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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

33 Understanding Paid Social Media Marketing - Brian Davidson

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Brian Davidson of Matchnode joins Tim and Erik to discuss how understanding and employing paid social media marketing can boost business revenue.

Brands should invest in paid social media campaigns, and Brian explains why. He says, “…the easy answer is it still drives the majority of demand generation  ROI. There's so many different platforms where you can spend your ad dollars. You can spend them on new connected TV setups. Of course, you can dump lots of money into Google, but you end up doing a lot of harvesting of demand. But to truly generate demand for a product or service that's out there, paid social is usually the best place to do it. And when I say paid social it's still 99% of the time, Facebook, Instagram. They still have by far the most powerful ad network, and that's where you can generate the demand.”

One of the most important aspects of paid social media is a willingness to adjust strategies during campaigns. Brians says, “So, I'd say the bigger picture is just being open to changing what you've always done. Oh, this worked really well the last two years. Well, we're not in the last two years' environment. We're in 2022 and 2023 is gonna be different than now. So, changing up our creative, changing up our targeting, changing up our value prop. All those questions, I think, need to be on the table for brands in all sorts of different categories of what can we do that's a little bit different than what we have been doing that's gonna fit this day and age?”          

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how paid social media can drive more profit to your business.

About the Guest:

Brian Davidson is the Co-Founder of Matchnode, a digital marketing agency that is changing the way people and organizations leverage social media. He and his team have worked on digital ad campaigns for influential brands like New Balance, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, LendingTree, and Indiana University.

Brian has been a leader in generating leads using Social Media since 2007 when he became the VP of Social Media at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. Lead generation efforts helped the company join both the Crain’s and Inc fastest-growing lists. Brian is passionate about using his experience to help businesses achieve provable, meaningful growth.

His relatable style makes Brian a sought-after guest, providing actionable insights on all things social media marketing.


Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm your cohost, Tim Curtis, CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: And I'm Eric Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: Today we're lucky to have Brian Davidson on the podcast. Brian Davidson is the co-founder of Matchnode, a digital marketing agency that changes the way people and organizations leverage social media. Brian and his team have worked on digital ad campaigns for influential brands like New Balance, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, LendingTree, and Indiana University. So, we're excited to have you. Brian, welcome to the show.

Brian Davidson: Thank you for having me, guys. Pumped.[00:01:00]

Tim Curtis: You bet.

Erik Martinez: So Brian, we like to start the show, just get a super quick synopsis, who you are, why you started Matchnode, what your guys are doing. Just give us the 411 on that.

Brian Davidson: Sure. So, we started Matchnode nine years ago. I met my co-founder, I actually hired him and a friend, to do some consulting work for me, my first job. We stayed friends after that, and we were actually grabbing beers before the first Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley, and we're like, why don't we just start an agency? And we showed up at a coffee shop on Monday and we started from whole beginnings from there. It's been a slow build ever since.

Erik Martinez: Wow. You said couple things I really like. You said beer, Pearl Jam, and starting a business with a friend.

Brian Davidson: I actually have a giant Pearl Jam poster above my, uh, computer here. Really cool thing then was five years later, the Chicago Cubs real estate arm, Hickory Street Capital, hired us to promote all the things that the rickets were doing around the park when they were buying all the restaurants and building up [00:02:00] park area. And so when their office was having a meeting and they had that flag basically from that first Pearl Jam concert behind glass. So, we got a really cool picture kind of behind the scenes and it's like, all right, we have really come full circle.

Erik Martinez: Yeah, that's pretty cool. So, Brian, why are you guys focused on paid social? I mean, Going through your site, you're very focused on particular aspect of digital marketing. Why paid social?

Brian Davidson: Well, we were always looking for a niche. I think business 101. If you're starting your company, what's your niche? What are you really good at? We tried a lot of different things. One of our first big clients, that you actually mentioned in the intro, was Indiana University. We were working with the alumni association in the foundation.

