How Embracing Cloud-Based Technology Is Paying Off for Advertisers

Brands are seeing greater returns on investment

Advertisers are making it rain with more sophisticated marketing services.
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The hottest thing in the brand ecosystem, the marketing cloud, could stand to find a new name for itself. Advertisers across the spectrum are not only finding clarity in the cloud, they’re basking in the sunny warmth of greater returns on investment, working with the likes of Marketo, Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce. And the forecast appears to only get better—although it’s not known for being a simple solution.

“You cannot boil the ocean,” comments Dana Cutter, director of  marketing communications for Aetna Accountable Care. “You’ve got to start with one layer and work your way through the other layers. You start where the biggest bang for the buck is.”

Cutter’s team offers a strong example for how embracing cloud-based mar tech (marketing technology) and ad-tech (advertising technology) systems can reap big revenues. Until recently, Aetna was using a heavy dose of programmatic ads to drive web traffic. But instead of getting qualified leads on insurance seekers in the business sector, the healthcare provider was often paying for empty clicks—more often than not due to bot fraud. Then it started upping its marketing cloud game, chiefly with Marketo and also leaning on data players like Xaxis, Dun & Bradstreet and Neustar. Though it took three years to reach this point, Aetna is getting 11 times the sales results from its digital marketing compared to a few years ago. It has improved targeting prospects with digital advertising and online content according to their geography, position (business owner versus HR director, for instance) and whether they are beginning to look for coverage plans or are further down the sales funnel.

Aetna plans to implement the strategy into more than 60 new markets this year, bringing its total to 112 DMAs. And with the new administration’s plan to overhaul Obamacare, the stakes could be higher than ever in 2017 for Aetna, which runs lead-generation campaigns every year from April through December. While the implications of the GOP’s plan are still unclear, it’s widely believed that thousands of American employers may soon be back on the market, post-Obamacare. Cutter remarks that his company’s recent ramp-up on tech has it prepared to take on rising marketing opportunities or challenges. Equally important, he says, has been his AOR Ogilvy & Mather getting on board with a cloud-centric approach.

“What we’ve been doing is really pushing [the agency] toward the Xaxises, the Dun & Bradstreets, the Neustars, the data management providers we work with,” Cutter says. “And that’s really changed the relationship [with Ogilvy] and how they pitch to us. It’s more of us pitching to them and us bringing them along—and away from that generic programmatic that drives a lot of bot clicks or doesn’t seem to do anything past the clicks.”

The latest mar-tech tools are generating sales for other marketers, too. For instance, Philips has been gradually rolling out cloud-powered digital marketing in all countries using Oracle software. Marta Federici, global head of CRM, business-to-business and business-to-consumer at the Dutch electronics firm, says she’s seeing up to four times campaign revenue growth in some markets. “It took us two years to [digitally] transform our business,” she explains.

What about return on investment? Marriott estimates it is getting $33 back in hotel reservations for every dollar spent on Facebook’s program called Facebook Dynamic Ads for Travel. The hospitality giant credits Adobe’s cloud for its lucrative ROI, customizing content across multiple channels using the mar-tech giant’s data. Savings also factors into Marriott’s results: a 62 percent decline in the cost for enrolling consumers’ loyalty programs, alongside an 85 percent drop in expenditure on app-install campaigns.

“The marketing cloud alone can’t enable such results,” notes Andy Kauffman, vp of digital marketing at Marriott.com. “If the company doesn’t make the proper changes to people, process, KPIs, etc., and if the organization is not ready to pivot to around the customer, then the technology will not be fully utilized.”

This story first appeared in the March 13, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.