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Strange Corp

5 Minutes With… Paul Honey, Strange

In the latest instalment of our executive interview series, we sat down with Paul Honey, Managing Director at Strange, to talk about his business, marketing industry trends, challenges, opportunities and career advice…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

We run a lot of high performing digital marketing campaigns (PPC, Social, Display and SEO) and design and build websites (Drupal, Magento, Shopify, WordPress) for a range of travel, leisure, retail brands and not for profit clients. We’re located in Bournemouth and Bristol and are celebrating our 20th birthday this year. 

What have been the biggest challenges the Marketing industry has faced over the past 12 months?

Performance of marketing campaigns. ‘Subpar’ performance just isn’t sustainable, ‘good’ performance is often not enough to keep brands ahead of their competitors and brands rarely have the budget to be the ‘best’. So from our perspective it’s all about doing things ‘better’. It’s a simple approach to a complicated problem. 

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

We’ve seen a strong rise from brands that are seeking better performance from their marketing budgets and who are looking for a more joined up approach to digital. 

What is the biggest priority for the Marketing industry in 2020?

From a digital point of view, getting ready for the ‘downfall of the cookie’ is a huge priority. For organisations who rely a lot on cookie-based audiences they should be preparing for the day when the main browsers no longer allow marketers to track users using cookies. They could start by collecting as much (GDPR-compliant) first party data as they can from their customers so that they can use this information to build audiences in the future. 

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2020?

As Google and Facebook battle it out for client advertising budgets, we’d expect to see a lot of continued innovation in both platforms – which is a great! And with the increased privacy legislation, we’re also starting to see data further up the funnel becoming more significant.

What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this coming year?

The humble cookie…Things are changing in digital and the impact is significant.

In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?

Probably voice search – it’s predicted that 75% of US households will have a smart speaker by 2025 and the UK will be just a bit behind that number. It won’t be long until Amazon’s ‘keyword trigger’ patent comes to life which could allow brands to advertise based on the smart speaker recognising certain keywords. It will start small of course, but the possibilities are just too significant for it not to become a major marketing channel.  

Which person in, or associated with, the Marketing industry would you most like to meet?

Frederick Vallaeys – one of the architects of the Google Ads platform, an ‘AdWords Evangelist’, and current CEO of Optmyzr  – a tool we use widely. It would be really interesting to get his opinion on the future of paid media marketing, and how far it’s come since he helped create Google Ads. 

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Marketing sector?

The rate of change that technology enables new businesses models to emerge is fascinating to watch. There are some very cool companies out there now and whilst not all of them will rise to the heights of the current tech giants, a few undoubtedly will. 

You go to the bar at the Digital Marketing Solutions Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?

More than likely a coffee… 

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Each day usually brings something new and exciting, but nothing matches the team delivering work that surpasses client expectations.

And what’s the most challenging?

There’s not one thing that’s really challenging…There are of course minor ‘annoyances’ from time to time.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Spend client’s money like it was your own.” I was given this advice early in my career whilst working in New York City. It’s such a universally good bit of advice for people working in agencies. 

Succession or Stranger Things?

Neither. Watched a bit of both, but they didn’t capture my interest enough to pursue. I did binge watch Vikings though!

Using Facebook for marketing success

By Strange

What’s the main focus of your digital marketing strategy? At one time, everyone would have said Google. These days, however, Facebook has become a credible alternative for many businesses. As an agency, we’ve developed considerable resources and capabilities to service the huge growth in clients’ use of the platform.

You may already appreciate the sophisticated features and capabilities combined with enormous reach and powerful targeting that Facebook offers. These can deliver great returns for almost any brand or organisation, whether used for acquisition, awareness or direct response, for example.

Being a Facebook Marketing Partner certainly helps us deliver better value for clients. Facebook defines Marketing Partners as “tech companies and agencies that have been vetted by Facebook and certified for their excellence in helping advertisers get the most from their campaigns.” 

New insights on the Facebook Auction 

As a Marketing Partner, we can access information and insights from Facebook that may not be widely available. In this article we’re sharing some valuable information we were recently given on the Facebook Ad Auction. We hope this helps make the auction process work better for you.

The Facebook Auction is the process by which Facebook’s algorithms spend advertising budgets in the most effective way possible. How these auctions work has, for a long time, been somewhat opaque, but Facebook has now started to release more information about how the system works.

1. Simplify your campaign structure 

A typical Facebook account structure looks something like this. It can have multiple campaigns organised into different marketing approaches, strategies or tactics. Campaigns are subdivided by highly defined, narrow audiences at ad set level.

But if your account structure could look like the one below, Facebook claims that a simplified and consolidated structure leads to what they call increased ‘auction signal’, i.e. it increases the available signals Facebook’s algorithm has to work with when it decides where and how to deploy budget. 

Combining your campaigns and ad sets into larger buckets helps because it removes constraints on the system so that it can search for the best areas of opportunity within larger groups of people, instead of being restricted to granular, pre-defined audiences.

The primary benefit of a consolidated account structure, however, is that it will help drive a faster exit from Facebook’s ‘learning phase’ because the algorithm has more information to work with.

2. Respect the learning phase

Facebook’s learning phase is when the delivery system explores the best way to deliver your ad sets after launch. This means that performance is less stable, and CPAs will actually be worse during this time because the engine is still working out the best people and places to show the ad. Anything that you can do to exit the learning phase earlier will therefore help to improve overall campaign performance. 

Fortunately there are some straightforward rules you can follow to make sure your campaigns have enough data to exit the learning phase in a timely manner. For instance, making sure that your targeting and placements aren’t too narrow will really help give the auction more signal. 

It’s also very important that you optimise for the right conversion event. If you’re optimising for a conversion event which is too far along the funnel for you to reach a sufficient number of conversions, try switching to something which will record more conversions – for example, optimising for ‘Add to Carts’ instead of ‘Purchases’. A higher number of conversion events will ultimately help you get past the learning phase threshold and improve overall optimisation.

One last critical piece of advice: do your best to avoid frequent manual edits! Whilst it may be tempting to constantly tune and tweak your campaigns, making significant changes can reset the learning phase so that the algorithm has to start all over again. Any changes to the following can cause your campaigns to re-enter the learning phase:

  • Targeting
  • Placements
  • Creative (including adding additional ads)
  • Optimisation events
  • Pausing your ad set for more than 7 days
  • Bid strategy
  • Budgets

Key takeaways

  1. Consolidate your account structure for maximum auction signal
  2. Give the Facebook system as many data points as possible so that it can exit the learning phase quickly
  3. Don’t narrow your targeting too much and optimise for the right conversion events to reach the learning phase threshold
  4. Avoid frequent manual edits so that your campaigns don’t re-enter the learning phase

Continuing to evolve

Facebook has come a long way since its Marketplace was originally launched in 2007. Back then we were helping clients use the brand new channel (we’re now celebrating our 20th anniversary as an agency) and we’ve been keeping abreast of Facebook’s evolution ever since.

Future changes are inevitable. However the platform shapes itself in the future our focus as an agency will always be on working in partnership with Facebook to bring greater value to our clients.

Read more about Strange here