Oh, why don't we work with alumni associations? That could be our niche. And we tried a whole bunch of others. And while we were going through that process, in our first few years working together, our first really big-name client that we were spending a lot of money with was Lending Tree. And we looked at what we were doing with them, which was strictly working on their paid social campaigns.

And we looked in the mirror like, we're really good at this and I think we're better than [00:03:00] all the other agencies in Chicago at it. And we looked around at all the other agencies, and they either grew up running AdWords campaigns or grew up building websites, or they were a PR agency and they bolted on social. Or they were really good at SEO. We didn't see a lot of people that were paid social first, and we realized we were really good at it. We've been doing it since the very beginning. And that's when we sort of pivoted all of the marketing of the business towards paid social. We still have a lot of other parts of the business, but we certainly lead with paid social.

Erik Martinez: In doing the research for uh, this episode, I was just going through your site. One thing struck me. You seem to have a focus on Chicago area businesses, but you do do work outside the Chicago area, right?

Brian Davidson: Yeah, we work all over the country with different businesses. We certainly had a focus, and again, the same way we kind of branded the agency in Chicago. Since we were all in the Chicago area. We had an office in the Sears Tower. The pandemic has now made us a distributed team across the country, but we were always truly a national business, but we did get a lot of referral [00:04:00] business from all the other smaller agencies within Chicago. So, that was always been a core focus of us in growing the agency of trying to own that geographic region.

Erik Martinez: Very cool. So, yeah, let's start with kind of the 30,000-foot question. Particularly today, why should brands invest in paid social?

Brian Davidson: Well, the easy answer is it still drives the majority of demand generation ROI. There's so many different platforms where you can spend your ad dollars. You can spend them on new connected TV setups. Of course, you can dump lots of money into Google, but you end up doing a lot of harvesting of demand.

But to truly generate demand for a product or service that's out there, paid social is usually the best place to do it. And when I say paid social it's still 99% of the time, Facebook, Instagram. They still have by far the most powerful ad network, and that's where you can generate the demand. And it's a lot harder to measure than it was two years ago, but in all your AB testing and turning [00:05:00] ads off and on, we still see it. That is the best place for true ROI.

There's two different kind of schools of thoughts towards investing in paid social. One end of the spectrum is someone who's hitting boost posts and getting in front of a lot of people. The far under end of the spectrum is 100% performance marketing, and we're in that ladder bucket.

Tim Curtis: So, a couple of questions or at least, maybe a point of discussion. So, when we're talking about social, brands are recognizing that the landscape has changed so significantly. You know, we have the rise of the privacy legislation. Really, I can't underscore enough just the impact for Facebook Meta in terms of what the Apple intelligent tracking prevention measures have done to obscure targeting capabilities, and really put a hamper on what had been a pretty exacting targeting mechanism. You take a step back and you realize that the landscape has shifted, and what was, is not going to be anymore.

As brands are doing this and they're [00:06:00] shifting in, you know, how are you adjusting strategy and what are you recommending? Because I know it is getting much harder to prove the ROI. When you're presenting media allocation mixed discussions and you're looking at some of those. How do you start to drill into paid social in this new environment, and then where is it gonna be in five years based on what you are seeing in the trenches?

Brian Davidson: There's, I think, three parts to that question. One is the targeting piece, one is the tracking piece, three is, where are we going? So, let's start with targeting, cause I think that's easiest. Before the Apple update, we had already moved 98% of our targeting on Facebook, Instagram, and almost all platforms to being broad targeting and letting the algorithm do its work. We learned it was far more efficient.

I think these brands and platforms have a bit of a misconception that goes all the way back to the elections where people are hyper-targeting a male who's 30 years old, who loves soccer and lives in Westfield, Indiana.[00:07:00] And that works to a degree for political campaigns because geography is so important for these tight little races. But in general, let's say there's no electoral college, it would make a lot more sense to be targeting broadly and trying to reach the general voter to swing just more votes to your campaign in that example.

