Performance marketers face the dilemma of focusing on a few channels for deep specialization or managing many channels for creativity and growth. Focusing on “walled garden” media can achieve both, doubling the effectiveness of first-party datasets and maximizing customer connection. Going omnichannel across multiple walled gardens is the future of performance marketing.
There’s a really strange dichotomy right now in performance advertising.
On the one hand, everyone and their mother are talking about the need to approach things from an omnichannel POV. This is logical because the number of channels consumers use today is enormous, and brands want to connect in as many ways as possible.
Benefits of Omnichannel Performance Marketing
The benefits aren’t just theoretical: in a recent report, Gartner® states:1 “Organizations that manage 11 or more marketing channels are twice as likely to successfully optimize their multichannel marketing investment vs. those that manage fewer channels.”
The report also indicates that “across industries, geographies, and budget categories, organizations that manage more channels accomplished more marketing goals to a greater degree than those with fewer channels.”
It seems, then, that the general consensus is in. However, another finding is more specific and, perhaps, surprising: “Organizations with fewer channels are more likely to see success in performance marketing.”
Organizations that manage 11 or more marketing channels are twice as likely to successfully optimize their multichannel marketing investment vs. those that manage fewer channels.
I suppose it makes sense if you think about it. Greater channel diversity leads to expansion, creativity, and growth; less allows for deep focus, consistency, and sharp-shooter execution against near-term goals and micro-KPIs.
But therein lies the dilemma: what if you need both?
If you’re a sizable business with significant performance marketing budgets, you probably can’t afford to choose to sit in one camp or another. You need to leverage many channels and myriad publishers — even within the umbrella of performance alone — to stay competitively visible, keep pace with consumer behavior, and get ahead of emerging trends. You need your marketing organization to be driving material business impact, not just vanity metrics. And you need to actually hit today’s niche performance targets to prop the whole thing up.
What’s an omni-minded performance marketer to do?
First, maybe it’s time we looked at this practice of ours in the mirror. Although we may have all thought performance marketing was well past awkward adolescence and already pretty mature, given all the intelligent, algorithmic tools we’ve learned to use, I think we’re learning that that was a pretty surface assessment.
The tools had knowledge but weren’t yet wise. They were vulnerable in their dependence on certain support beams like third-party cookies, leading to a slew of problematic practices, including the wild west of data arbitrage. And they were limited in their expertise, designed to help us manage a handful of mega-important channels in their own echo chambers.
In other words, performance marketing tech platforms were equivalent to entry-level specialists who used CliffsNotes and whose skills couldn’t actually scale.
Omnichannel Performance Marketing Today
Today, even within the realm of performance, there are many channels and publishers, with blurring lines between them and, paradoxically, concrete walls.
It’s short-sighted to bet on only a few, but the need for depth and specialization in each hasn’t gone away. So instead of an either-or approach, performance marketing must evolve into an omnichannel practice without losing touch. We need to go broad while staying deep.
Even if consumers are, technically, everywhere, they’re not likely to actually respond to our efforts everywhere. So focus is critical, and the walled gardens make a compelling case for their invite to the party.
Taking a strategic approach to omnichannel performance marketing
To get there, first, let’s remember that omnichannel doesn’t have to mean every channel — we can choose to take a discriminating approach to the channels in our media mix and to building mindful connections between them. All it takes is acknowledging that even if consumers are, technically, everywhere, they’re not likely to actually respond to our efforts everywhere.
So the focus is critical, and the walled gardens make a compelling case for their invite to the party. They operate from a basis of authenticated, first-party relationships with users, allowing marketers to shore up and activate rich, 1P data in a privacy-safe way.
Most of us are always striving to maximize authentic customer connection, and these types of publishers also offer ad formats that thrive with creativity and feel seamless to user experience, as opposed to distracting or annoying audiences the way open-web programmatic placements often do.
The walled gardens are where consumers prefer to engage with brands and where they’re most comfortable with their data being leveraged to serve them relevant ads. They’re also where we, as marketers, have more control over where our ads are shown, and context — when it comes to brand safety — is incredibly important.
As opposed to a few years ago, there are many such media publishers today, and there’s a technology gap, perhaps even a skills gap, to be filled in learning to go omnichannel across them, given those walls. But these are the environments that are most meaningful to consumers, and this, therefore, is the work performance marketing has cut out for itself — the job to be done by our industry if we want to cross the chasm and elevate. This is performance marketing as a fully formed adult.
The Future of Omnichannel Performance Marketing
We can and should start expecting our platforms to evolve faster and more assertively toward helping us build this future. The upside is a best-of-both-worlds situation — too good to pass up, and, I think, where things are going to get really interesting.
®Gartner, ‘2023 Multichannel Marketing Survey: How the Number of Marketing Channels Impacts Success’, March 10, 2023. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.