SAN FRANCISCO - Given all the advancements in marketing technology, one could forgive Lee Hawksley for feeling frustrated at times during conversations with Asia-based marketers.
The SVP & GM of Salesforce Marketing Cloud for the Japan and Asia Pacific region shared with Campaign Asia-Pacific that he remains amazed at the number of people that still want to talk about 'batch and blast' emails.
“The conversation is ‘how quickly can you send millions of emails and how cheap can you do it?’” said Hawksley, commenting on the sidelines of Dreamforce, the cloud platform company’s annual conference here. “That’s one that still happens too often.”
Another thing that irks him is the amount of money that gets wasted on non-optimised online ad spend, because companies “don’t know how or lack the will” to leverage all the first-party data they have
To illustrate, Hawksley pointed to research the company conducted earlier this year in conjunction with the launch of its Ad Studio product. Taking Google AdWords as an example, if brand ABC Motor Insurance buys “motor insurance” as a keyword, when going online to make claims, its customer will tend to click on the Google Ad at the top of the page instead of the company’s organic link directly below it.
“Those click actions alone account for 13 percent on average of online spend. Isn’t that insane?” Hawksley asked. “We’re not looking to take spend away from players like AdWords, but rather advocating that advertisers spend it better.”
Hawksley noted that in the fiercely competitive consumer insurance market, if it requires US$400 in spend for the first click, and the company sells an insurance policy for US$500, they would have to wait at least a year until the policy gets a payback.
Then three months into the second year, the customer gets into an accident and when going online to make a claim, clicks on the AdWords link instead.
“All your metrics have gone up in smoke,” he said. “Unsophisticated marketing departments are only measuring the cost of acquisition and not looking at the long tail.”
However there's hope on the horizon as more marketing departments are pivoting to a focus on lifetime value and the lifetime cost of serving a customer.
“Acquisition should just be the first step in a spectrum of customer journeys,” said Hawksley. “So many stop at the acquisition step and think that everything that comes after is someone else’s responsibility.”
An intelligent horizon
That Hawksley is eager to move conversations with customers beyond tactical, short-term goals to longer-term strategic ones comes as no surprise.
At this year’s Dreamforce, the cloud platform company’s annual conference here, major announcements included the debut of Einstein, its artificial intelligence layer, which is touted to deliver advanced capabilities to sales, service, and marketing functions, without the need for in-house data scientists and analysts.
Hawksley shared that at a customer dinner hosted by the company during Dreamforce, the potential from the inclusion of a market-ready AI tool topped the discussion.
“You could see the creative juices starting to bubble away again,” he said. “Marketers use an awful lot of technology these days and it can become overwhelming. I think with tools like Einstein, it allows them to get back to being creative as the software takes care of the data.”
It also ties in with the ongoing discussion point that Hawksley doesn’t see going away anytime soon: the race to relevancy in improving the customer experience.
“That’s the secret sauce all marketers are looking to find,” he said. “It boils down to how well are you able to leverage the data you have at your disposal and how are you able to get your hands on more useful data that will enable you to provide a better customer experience.”
In his view, the tools supplied by Salesforce will make those answers a lot clearer, removing the “data headache” and freeing up the bandwidth for brands to really focus on what’s important.
With Einstein soon to have a ubiquitous presence across the Salesforce platform, Hawksley is confident that the APAC region will soon see some strong early-use cases.
Apart from Australia, he reports that the Southeast Asia region is seeing some “incredible growth”, in markets such as the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. India is also another powerhouse market for the company.
“A lot of Asian brands got left so far behind in digital marketing that many were paralysed with indecision about what to do next,” Hawksley said. “But what we’re seeing is that they’re now leapfrogging and getting super sophisticated really quickly, having waited for a lot of the technology to mature, they’re now taking advantage of shorter time to value and creating competitive value.”
The adtech disruption?
Hawksley believes that the adtech space is right for disruption, mainly due to the fragmentation of the space, with about 4,000 vendors in the market.
“I don’t see quick consolidation taking place,” he said. “If you think about how many steps are involved before an advertiser actually parts with their dollar, and if you believe some of the statistics, 70 percent of every dollar spent goes to a middleman and not the publisher. That’s just not sustainable in the modern world, and that’s just wildly inefficient and screams out for disruption.”
Hawksley points to Salesforce’s recent US$700 million acquisition of Krux, announced just before the start of Dreamforce, as one offering which would enable advertisers can get a handle on things.
The addition of the San Francisco company, which provides a data-management platform, to the Salesforce portfolio is intended to extend the Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s audience segmentation and targeting capabilities to power consumer marketing with even more precision, at scale.
“What I love about what we’re doing with Krux is that we can now help clients leverage first-, second- and third-party data, both known and anonymous, to really pull out the inefficiencies in ad buying,” he said.
The move to better serve marketers and offer them some clarity into their adspend ties in with the recent concerns the advertising industry is facing over the opacity of deals made. This came to prominence most recently with Denstu Japan admitting that a subsidiary had overcharged clients including Toyota.
“You see cases where clients are being overcharged for advertising or charged for advertising that never happened, and that’s just not sustainable in a world which relies on trust,” said Hawksley. “That doesn’t seem like a trust-based relationship.”
“What I hear from clients is that they want more control over their advertising dollars,” he added.
Not just from the perspective of knowing that their money is being spent in a fair, honest and transparent way but also in an efficient way that takes advantage of all the data that they have at their disposal.
“And the best way to accomplish that, is to control it themselves, which is where I see adtech going," he said. "It will empower brands to control their marketing spend far more then they have been able to before.”
Ad agencies will still have an important role to play, Hawksley said, but it will probably be a different one, because despite bad press, they are still, by and large, the trusted advisors of adspend to brands.
Disclosure: The reporter is being hosted by the conference organiser, Salesforce.