So, generally speaking, targeting has not really been the issue. The targeting piece that has changed is retargeting, and that's where first-party data comes into effect. So, I'm gonna circle back to that towards the future. The measurement side. Measurement has never been more important. Using platforms outside of Facebook and Instagram for measurement has never been more important. Having that discussion within your team. If you're using GA4. Are you using data-driven attribution? Are you using last click? Are you using first click? Are you looking at all these different platforms? Are you creating an offline upload feed as well to double-check what's coming from your pixel data? In general, measurement is more complicated than [00:08:00] ever, and my firm belief is you should use as many different options as possible to sort of double-check what you're seeing in every place.

So, for the Chicago Bulls, we upload our data from Ticketmaster and we compare it to what we're seeing from the pixel. LendingTree is strictly a last-click company. So, we use our Facebook data to understand what signals are coming through, but we measure things only on dollars coming through the back end. And so I think it's really important to dial in your measurement across a lot of different ways and have that discussion within your organization.

Where are we going three, four years from now? It's the importance of that first-party data that you're collecting over time, that you are owning and leveraging that data over time to make these models work for you. And I think that's where things are going and they're gonna continue, I think, to evolve in that way. On the macro though, I think it's interesting to see Elon picking a fight with Apple about the 30% tax on the App store.

Tim Curtis: The latest fight on the 30%.

Brian Davidson: Right. Exactly. They're kind of following up on Fortnite and some other [00:09:00] movers in the last few years. They've more recently actually moved that into Facebook where they're actually gonna try to tax boosted posts that happen on iOS transactions. So, we'll see. Maybe that legislation starts to tax back the other way, opens up a little bit on platforms as they force, I'll say maybe, or even footing. We'll see what changes, but the first-party data is the part that I firmly believe is gonna become more and more important. Taking one step further, I think that first-party data is in owning things, is living into this new web three world that seeing the very beginning of, that ownership digital assets.

Tim Curtis: You're talking about some of the industries you're working in, and one of the things that we were kind of wanted to kind of dig into a little bit is, of the industries you're working in, are there areas or industries that you are seeing being impacted more heavily than others?

Brian Davidson: Ecommerce was definitely the hardest hit from my standpoint of very clear return on ad spend measured by last click in GA was certainly hurt the most. [00:10:00] Lead generation companies. We've seen a rise in CPMs over the last three years, but generally, I would say their decline in results is more a factor of CPM rising versus any sort of update. I think the main reason for that is simply volume. The more volume you can push through, the more signal the algorithm has. But then more broadly we have a lot of different industries that we work in a little bit different. We work with all these different restaurants and that's strictly basically using uploaded data to try to understand a return on ad spend, and we haven't seen any drop off there at all.

Tim Curtis: I can see that. Going back to the Ecommerce side. We have broad visibility to Ecommerce. All of our clients are Ecommerce. We don't have anybody that doesn't have some sort of an Ecommerce function. The interesting thing about that is watching the CPMs, and how the rise in the CPM has really hurt them, in particular. That, plus the reduction in terms of the targeting capabilities. Those are the two things. Now, I think you're right and spot on about the first-party data, even zero-party data, you know, where you can entice them to give you that information.

[00:11:00] But that's sort of where I'm seeing it. Retail's a big, big, big vertical. Lot of brands in that vertical. The restaurant side, I have experience there. It is completely different. The train kind of just keeps rolling with restaurant. But Ecommerce. Where does Ecommerce go from here? They were so heavily leveraged on Meta. Where do they go? What do they do?

Brian Davidson: I think the biggest answer goes back to that point earlier of first-party data. Growing your email list, seeing different ways you can extend the life of your campaign. You're relying on Meta to hopefully generate demand in the first place, but then you're extending that LTV over a lifetime through that data that you now own, and probably more importantly, that relationship that you start to begin with that customer.

You know, that $20 t-shirt that you bought on Black Friday, Cyber Monday gets extended out to an after Christmas sale, to an Easter sale, to that big purchase one, two, three years down the line. And building those relationships that can really differentiate your brand [00:12:00] rather than just being the green t-shirt with a pocket that was really soft and was on sale for five bucks with free shipping. Okay, great. How can you extend that for a lifetime?

