Perspective from the iMedia Agency Summit

By John Koetsier December 9, 2015

I was fortunate to be able to attend the iMedia Agency Summit at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale this year. The Agency Summit is an annual gathering of agency and service provider leaders focused on making connections over the key issues we all face. It is also the occasion in which the coveted iMedia Agency Awards are announced.

For me, an Agency Summit is a sort of digital marketing homecoming because I spent so long in the ad biz. There is a vitality and energy in that industry that is truly unique, and I am always pleased to spend time and share ideas (and guacamole dip) with agency pros.

I thought I’d share some thoughts on what I learned.

An Industry Facing Tremendous Change

It’s clear that programmatic buying is changing the complexion of the media industry, with an enormous portion of total media impressions being delivered through automated platforms.

OK, we all know that programmatic buying is huge already, but the makeup of this year’s iMedia Agency Summit really brought it home for me. Whereas digital media companies like networks and publishers use to have a large presence at these conferences, there were far fewer on the ground this year, replaced by lots of ad tech and mar Tech tools designed to automate processes, deliver better customer perspective, and action customer data to drive a better user experience. Brand marketers and agency marketers alike have the opportunity to learn about new technologies and platforms to help propel them forward.

data Data DATA

The discussion of getting more quality data on customer behavior was a consistent theme throughout the days. Not just more, but more of the right data. It’s clear that marketers and agencies are needing to filter through the positively enormous data sets now available to find the information that is truly relevant to decision making.

What I most appreciated about this was the recognition that all data is not necessarily valuable, and that immediately available data are not necessarily the right points with which to make decisions. You need to set a strategic data acquisition strategy so that you get the right insights.

There was significant discussion of the appeal and dangers of using surrogate metrics for digital marketing decision making, which is a consistent theme here at Singular and across the app industry. The biggest expression of the challenge in our business is when marketers use installs as a surrogate for other KPIs. Because installs vary so widely in quality, using install counts as a predictor of future revenue etc. is unwise.

The Problem with Surrogate Indicators

The problem with surrogates is right there in the name. They are heuristics that we hope will be indicative of things that truly matter to us. But some are actually very bad indicators of our KPIs. Companies that deliver the least expensive installs often also deliver the least sticky users and the lowest average revenue per user, for example.

That’s why it is so critical to have mobile app analytics in place for your app business. So you can get to the drivers of your KPIs, rather than relying on surrogates. For example, being able to understand the quality of an install.

In the broader ad industry this issue is also of paramount importance, because so many of the go-to-currencies of digital are not good predictors of sales or revenue. As our industry gets even more sophisticated, we’ll continue to hear this theme.

Ad Blocking

This was a very big topic at the event. But the best discussion put this issue in the context of the larger issue of quality – quality impressions, placements and experiences.

There was specific discussion on the main stage of how apps are immune to this key challenge, and that apps enable a fully controllable user experience. The user decides what they do in the app, of course, but the app publisher can ensure that all aspects of an app experience are high quality ones.

After the discussion I spoke with a number of agency folks who discussed future plans for brand apps because the user experience can be made so strong. That’s a great reminder of one of the advantages of our space.

User Decay

Within those private discussions, we also talked about the challenges of app user decay, which I define as a combination of uninstalls and lapsed app usage that ultimately shortens the average customer life cycle and limits potential revenue and engagement.

There was widespread recognition that having the right data on these issues was critical to addressing the challenges. You need to understand every relevant customer interaction. Because Singular doesn’t limit how many data points you can track, and doesn’t charge for those in-app events, we make it easy to do just that.

More Purposeful Mobile and App Marketing

Those that discussed mobile with me focused on best practices for driving business metrics. The level of sophistication in perspective was impressive at this year’s iMedia Agency Summit, as was interest in the emerging app marketing tactics around remarketing to achieve specific objectives like reengaging cart abandoners. Agency marketers are clearly interested in bringing the same level of dedication and sophistication to the emerging app sector as they have in other digital categories.

We all remember the days when mobile marketing was more of a checkbox than a sophisticated discipline, at least in markets where PCs were well established. But now agencies are using mobile marketing prowess and effectiveness as powerful approaches to differentiation. Better matters in mobile, just like it does in measurement.

Hiring Diversity

Bravo to iMedia Agency Summit content head Jenny Marlo for making workforce diversity the opening keynote and discussion. One of the many great things about Jenny is that she loves to break out of the typical event structure and hand-wringing discussions, to focus on actions we can take to improve advertising and marketing.

Lead speaker Sandra Sims-Williams, Chief Diversity Officer, Publicis Groupe gave a really important address and I urge you to go and watch the video when it’s posted. Also read iMedia senior editor Nanette Marcus’s write-up of the keynote. Great food for – action!

There’s a lot of discussion about the need for greater diversity in tech, and the digital agency business faces related challenges. While agencies have a much more even gender balance, there is a big opportunity to make the workforce more reflective of the society we serve.

Ownership Change

Many of you may know that the iMedia business including the iMedia Agency Summit has been acquired by Comexposium, which also acquired Mobile Media Summits. While I have no inside information on the topic, I look forward to seeing how these two great event brands work together, and how mobile will play an even bigger role in future events.

Thanks for the Recognition

On a final note, I want to thank the iMedia Agency Summit team and especially Jenny Marlo and Chris Arens for the personal recognition they extended to me at the event. I have been lucky to be a part of the iMedia Agency Summit community since 2007, whether through sponsoring, writing, speaking, or just helping out with content, being on advisory boards, awards judging, and the like. I so look forward to serving iMedia and the community in many ways in the future. Participating in this year’s agency awards judging process was a great reminder of the remarkable creativity expressed in this industry every day!

So thanks again, iMedia!

Note: This blog post was published first on the Apsalar blog, prior to Apsalar’s merger with Singular. Learn more about our united company at

Singular enables data-oriented marketers to connect, measure, and optimize siloed marketing data, giving them the most vital insights they need to drive ROI. The unified analytics platform tracks over $7 billion in digital marketing spend to revenue and lifetime value across industries including commerce, travel, gaming, entertainment and on-demand services.For more information, click here.

If you’d like to learn more or see a demo of the Singular unified analytics platform, get in touch.

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