ANA/Connectiv Preview: Do Owned Audience and Domain Expertise Trump Automated Efficiency?

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On Wednesday, June 19, Connectiv teams up with ANA Business Marketing to bring leading B2B advertisers, agencies and media and information companies together in New York City for What Goes 'Round: Re-imagining the Media Marketer Relationship in a Digitally Transformed World.

This is the first in a series of planned Intersections events with ANA and Connectiv and with topics such as owned audience and domain expertise versus programmatic efficiency, how advertisers and publishers work together in the shadow of the duopoly and how content marketing is changing the publisher-marketer dynamic, there’s sure to be some fireworks as well as much needed dialogue.

Representing publishers on the panel are Tony Uphoff, CEO of Thomas and Kate Spellman, CMO of Questex. Here, Uphoff and Spellman offer a preview of their take. Want to join the conversation? Click here for more information.  

Connectiv: How do you respond to the question of whether the value of an owned audience and domain expertise trump automated efficiency?

Tony Uphoff: Digital advertising in B2C has clearly seen the pendulum swing all the way to efficiency. This has been less acute in B2B to date. While this story is still playing out, it’s fair to say that automated efficiency has driven down the cost of per unit pricing of digital advertising in the consumer space. It’s far less clear at what real cost, however. Ad fraud continues to be a huge concern and we're hearing more and more concern about brand damage based on out-of-context advertising. We know that seeing an ad for a product or service that is totally out of context with the environment is a really crappy user-experience. What we don’t know is the brand damage with consumers who think, 'this brand must not get it.' Or get me, as they are advertising in the wrong place. Consumers don’t reward advertising efficiency with their brand loyalty. They engage with brands that they feel get them and tell a story that makes sense to them. Where advertising appears is a part of this story. There is an adage that “Brands sell Brands”. Ironically the rise of “Influencer-Based” marketing suggests that aligning your brand with a brand that has an owned audience and deep domain expertise or credibility matters. In the B2B world, while there are some examples of automated advertising, the extraordinary role that first party data plays in most every form of advertising and the increasing challenge with data privacy and GDPR we believe will actually shift more advertisers towards first party data providers that are known, quality brands that can deliver a high value, owned audience advertising experience. 

Kate Spellman:  Programmatic marketing is a part of the marketing channel. It helps us find the audience at the beginning of the funnel but the quality and quantity of the content is still vital. If the content is not valuable and/or relevant to the targeted audience – it doesn’t keep them engaged or nurture them down the buyer’s path. At Questex we believe that delivering the right content, at the right time, in the right context, to the right audience is critical to the success of a content marketing program. In the business space this is particularly important as the cycle to buy is normally a longer process. The marketer continually needs to ensure meeting the buyer at the right time from discovery through purchase to loyalty, which is not a linear process.  

Connectiv: How does a B2B publisher contend with B2B advertisers attempting to be their own content marketers?  

Kate Spellman: We don’t see this as a challenge because a B2B advertiser’s audiences and content focus is usually much narrower and specific than what Questex can reach. The advertiser in many cases becomes a partner to Questex and wants that content put in an editorial environment. Data is a critical asset for Questex. We have a trusted reach to several million global decision makers from well-established brands in five core markets – Beauty and Wellness, Travel, Hospitality, Pharma and Technology –  and we have robust tools to surround audiences with not only content marketing tactics, but engagement tactics throughout the complete buyer’s journey. We are on a mission to meet the audience in their workflow and view content as social, how-to video’s and events.  We are currently looking at the launch of an entirely new platform that will become the source for our users to find new ideas, connect with suppliers, see what is trending in their market, all while leading to our live events with the focus on feeds & follows.

Tony Uphoff: Brands have always had their own content and there really isn’t anything new about content marketing. In our case at Thomas, it works well to have advertisers with robust content marketing assets. Given our platform approach, engaging in-market buyers with a brand’s content at every stage of the purchase process is something we do hundreds of times a day. This goes back to having a strong first party data platform with an owned audience that comes to Thomas looking specifically to source products and suppliers. We also naturally include a supplier’s web site into the buyer’s experience, as this is something all buyers do as a part of their evaluation and purchase process. In the case of a more traditional “publisher,” this may be more of a conflict. Even in this case, however, the reality is that volume buyers are very well aware of the difference between a vendor pitch and a credible media brand. They work well together but buyers aren’t confused about the difference or the value of each as a part of their buying process.

Connectiv: What’s been the biggest benefit to your relationship with your own advertisers? Product mix? Data and analytics? Targeting tools?

Tony Uphoff: We run as a two-sided marketplace. We focus on the user-experience and on the supplier-experience, which really drives the flywheel effect of our business. The benefit of our relationship with our own advertisers is to understand how we can make the supplier-experience better, to better understand how we can showcase supplier advertising and information into the buyer’s evaluation and purchase process and how to provide more tools to help them run their business. We also get a ton of ongoing data from our customers, with over 12,000 of them running WebTrax, our sales and marketing analytics platform. This data provides us a remarkable insight into buyer intent, web site use behavior and in concert with the data from, a window into the industrial economy. 

Kate Spellman: For Questex, it’s a mix of all of these. Our goal is to connect buyers and sellers at every point in the buying journey. In each of our five core markets we offer Exhibitions, Conferences, Hosted Buyer and Networking events that bring buyers and sellers together as buyers move from discovering a problem to identifying features and functionality of a solution to selecting a provider to making a purchase through advocacy. Our digital properties – online and on device – work in partnership with events to drive year-round engagement and touchpoints with customers. Advertisers can leverage our first-party data which can be used with our advanced targeting capabilities for optimized reach to markets where we have deep vertical knowledge. By combining user-centric data and mapping precisely to the buyer’s needs, we connect buyers and sellers at every point with an integrated product mix (digital, events, social, etc.). Having all of these tools allows us to deliver extensive audience engagement and content development expertise, which is what our advertisers need to drive their businesses.

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.