I think the best example of that is Amazon, right? Or probably Apple. Owning that data and extending that relationship. But smaller brands need to be kind of thinking in that way and that this can't finance itself on just one purchase. It needs to be a long-term relationship.

Erik Martinez: But that raises a question for me. Just looking at client budgets and how much money they should be spending with this channel versus that channel, right? We can get into an attribution discussion. I think that's a longer topic for a different day, but how much should a brand be investing in this channel?

You know, we work with some smaller retailers. We work some midsize retailers. We don't really work with really large, gigantic retailers. We really kind of specialize in that mid-space. Because a lot of our clients kind of come out of that [00:13:00] direct world. Tim was alluding to the fact that we're used to seeing the ability to target really finitely and measure that result that's now not as easy as it used to be. Not impossible, but not as easy as it used to be. But it seems like there is a certain threshold of dollars that you need to be spending in order to see a result.

In your experience, is that true? I'm postulating here. Is that true? And if that's true, what are the things that people need to look for in order to determine what that spend point is for them?

Brian Davidson: So, two different questions, I think. Good starting point, I usually say it's at least a hundred dollars a day. If you're not gonna at least invest a hundred dollars a day, you're probably never gonna get through the learning phase. Your campaigns in general are gonna be 15% less efficient. If you're not willing to commit that much capital, you're probably not very serious about the platform, to begin with, and you're iffy if this is gonna work for you. So, I think you need to come into it with a, I'm gonna [00:14:00] invest this much in a platform and I'm okay losing it. You need to be okay losing the money when you start out.

The second question is figuring out what unit economics you are comfortable with, and understand those unit economics and how you are comfortable measuring it and saying, if this is legit and we have enough cash flow, there isn't a budget. It's how high can you get it and maintain these economics.

I've been lucky enough to be involved in a couple of different businesses where there was no budget. It was bring in more as long as you're hitting this threshold and we are confident we can back out the economics on the back end. Those were both lead-generation opportunities. One was for a newsletter business where if they hit X dollars in CPA, they knew their open rate would hold. They knew their ad dollars scaled. So, every day they'd, how much can we spend, how much can we spend, how much can we spend and maintain our CPA?

The first was at my first job, which was an athletic [00:15:00] scholarship business that helped kids find a scholarship, kind of like a for high school athletes. We were so confident on our sales in the backend that our digital marketing budget was unlimited, as long as we were under a certain threshold for lead that touched a parent. We had to separate out anything that touched a kid versus that touched a parent. And that budget, it was again, unlimited because we were so confident in our backend metrics of being able to close those sales.

So, that's not the same for every, like an Ecommerce company certainly has constraints on shipping, has constraints on the supply chain. Their cash flow situation might be very different. I think coming into the experience with trying to understand what you're comfortable with on a threshold basis makes the budgeting discussion a little bit mute and it much more in line of, all right, how far can we push this thing?

Erik Martinez: I love that answer, by the way. That's perfect because we sometimes get a little too granular in our budgeting process.

Brian Davidson: Especially when we're working with small [00:16:00] businesses, right? It's not like GEs locking in a budget for the next year.

Erik Martinez: Exactly. You know, one of the things we tell our clients like, look, we can try this for a period of time. We can change. If it's not working, we should be making modifications to make it better over time. To your point about figuring out what those unit economics are for your business and you're comparing against you're tried and true sources, right?

Whether that is email. Although, email is an interesting one 'cause I feel like in some ways it's hard to spend a lot more money on email. You can spend a lot more time, but you can't necessarily spend a lot more spend. But if you look at Google versus spending money on Meta and Instagram, how do I pick?

Brian Davidson: I'll challenge that a little bit because you can run a lead generation campaign for an Ecommerce company. You could put dollars behind collecting more emails if you think it's gonna back out.

Erik Martinez: Sure, Sure. I think my question is really more about when you say, Google is taking 80% of my digital marketing [00:17:00] budget and I've allocated 10% to paid social. How do you get people to start investing more in that paid social piece, and what are the returns you see in relationship when they start making those changes?

