-five percent of brands are spending on influencers and nearly half will increase spending in the next year. Why? Sixty percent say they’re happy with the performance they’ve seen, with Instagram being the second-most popular channel for influencer programs, just behind Facebook.

Instagram has established itself more strongly as a performance channel than YouTube and it offers an unmatched ability to drive purchases. That’s an advertiser’s dream, of course. A recent study, reported by RetailDive, and conducted by Dana Rebecca Designs, revealed that 72% of users have made a purchase decision as a direct result of something they saw on Instagram. YouTube, by contrast, has helped with purchase decisions already planned. If Instagram can deliver similar performance through IGTV, advertisers will come calling.

Retail brands, specifically those that are significantly reliant on online shopping, should realign their budgets to make IGTV a priority, as IGTV will be a great resource for driving the right type of customers toward a purchase.

Instagram is growing, while YouTube is not

Unfortunately for YouTube, brand safety isn’t the only major challenge it has grappled with recently. In addition to ad growth, viewership numbers have begun to slow down. A few months ago, major channels and influencers on YouTube saw their monthly views stall. An analysis by eMarketer echoed this pattern, noting that YouTube’s audience growth was 13% in 2016 but only 9% in 2017. According to the report, “YouTube viewership is nearing saturation in many markets.” Those numbers are likely to continue to erode.

IGTV, by contrast, is only just getting started. Its growth prospects are bright. Instagram’s user base is growing by 5% each quarter. The company recently announced 1 billion monthly active users. YouTube has more at 1.8 billion, but Instagram hasn’t shown any signs of plateauing. Also, consider that consumer tastes have shifted towards vertical video as mobile viewing has exploded. IGTV is a vertical video-first platform, while YouTube only added vertical video compatibility in January. The viewership trends are in Instagram’s favor, whereas YouTube is playing catch up.

YouTube could wonder about its ability to maintain audience numbers if top stars and influencers desert it. At its core, Instagram is a social network. YouTube, by comparison, is not. Most come to YouTube for personalities like Smosh and Jenna Marbles. But if the personalities go away, so do the viewers.

In recent months, some influencers haveeither left the platform or chosen to diversify their content across challenger services such as Twitch. As YouTube tightens brand safety and copyright controls in an effort to calm advertisers, creators are concerned that the cleanup is leading to “viewer suppression” and demonetization. IGTV has already partnered with popular influencers such as King Bach and LeLe Pons for its launch, and any blowback among YouTube’s community of stars will only help it attract more creators.

Tread cautiously

IGTV’s opportunity to become a brand-safe, performance-driven, vertical video alternative to YouTube isn’t just hype. That being said, brands should remain vigilant during this time, and not act on impulse once IGTV decides to monetize. Some may be tempted to dive right in, due to the influencer-heavy list of content creators on the platform, but IGTV will have to prove it has learned from the woes of its competitor, before it can truly outshine YouTube.

Todd Krizelman is chief executive officer of MediaRadar

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Group Nine centralizes branded content team with launch of an in-house studio

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Group Nine Media is bringing its branded content strategy under one roof with the launch of in-house studio Brandshop.

The digital publisher announced today (11 December) that Brandshop will bring together the creative services teams across its four brands — NowThis, Thrillist, Seeker, and The Dodo — and the branded entertainment piece of its production studio Jash.

Group Nine president Christa Carone said centralizing everything will better inform the outlet's editorial strategy.

"The campaigns, the videos, and all of the programs we're developing are entirely informed on the insights that we're seeing from the audiences that engage with our editorial content. So, when an advertiser asks what young are people interested in, [we have a] robust set of data to be able to answer that question in an informed way," Carone told The Drum.

According to Nielsen, Group Nine reaches over 80% of US adults in their 20s. Group Nine brands earn more than 140 social engagements each month, per Listen First Media.

Yosef Johnson, senior vice president and head of Brandshop, will lead the new studio. He called it a "holistic new shop" across Group Nine's four brands.

Group Nine is the latest media company to push a brand content strategy. Condé Nast recently set up its own agency and brand consultancy in the UK.

Carone said Group Nine is seeing "very healthy, double-digit growth" in the area, and that as a social-first publisher it has a unique position in offering branded content.

"We lean very heavily into the social platform. It's one of the reasons we know advertisers want to work with us, because we are known in the marketplace as being one of the most robust social-first publishers, so our learnings from that are helping advertisers better understand how they can engage with younger audiences on social," Carone said.

Digital media currently stands on some shaky grounds as it competes for advertising dollars with giants such as Facebook and Google. BuzzFeed's chief executive suggested a merger among media companies could help publishers better compete.

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Marketing Day: Facebook’s ad tests, Alexa’s email feature, Hulu’s OTT ad marketplace

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Here’s our recap of what happened in online marketing today, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web.

From Marketing Land:

Recent Headlines From MarTech Today, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Marketing Technology:

Online Marketing News From Around The Web:

The post Marketing Day: Facebook’s ad tests, Alexa’s email feature, Hulu’s OTT ad marketplace appeared first on Marketing Land.

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