Behind the Screens: Meet Marketing Strategist Michael Hammers
May 12, 2021Marco Ochoa
7 minute read
Welcome back to 'Behind the Screens,' a monthly blog series in which we introduce members of our Cox Media team. From coast to coast, there's a lot of collaboration and behind-the-scenes efforts that go into each client relationship and campaign, and every person on our team of experts brings a unique background, perspective and area of expertise. While we each have different day-to-day roles, we're all working toward the same goal: to help our clients' businesses succeed.
This month, I was joined by Marketing Strategist Michael Hammers. Michael is a member of our Kansas-Arkansas market, and he sat down with us (virtually) to talk shop and chat about how data, strategy and collaboration bring it all together for our clients’ campaigns.
Thanks for joining us today, Michael! Let’s start with your name, role and how long you’ve been with Cox Media.
Sure thing. I am Michael Hammers, the Marketing Strategist for Cox Media’s Kansas-Arkansas region and I have been here for almost three years.
Great, thank you. So as a Marketing Strategist, what does your day-to-day look like? I know that might be a loaded question because no two days are the same anymore.
So, a typical day is a nice blend between working directly with clients on their campaigns and then working with our [sales] reps to put together really cool, cutting-edge ideas for our clients and potential clients. I check in regularly with clients about campaign performance, how we can optimize and honestly, just to see how it’s going and how they are doing. If there’s anything that we need to tweak or anything new for their business, we can take that information and alter their campaign to be more effective.
Has that changed at all during COVID?
It hasn’t necessarily changed what I do, but has pretty significantly impacted client priorities and some campaign goals. A big focus is how quickly a lot of our clients are having to pivot based on changes to the marketplace or shortages that affect certain materials and supplies, and having to quickly shift to heavily promoting something – a certain product, service, sale, etc. – that may not have been top-of-mind for them a month ago or even a week ago. Being available to talk through those changes is important.
Aside from those external factors and marketplace-related changes, how do you come up with campaign optimization recommendations for clients?
Well, the other piece of it is really using a lot of research resources. Historical campaign data, all of the information that we have access to, working closely with our media consultants to identify what the clients’ needs are and trying to plug into place what we know has already been successful or what we think will drive the results that they are looking for.
So outside of the typical day-to-day, what else might come across your plate?
Because of some of my background doing more direct marketing, I spend a lot of time working on some of our more in-depth digital strategies [like Facebook] and working with our digital team and other strategists. Making sure we are on the same page and that we are really utilizing the targeting and other capabilities that our digital products have to their fullest potential. We can do some really, really unique things for our clients and I’m a big advocate of focusing on the strategy behind the ideas of our campaigns, because that’s what can make a big difference in their success.
That’s awesome – can you elaborate on that a little more?
These days, folks may have access to a lot of the same access to the same types of inventory, the same products. Like, anyone could place ads directly in the Facebook ads platform. But that doesn’t mean that everyone’s ads are going to work. But if you approach it with a thoughtful strategy, factoring in all of the details, using the right targeting and really making sure you’re doing the best possible campaign with the tools available, you’ll see a much more successful Facebook campaign with a higher ROI. And that’s how our teams approach these campaigns.
It’s definitely all about the approach. What kind of data do you have access to in order to lay the groundwork for these strategies?
So, Cox Media has access to a lot of data. And pretty much all of our markets have dedicated research teams that have access to a whole bunch of very detailed local market research. When I started at Cox, I was actually in that area of our local team and still use a lot of those tools on a very in-depth level. Things like Scarborough Research, Admall, Borrell and Kantar – all of it. We invest a pretty large dollar amount into research resources each year, which is a big differentiator for us because other media companies may not necessarily do this.
How does that data help inform your campaign recommendations?
Since we have a whole team that can look up the audience information for a certain audience or industry, we build almost every strategy using that data. We start with finding a relevant audience segment we have access to that is really in line with who a client is trying to reach. We can also look at how that audience responds to things like, are they more likely to take action from a YouTube ad? Or a display ad? Or a social media ad?, etc. Then we sync up what that audience responds to with the solutions that have the metrics a client is looking to achieve. So for example, if a client really needs clicks to their website, we look at the tactics that are really strong click drivers and which solutions the target audience responds best to. It’s a little like building a Venn Diagram: here’s what this audience responds to, here are the tactics that drive the results for the client, now which solutions have the most overlap? But also – first-party data doesn’t always tell the full story. Sometimes there are unspoken or unreported user behaviors, so that’s when looking at historical data and the big picture comes into play.