Brian Davidson: So, I think there's a couple of questions to unpack out of that, but I think the underlying principle's trust. Once you trust the numbers from any platform, then you can start making decisions with a little more certainty and understanding moving budgets from right to left. And the other thing I think that's really important to look at your search budget to really try to understand are you harvesting demand or are you generating demand. They're very different things depending on your product.

So, right now we're running a campaign for the Cubs. They're doing a big Winterland for Wrigley Field. They're putting the ice rink inside Wrigley Field, and people are coming down to skate on Wrigley Field for the first time. Well, no one is gonna be Googling Wrigley Field ice skating experience. The demand doesn't exist yet. So, building it on paid social is so [00:18:00] important. Can we harvest some demand by running on ice skating Chicago? Yeah, and we can compete with other people there, but the experience of seeing an ad showing, you know, snowy Wrigley Field and people laughing, having a great time in your social feed, I would argue is more beneficial to the brand in building that demand.

So, understand that basic push and pull, I think is really important. Google's also moving to a little bit more of a black box in that Performance Max is really crushing it, but I don't know if Performance Max is crushing it based on my brand terms or my audiences that I've already added in, or if it's prospecting, or even where those placements are. It's all over the place. They're getting more complicated, not easier, and it's gonna continue to probably go in that way in the short term. Trying to think about them from just a bigger picture perspective, I think is really important in shifting that budget back and forth.

Erik Martinez: I think you're alluding to the fact that [00:19:00] there's always this push and pull between the concept of branding. Which is, mid and upper-funnel activity, right? Versus harvesting demand, as you call it, which is lower part of the funnel, and a lot of us, obviously, it's really great.

I have this conversation with one of my clients. They've gotten really ROI-focused. How do I know that it's working? First, we have to have the measurement piece in place. That's been part of the discussion. This is a retailer that has a store presence in a certain part of the country, and they didn't have foot traffic counters in their stores. So, whatever campaign we ran, we didn't really know if we were accomplishing the goal of getting people into the store, and then once those people are in the stores, were they actually converting? So, they're having to go through this process of putting in those basic measurements. There is a significant push and pull between like you said, call it branding, but you're calling demand generation. Which I think is a perfect term.

Brian Davidson: I also [00:20:00] use performance branding.

Erik Martinez: Performance branding. I like that.

Brian Davidson: Stole that from a Facebook deck.

Erik Martinez: You should trademark that term. So, I think you're alluding to that constant struggle as to what moves the needle the most over time.

Brian Davidson: For sure.

Erik Martinez: Measuring awareness at some point kind of moves the needle the most. If I've only got 5% share of market, I'm probably not hitting anywhere near my potential in whatever market I'm going after.

Brian Davidson: And you can easily run a brand awareness study on Facebook. We do that for our CPG clients where it's really hard to understand if you're driving performance. So, we do a lot of things around geographies to try to create control groups. But we run straight brand awareness and it's pretty amazing to see the lift in some ways and in a lot of ways I trust those tests the most on Facebook because they are running in a controlled environment on platform. There's no modeling involved.

To your point on in person. One of our first clients was New Balance Chicago, not New Balance nationally. So, we actually just ran email capture campaigns for them. We give [00:21:00] them a code to go in and tell them, basically the retailer, my code is Facebook15 and get 15% off in-store. But on flip side of a little more intelligent, easy to measure.

We realized for our restaurant clients, for the first time, we had an online conversion that could happen in-store when all of our restaurants moved to scanning QR codes. So, for the first time, we could see someone who was clicking on an ad and then was actually in the restaurant clicking on that QR code. Pull up the website, pull up the pixel, fire a conversion. So, it's interesting how these little things pop up as society kind of moves in different directions. They're like, oh, that could be a signal.

Tim Curtis: Lot of potential signals out there. Going back, I want to kind of lean back into the brand awareness. A lot of the voices and some leading voices in the social space are dialing up. And I know the IAB has certainly talked a little bit about this as well. That because of the changes on the targeting side, especially in that Ecommerce, right, especially that Ecommerce area.

