This article was originally published by AdAge.
Aligning technology and marketing objectives is necessary to uncover the unknowns that lurk in the audience and performance signal disruption.
When asked for evidence that Saddam Hussein tried to supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a 2002 media briefing:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns—that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns; there are things we do not know we don’t know.”
The concept of known and unknown unknowns has tantalized me since I first heard this quote, because it speaks to expanding thought beyond current constraints, much like filling up a balloon with more air. Over the past year, I’ve thought of it every time I’ve opened a new RFI and found martech questions that remain firmly anchored in the “known known” category.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted to see brands at least asking questions about data and technology orchestration, as opposed to just a few years ago when it was hardly mentioned. In today’s landscape, aligning technology and marketing objectives as early as possible is necessary to uncover the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns that lurk in audience and performance signal disruption. Too many data and measurement projects go off the rails because of technical limitations and their number will only increase as more complexity is introduced to the ecosystem.
No one is expecting RFI writers from brand marketing departments to know every nuanced question to ask martech specialists. But with slight tweaking of the standard interrogatories, we can open the door to a higher level of discovery and exploration of the currently unknown.
Here are examples of good questions and how they can be improved to receive better answers:
Please explain how you expect to attribute our campaigns in a post-cookie world.
Please explain the process you’ll use to help us reconfigure our tech stack, to implement a measurement and attribution framework?
The tweak allows for discovery. As first asked, it focuses on one aspect of third-party cookie redaction— attribution— and assumes a yes/no answer. The known unknown here: We don’t have a clue until we build an architecture map of your stack and get a picture of how you’re impacted by the “post cookie world.” It is possible to deliver on attribution, but changes to the configuration might be needed to do so.
We would like a marketing dashboard for optimizations, cross-channel comparison, and ongoing performance and campaign reporting. Can you help here?
Our media and data platforms are ‘X’. Will you be able to integrate with these to build a shared dashboard for optimizations, reporting, cross-channel performance and audience analysis at the creative level of granularity by week/month/quarter?
Again, the first question is a good one, but dashboards are time-bound and data capture is dependent on tech implementation. The original question doesn’t open the conversation up to a platform-fit review for the marketers’ assets and objectives. Maybe it is looking for a daily update but only by placement granularity. The expectations matter for the truthfulness of the response.
Demonstrate your strategic planning process to develop an effective media strategy for our brand to increase conversions of ‘XYZ’ population of people.
Demonstrate your strategic planning process to develop an effective media strategy for our brand, given the constraint that only 30% of our acquisitions take place online for the population we want to review.
Real-world examples are elucidative, but only when realistic. To increase conversions, we need to know a starting point. We also want to know the limitations and gaps in the data. How might we improve on them to learn and add that knowledge back into the media and audience mix at another time?
Generic statements don’t always help uncover known unknowns or unknown unknowns. Brands, agencies, and martech need to do a better job of recognizing that media partners, web data, data/media platforms, and measurement partners are all a part of a unique architecture that offers an opportunity to find out which agencies can demonstrate the best solution-oriented thinking for marketers’ current needs and future objectives.
Therran Oliphant is Executive Director, martech and analytics, at PHD USA.