Susan Vobejda

Capturing the attention of consumers in today’s media landscape can seem like trying to photograph a hummingbird. Set up a beautiful red feeder, fill it with delicious nectar, and have the camera at the ready.

But the bird will never feed if the conditions aren’t just right.

Susan Vobejda, chief marketing officer of The Trade Desk, knows this challenge well. The Trade Desk is a global advertising technology company that helps brands engage with customers across all digital formats and platforms. Not afraid to “try new things” (her own advice), Vobejda’s spiderweb career includes serving as executive vice president and cmo at Tory Burch, and as the founding executive and general manager of Bloomberg’s media distribution division.

She parlays this breadth of experience as a resource for business leaders and mentoring with WOMEN in America as well as serving on multiple boards. Here, Vobejda shares her insights about marketing while helping to demystify digital “hummingbird hunting” for today’s retailers and brands.

WWD: What is the “attention economy” and how has it evolved?

Susan Vobejda: Adults in the U.S. now spend more than six hours per day listening to, watching, reading or interacting with digital media. This is three additional hours per day since 2011. If you feel really swamped lately, this is why. We consume this content across different channels and devices, increasingly on mobile devices. The importance of mobile and digital in reaching customers cannot be overstated.

This shift has created an “attention economy” and has mammoth implications for brands and their marketing strategies. Marketers need to be in front of a customer, in digital media, when she is looking to be inspired.

WWD: How can retailers use data and technology to identify and target their customers?

S.V.: Data is what powers effective marketing strategies for retailers. The good news for retailers is that they have deep first-party customer data via web and in-store transactions. Segmenting and profiling your most valuable customers is a key part of a data-driven growth strategy. Marketers in many categories do not have these advantages.

Programmatic media platforms like The Trade Desk allow you to activate insights and target almost immediately. Here is a simple example: If your brand wants to acquire customers that might have historically shopped a competitor, your digital agency can activate and target a data set of competitive buyers on The Trade Desk platform. You might want to refine the targeting to a radius around your stores or certain lifestyle attributes like people who like adventure travel. All of these things are possible and measurable with these platforms.

In terms of measurement, you can measure both online and off-line results of your campaigns. With 90 percent of all U.S. sales still occurring off-line, a key goal for retail marketers is to tie advertising’s effectiveness to critical business results such as in-store visits. Off-line attribution is now the norm for many programmatic digital campaigns.

We recently worked with one of our agency clients on behalf of a national arts and crafts retailer to drive in-store visits with Connected TV. Using look-alike modeling, and contextual and behavioral targeting, the retailer successfully discovered and prospected new audiences. They also used first-party data to retarget engaged site visitors and past purchasers. With off-line measurement through our partner Factual, we were able to measure the effectiveness of their TV ads to drive store traffic and track cost per visit.

WWD: What are some misconceptions that you see and hear about today’s digital marketing? What are some common mistakes you see?

S.V.: It’s really important to think about the full funnel and not just last-click attribution when evaluating digital media. If you overvalue last click to calculate ROI [return on investment], you will place the majority of your budget into lower-funnel tactics like search. The danger of this is you really aren’t justifying investment in awareness-building top-of-the-funnel activities that drive customer growth. You run the risk of seeing your customer base shrink over time.

Another mistake is not working closely enough with your digital agency to understand the data available on programmatic platforms. What I’m seeing is brand marketers at all levels don’t really understand what they can easily action. For example, you can easily target competitive users or optimize multiple variations of a look-alike model of your best customers to drive high-value acquisition. Or you can run a video or Fashion Film on Connected TV in a much more targeted efficient way than broadcast TV. These are just a few of the many strategies you can activate as a brand.

WWD: For any brand looking to expand its customer base, what is the one piece of advice you would give?

S.V.: The smarter you are about what is possible using a Demand Side Platform, the better your strategies will be. Meet with your agency and programmatic DSP partner to talk about what you are trying to accomplish. What are your KPIs? We can help you solve for them.

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