Because of the [00:22:00] changes in the targeting and the loss of visibility to segments that now paid social, particularly Meta, is more of a brand awareness play. And you need to think about it more like a brand awareness. You were mentioning you, you know, running brand awareness campaigns. What are your thoughts? Are you in agreement that in an Ecommerce area, that that's probably the play you're gonna have? Whereas maybe in like a lead generation you might adopt a different strategy? What are your thoughts?

Brian Davidson: No. While we run brand awareness studies, I push very hard to never optimize for the objective brand awareness. Sitting in the middle is, are you running more upper funnel stuff on Facebook Meta? I think that could be a good strategy for some brands. Last year the Bulls actually, Ticketmaster, when the changes rolled out, wasn't sharing their domain with all of their partners. So, they were forced to run upper funnel campaigns because their domain is So, our upper [00:23:00] funnel campaign was running on the conversion of sending someone to a landing page and then clicking out to Ticketmaster, and then we were doing our measurement through offline conversion feeds and limited pixel data coming in from Android opt-ins and desktop. And we looked at it that way. So, that was an example having to pivot.

But I do believe in running almost any campaign for some sort of conversion. Whether that's a 30-second timer on your website or clicking a button or even just not bouncing. I'm very skeptical of optimizing anything for brand awareness and understanding that you're getting a ton of impressions from audience network and/or just bot traffic. So, a big believer staying away from that objective. I do think it potentially does merit a conversation of does make sense to kind of move this up funnel. But I would only probably judge that still on ROI. If moving my conversion event up funnel is creating more ROI and figuring out how you're gonna measure that, that would make sense to me. But just giving up on it and saying, this doesn't work for me [00:24:00] anymore. I don't think we're at that spot yet.

Tim Curtis: You would follow a similar strategy for both Ecommerce and lead gen, traditional lead gen?

Brian Davidson: Yeah, I would.

Tim Curtis: It's not that it's not upper funnel. It can be upper funnel, but you need to have a conversion metric or conversion point within that campaign to still drive conversions. That's an important distinguishment between the two.

Brian Davidson: Yes, correct. For sure. And I'm sure most of the people that are listening to this know those buttons that you're clicking with the platform to purchase the ad.

Tim Curtis: Right. Well, and I think, the listeners are gonna, you know, they're all, obviously, everybody's running Facebook campaigns. You know, they're gonna be, probably sitting here popping up with, Well, what about, what about, what about? You know, all the questions that they have coming in, but what are you seeing that Meta is doing to help advertisers given what the advertisers have been through the last couple of years?

Brian Davidson: I now have a rule that I don't pick up any phone call from 650 because I know it's gonna be a Facebook rep asking me if I've put conversions API in place, but having [00:25:00] said that, conversions API is so, so important. When it first launched, I was hoping it was gonna be the magic bullet to get around the changes. It certainly is not. But having that conversions API signal coming through at the highest possible signal strength is certainly a huge, huge help for your business.

I've seen it work where we were using pixel-based tracking only and we flip on conversions API and the last click ROAS and GA goes up. I've seen us have a conversions API set up with the yellow or red label of bad or fair data, and you get that up in the green and I've seen last click ROAS go up. So, making sure that signal strength from conversions API is as high as possible would be the thing that I think Facebook is clearly telegraphing through all of their reach out from all of their reps. Two, I've just seen it work in the real world. So, if you don't have that setup, I think that's table stakes at this point.

Tim Curtis: That's good. I think people had questions about it.

Brian Davidson: Yeah, I'm sure you guys [00:26:00] work with a lot of Shopify businesses. They make it really easy. Just flip on a switch. But even they have that little thing like, I think it's average or max signal, and it kind of gives you a warning label on max signal. Generally speaking, I throw caution of wolves and push max signal.

Erik Martinez: You've given us a lot to think about just in this relatively short conversation. There is a lot to unpack and think about in terms of, how are we measuring, how are we tracking, how are we going about and allocating budgets. What are you seeing right now with your clients who are experiencing real competitive or price challenges in their markets? How do you guys go about leveraging paid social to help those particular clients?