Are you seeing any trends or patterns in the research reports that you have come across recently?
One thing we're seeing is that people's responsiveness to streaming TV and social media ads is really on the rise and I think the pandemic really accelerated that with people consuming more content. Before March of last year, there were a lot of people who weren’t ever planning on streaming TV shows – they weren’t going to sit down and figure out all of the apps and download everything. But then we were all stuck at home, hearing about new shows and running out of content, so they tried it and now that they’ve done it, they aren’t abandoning it. They’re going to keep streaming. One surprising thing is we haven't seen a strong dip in traditional television. Viewers aren’t altogether leaving traditional TV to streaming services, they are consuming this content on multiple platforms and responding to both. That is why we recommend a multiscreen strategy, so we can reach audiences in all the possible places they are viewing.
What about trends among client ad strategies?
I think, understandably, we’re seeing some use a little more caution and when it comes to their ad spends and keep a closer eye on performance. With tighter budgets, proving a return-on-investment (ROI) becomes more and more important, double and triple checking that the advertising decisions they are making actually make the most sense for their business. There’s definitely more focus on reporting and having access to performance data as quick as possible, so we can pivot or make changes sooner. I’m biased, but I think we really excel in that area, having real-time dashboards and local digital teams that can help adjust campaigns quickly. With traditional media, tracking isn’t as precise. It’s not as straightforward as digital, but with our recent TV attribution capabilities, that definitely plays into what local advertisers need right now. It helps make the different ad channels a little more ‘apples to apples,’ providing the ability to spot trends across all of their media channels and figure out which ones are giving them customers in the most efficient way. I think that as a result of that, we've found our way into some really cool strategies and product combinations.
How do you partner with others in your market to bring it all together?
It’s a group effort for sure. The analysts can do the super-granular audience profiles for us and we have some digital analysts that can do a lot of great work analyzing campaign data and putting together the dashboards. We also try and bring in creative as much as possible and as early as we can so that they can hear the full picture from the client of who they are and what they need, which leads to us having some great creative campaigns. From a fulfillment perspective, we have teams in each of the markets that are local and who know the local community and our clients – they shop at our clients’ stores, eat at our clients’ restaurants, utilize our clients’ professional services, and they are the ones fulfilling most of the campaigns. So you’re getting local people who know the lay of the land that are then helping to make sure the businesses they interact with every day can get their messages out to other customers. The same thing could be said for our creative teams. We have some great creative consultants that have worked with some of our clients on dozens and dozens of spots. Over a decade of time, right? And they've known all of the iterations of the client’s business and how it's grown and shaped and changed as time has gone on, which I think is really, really hard to quantify, but I think that's really valuable resource for the local businesses.
Yeah, it seems like they're true experts in the sense that they're constantly living what they're working on by seeing ad messages come to life in their communities. Next question - If you could tell each of our current and or perspective customers one thing, what would it be?
Always be testing and always be tracking. It's scary to try new stuff sometimes, but I think it's really important to always try those new things. Otherwise you’ll never know if maybe that platform is incredibly efficient for your business or for your audience. You may have run Facebook ads in the past and it just didn't make sense, but then you try out YouTube or TikTok and it goes totally crazy and you get a bunch of new leads. So, always trying different platforms and trying out new creative and messaging and doing all the tests you can. It’s hard to tell what works best until you actually test out a little bit of a budget on one of those tactics or one of those creative styles. And then you want to track as much as possible – the site visitors or the bounce rates or conversion rates for each of those platforms because then you'll be able to tell – fast – if the new platform is going to be great or if it's not working right. When you launch a new tactic, you can see in a matter of days, is this doing anything for us? Is it going to be able to scale? And you can benchmark it against the rest of your campaigns.
Thanks so much. Is there anything else you want to share?
I think just a general reminder to ask as many questions as possible when you are considering partnering with a media company. What kind of data they have access to, how past campaign performance is reported – questions beyond, ‘What are the CPMs?’ or ‘Can you get me placed ____?’ Like I mentioned earlier, many companies have access to the same inventory, but the strategy behind how to use the inventory and how to build holistic, agile campaigns, that’s what makes all the difference.
We hope you enjoyed this discussion with Michael. We'll be back next month with more behind-the-scenes insights from our team. In the meantime, fill out the short form on the right sidebar of this page to connect with a Cox Media expert today!