#MARKiesAwards 2021 spills: Verizon Media's key ways to take a campaign from good to great

Verizon Media has made a name for itself since its days of Oath. The company not only has media assets such as Yahoo and AOL but also its adtech and media platform businesses. It also has several reputable clients under its wing, including Singapore telco StarHub. Last year, the team at Verizon Media joined forces with StarHub to help the telco drive sign ups for its mobile plan or devices across its multiple brands. The campaign was a hit and saw both teams taking home awards at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's MARkies Awards 2021.

Earlier this year in May, Verizon Media got sold off to private equity firm Apollo Global Management for US$5 billion, with Verizon Communications retaining a 10% stake in the new company which will now be known as Yahoo at the close of the transaction. Despite this, the team at Verizon Media remains focused on its goal to help marketers accelerate and improve their marketing through 5G and immersive tech.

Rene How (pictured), Verizon Media's sales strategist, shares a marketing trend it is excited to explore this year and the lessons learnt during the pandemic.

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series for MARKies Awards 2021. To find out more about the awards, click here.

Tell us about the campaign you won and what was the most memorable aspect of the campaign for you?

How: We are thrilled to take home wins this year for the StarHub Mobile Campaign in the Most Effective Use - Mobile and Most Effective Use - Programmatic Marketing categories for our collaborative work with StarHub and its media agency Carat.

Witnessing first-hand the true power of programmatic advertising and artificial intelligence at work was the most memorable experience for our team. We were particularly excited to see the value of AI working in synergy with human creativity to take audience management and aspects such as retargeting and customisation to the next level, stretching programmatic advertising’s advantages for advertisers and brands. All of this would not have been possible without Carat and StarHub’s trust in us as a transparent, reliable and privacy-focused ad-tech partner who can leverage meaningful audience insights and deliver successful data-driven campaigns.   

Conceptualised to drive conversions and purchases online for StarHub’s mobile plans and phones, the StarHub Mobile Campaign tapped opportunities brought on by changing consumer consumption habits within Singapore’s highly competitive telco market. Targeting a new generation of digitally aware shoppers who were spending more time online, the campaign enticed non-StarHub subscribers, focusing on subscribers of StarHub’s competitors and people with an interest in mobile phones and the latest models.

For this campaign, we tapped into our programmatic DSP platform for mobile, desktop and native ads, including the full breadth of our targeting tools, employing these alongside StarHub’s CRM data, hashed to ensure user privacy. Creating a hyper-segmented and specified audience, we targeted users based on interest segments and lookalike modelled audiences of StarHub’s CRM data hashed to ensure user privacy. We then delivered a personalised campaign that zoned into when the target audience was consuming content on their mobile or desktop, at moments when they were most likely to make a purchase. For users who did not complete the journey, we utilised retargeting to entice them through to conversion. As we progressed, we also used advanced machine learning and AI to streamline the campaign based on situational changes, audience behaviours, trends and external factors.         

What do you think makes for great marketing/advertising these days?

How: Great marketing and advertising are about being able to resonate emotionally with the audience to make an impact by offering relevant experiences that provide utility at every touchpoint. I would say three key things take a campaign from good to great - innovation, insight and trust.

Consumers today expect brands to tell stories with innovation - a recent study we conducted showed that 75% of consumers look for new interactive content experiences; in response, 83% of advertisers say they’re already looking at ways to deliver. As 5G takes flight, brands that innovate storytelling through the use of AR, VR and AI-powered immersive next-gen experiences will be in a better position to hit that sweet spot, driving valuable brand perception and engagement.

With shifts in legislation and consumer privacy preferences, alongside content overload especially in the digital space, brands will need to seek new, sustainable solutions that will allow them to reach relevant audiences at scale and also provide an accurate understanding of their audiences’ behaviour if they want to engage with them effectively. The power of first-party data, creating highly targeted segmented audiences, personalising campaign deliveries to maintain relevance and utility in every touchpoint and being agile in optimising campaigns in response to situational changes enables brands to connect to their most relevant audiences for better results and returns on investment. For those that find themselves lacking in first-party data and the tools required to achieve deep level insights, find trusted partners with sustainable, future proof solutions that will help bridge the gap.

While not new, trust will always be important irrespective of how audiences evolve. Experiences since 2020 have made audiences more belief-driven and adept at sniffing out deceit and veiled truths in marketing and advertising campaigns. More than just ensuring that your brand message is genuine and consistent at every touchpoint, audiences also feel that it is our responsibility to ensure that ads are not run alongside offensive content. An easy way to build people’s trust and ensure brand safety is to leverage credibility and publisher relationships off trusted and reliable sites to provide audiences with the assurance they seek.      

What is one specific marketing/advertising trend you are looking forward to exploring and experimenting with in 2021?

How: It would have to be extended reality (XR) because of the many exciting ways AR, VR and mixed reality will allow us to connect our physical and digital worlds more naturally and humanly through one-of-a-kind experiences. 

Over the last year, XR has received a lot of interest from marketers and advertisers looking to engage with audiences who were cooped up at home by fulfilling their demand for more immersive, innovative and interactive branded experiences. Having already had a taste of successful campaigns, I expect audiences will continue to crave these experiences even as in-person events and activities make a return and life slowly begin to normalise. 

We’ve already started experimenting with XR late last year with Immersion 2021, a global showcase of next-generation content experiences from our XR toolset Verizon Media Immersive. This year, we’ll be paying close attention to enabling brands who are looking for a new and expanding opportunity to re-imagine storytelling. We’re also looking forward to working with brands on engaging and immersive campaigns through our Verizon Media Immersive, which has shifted XR beyond mobile app environments to include web browser-enabled experiences - allowing it to be applied at scale over a large audience on desktop and mobile to help marketers and advertisers heighten next-generation brand experiences.

What was one lesson learnt during the pandemic that all marketers can take away?

How: The pandemic has shown us how change can happen at any time. Just as we took measures to safeguard our health and strengthen our immune systems, brands too need to build their line of defence through brand affinity and brand love to help tide them through all weathers and seasons - be it sunshine and rainbows or a raging storm. While marketers rely on strategies and plans to steer the course, the pandemic has taught us one clear lesson -  stay focused on the overall goal but be flexible about how to get there.

Every marketer understands the importance of strategies and plans in driving successful campaigns and results. However, unexpected disruptions can greatly upend things, and in the case of the pandemic, these disruptions could be around for a lot longer than what we initially predicted.

Marketers who stay focused on a well-thought-through long-term strategy and are agile in adapting their execution plans will have the ability to guide brands to greener pastures. In the process, adapted plans and executions could also capitalise on opportunities to expose the brand to new audiences and gain customers.

Marketers should be proactive and open to new ideas and solutions, but at the same time, resist the temptation to jump on the bandwagon of the latest technology just for the sake of it. While it’s great to be first, consider how applying the technology can enhance strategy and storytelling in a meaningful way for consumers, rather than utilising technology to hop onto the latest trend and come across as just another gimmick. After spending a lot of time and effort, a cohesive strategy should always be the focal point, no matter the situation or season.