Brian Davidson: So, in some ways, they're shifting their pricing. I think sales have become more and more important for some of our Ecomm clients. Cyber Monday was huge for us, for our sports clients. Normally it's not as big a deal. Some of our clients are able to shift their product offering. So, LendingTree, we [00:27:00] were pushing refi on homes.

Our product and our positioning around home loans is much more on the purchase side, and we're certainly trying to target more up-funnel people. So, we're showing pictures of homes that are at the higher end. That's two big pieces. That's a tough question. I think it's been really evolving now. It's been evolving for two years. Our stationary client, they had to pull way back on their Christmas spend last year because of the supply chain. They couldn't get Christmas cards out early enough.

So, I'd say the bigger picture is just being open to changing what you've always done. Oh, this worked really well the last two years. Well, we're not in the last two years environment. We're in 2022 and 2023 is gonna be different than now. So, changing up our creative, changing up our targeting, changing up our value prop. All those questions, I think, need to be on the table for brands in all sorts of different categories of what can we do that's a little bit different than what we [00:28:00] have been doing that's gonna fit this day and age? So, I kind of danced around the question a little bit, but it's so specific to every brand.

Erik Martinez: If you had the magic bullet, I mean, we'd just hire you right this second. You could come run all our businesses.

Tim Curtis: I mean, you think coming outta the pandemic, you know, you saw brands shift and begin to put money into connected TV and linear TV. You know, because everybody was basically locked at home, right, watching television. So, it feels like this is a feeling, this is not quantitative. But the observation is that Facebook is really battling the connected TV and the linear TV budgets and that what we're seeing is people pulling back on Facebook spend and shifting that over into some of the connected. But we've also seen that you talk about difficulty in tracking sales, that's even much, much more difficult to do on the television side. So, that's just another [00:29:00] example I think, of what brands are working through right now on their media spend for 2023.

Brian Davidson: We have a lot of brands that are like, let's do TikTok, let's do Hulu, let's do this, let's run Twitter, let's do this, let's do that, and I see them lose interest really quickly when they realize this isn't a Facebook black box. This is a complete black box and the tools they're giving me to measure things are saying zeros across the board. I see zero purchases from this versus, oh, we think that there were at least x amount of last-click GA purchases here. I trust that data.

I think the narrative is probably right because we always have clients coming to us. Let's try this, let's try that. And believe me, I want to try all those things because I hate being so reliant on one platform, but I need to see some sort of ROI before I truly believe that it's gonna be a long-term trend.

Tim Curtis: Yeah.

Erik Martinez: Yeah. I'm in agreement with you. None of us have the one answer to the question, right? For me, it has always still come down to, do you have a plan? Do you have a strategy behind that [00:30:00] plan that makes sense what you're trying to do? And what I'm really hearing you say is, Hey, look, there's lots of levers and dials that we can do.

You gotta make some decisions in terms of you going after brand awareness or are you just trying to harvest revenue, right? You gotta make a decision as to how much you wanna push on that, and it really comes down to strategy. What is your business strategy? What are those core objectives and how are you best gonna reach them over a specified period of time?

I don't think you dodged the question. I think these are really hard questions that we're getting asked by our clients. I know you're getting asked by your clients. There is no one magic way of answering that question. It's like really comes down to, Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Client, you need to decide what it is you want to accomplish and then pursue that relentlessly.

Brian Davidson: Sometimes I think it's stepping a little bit over that line of helping be their fractional CMO of this is how I would look at it from this [00:31:00] perspective. What's your perspective? Having to ask those questions a little bit about digging into their strategy a little bit further to make sure that there's alignment between campaigns and overall strategy. And sometimes, quite frankly, their strategy is missing a piece and it needs to evolve a little bit further in one direction or the other.

Erik Martinez: To be really honest, I wish our strategies had every piece filled in too, right? We are still figuring this out. It's a dynamic moving environment and I think if our clients or audience can take anything away from this is, look, there are tools. You can still leverage these technologies. You can leverage Facebook and Meta to grow your business. That's the most encouraging thing I've heard in this whole conversation.

Brian Davidson: The ROI is still there. On a last-click basis, the ROI is still there and there's all these other data points that we could take a look at. I firmly believe that almost any functioning brand can run a proper campaign that's gonna be turning a profit on Facebook and Meta today. Is it harder? Yes, but you should be able to find a way to [00:32:00] turn a profit.

Erik Martinez: I think that's the most encouraging thing coming out of this whole thing, right? All is not lost. Apple's intelligent tracking is a problem and it has created some measurement challenges, but you have given us several tips on things to do to help put in those performance metrics that we can watch and see and compare and evaluate. So, that's fantastic.

Brian Davidson: You know, one other thing that I haven't had a chance to touch on today that I think is important to this discussion is the lack of targeting. We have found that our creative is the best targeting that we can do today. So, finding a creative that speaks to uh, the 42-year-old soccer fan in Indiana. Finding a creative that speaks to a lady on the East coast, or you know, a teenager in California. Trying to fit those into your different campaigns and let the creative do the targeting and you're customizing all your placements in a different way for Instagram versus feed versus stories versus reels. That plays a big part in [00:33:00] reaching those different people, in those different audiences, not necessarily the targeting side.

Erik Martinez: As we kind of move to wrap up here, I just wanna touch back on that point that you just said. Creative is hugely important in this environment.

Brian Davidson: Yes.

Erik Martinez: What would you say to people who would say, but if I go with this broader strategy that you're proposing, Brian, and I use creative to target, aren't I wasting ad impressions? That circle comes around.

Brian Davidson: There's a couple of different ways to think about it. There's one, there's the customization within the ad on a broad basis. So, and that's gonna help you become more efficient, that you're optimized for instream video, you're optimized for reels, you're optimized for stories, you're optimized for stream. Remember that the average user scrolls about the length of the Statute of Liberty on a daily basis. So, your creative needs to stand out and stand out in a lot of different ways.

But to kind of augment that broader targeting basis with creative that appeals to a lot of people [00:34:00] in a lot of different places, if you're running on ad set budgeting, you can run a second ad set with creative that might appeal to a smaller niche and a lot of times boost your over ROI. That budget may not ever be able to reach the same as your giant broad audience, but we've found that select creative in different budgets and/or optimizing your campaign slightly differently.

So, optimizing your broad campaign for purchase and optimizing a more niche campaign for target ROAS, or optimizing this specific creative for one-day click value optimization. We found that different creatives can perform a little bit differently in those different subsets. On the flip side, you're retargeting that's done with your first-party data, you can absolutely segment that in different ways to segment your creative, to hit the right person. So, I think you can do it in a way that's additive. At minimum, you should be customizing your different placements.

Erik Martinez: That makes perfect sense to me. So, Brian, [00:35:00] as we move to wrap up, is there any one last piece of, you just gave us a great last piece of advice, but I'm gonna ask you for one more cause I'm greedy. Is there anyone last piece of advice that you would like to leave our audience with today?

Brian Davidson: I think it's a lot where we started, and that's understanding your unit economics really, really well, and understanding your objectives on these different platforms and what you're comfortable with because setting that budget that's flexible over time is gonna let you, I think, better compete in this ever-changing environment.

Erik Martinez: Perfect. Brian, if somebody wants to reach out, what's the best way for them to get ahold of you?

Brian Davidson: Just, M A T C H N O D Uh, we also have a podcast page on there where we'll be posting uh, this pod as well as any others that we've been appearing on over the years. But certainly, just reach out to us from the website and we'll be happy to get in touch.

Erik Martinez: Well, great. Brian, thank you so much for your time today. It has been an illuminating conversation. We get these questions all the from our clients, [00:36:00] in various pieces, and so trying to work through it and talk through it has been fantastic. Since both you and I are real big US soccer fans. Go US. Today they're playing Iran.

Brian Davidson: We are up one. Nothing in the 59th minute.

Erik Martinez: Yeah, we just had to get that updated. Tim's like, really guys? Anyways. Thanks again. I'm Erik from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: And I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

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