The Ayzenberg Group creative agency recently announced the new Earned Media Performance Guarantee, a bold promise to clients that it will not only predict the performance results for a given campaign, but be accountable for them.
Justin W. Sanders spoke with Ayzenberg’s Chris Younger, principal and VP of strategy, and Simon Ward, director of strategic development, to hear more about the mechanics of sharing, the "vagueness of virility" and how a company can guarantee results at the tricky convergence of earned, paid and owned media.
You use the “multiplier effect” to describe when a carefully orchestrated integrated campaign provides a continual lift to key performance indexes. What are the key performance indexes/factors that get lifted by the multiplier effect?
Chris Younger: It’s kind of like the slugging percentage in baseball, or the QB rating in football. The formula goes beyond just views, or followers and likes, and really gets deep into the mechanics behind sharing and the sharing thresholds – the comments, the sentiment value, etc. Things that are performing in terms of your paid media, your [click-through rate], your impression level, your [call to action] or your [average revenue per user] all go into that formula, as well as what’s going on in your earned channels. It’s a complex algorithm that we’re applying here.
Can you give a real-world example of a campaign that showed how the multiplier effect can work?
Younger: Case in point: Microsoft and a suite of titles they were coming out with on Xbox Live Arcade. There were a total of four titles. Each had their own campaigns and their own paid media approaches to it [and] there was a great foundation built around these brands. But not any one of them actually had enough to really break through the clutter and get a large share of voice. Partnering those together on a social platform allowed us to tap into sentiment and consumer voice and influencer voice. Taken with the brand story along with active conversation with the community, we generated [a 30-fold increase] in performance based on what we forecast for key performance indicators on the campaign.
So, with its Earned Media Performance Guarantee, is Ayzenberg promising clients it can create a campaign for them that produces this multiplier effect?
Simon Ward: Yes, in certain circumstances. The critical thing to get is that this is something where the dynamic of having a guarantee changes the dynamic of how we work in partnerships with our clients, making us much more accountable and the client work much more performance-based. That changes every aspect of working in a relationship. Because of that, we have to have certain circumstances agreed at the outset. So the answer is “yes” on guaranteeing, but it’s important that we get the conditions right.
Your process promises to combat the “vagueness of virality.” Can you explain that term?
Younger: It’s about going beyond just being able to look at views, likes, followers, subscribers, and determining whether that virality is offering support to the overall brand campaign.
Ward: There will always be vagueness in virality, but we’re not completely removing that because its power is that very uncertainty. There’s a risk and reward. What we’re doing is taking some of the risk out of it. We’re predicting it based on our experience having done similar programs, where we know where there’s been success and where there hasn’t. The [Earned Media Performance Guarantee] has an in-built discipline to make us be more robust in how we predict. All of that helps us, together with the client, reduce the vagueness.
You’ve had the most publicized success with video game companies. Are video game brands uniquely suited to benefit from the Ayzenberg approach?
Younger: Brands and categories that we find achieve the highest form of return on earned media investments are those that have a story to tell, and can provide a layer of entertainment and information to the consumer that allows them to have a relationship, to almost feel like they’re part of the journey. Those that get out from behind that it’s just benefits and features and products or services and get into the relevancy of what’s going on in consumers’ lives today, have a great opportunity [to build] a campaign that can maximize that relationship.
Ward: It does lend itself more to companies in high-involvement categories, from coffee to cars to video games. It can be more of a challenge for companies in low-involvement categories. Let’s take energy for example. But even if you’re in a low-involvement category, if you can create a good story around a brand and not just be focused on the product, and that story’s authentic, it can still be very effective.
Younger: To work, the culture of the organization [has to be] open to try something new, to innovate how they operate the paid media portion, the earned media and the owned media aspects to their business, and allow those verticals to play out horizontally in the journey of these campaigns. It’s a partnership, it’s a great deal of trust. By no means do I want to say to anyone, “take your hands off the wheels, we’re driving from here. We’re really working together.”
The Ayzenberg Group, a full-service brand leadership group in Pasadena, Calif., has been orchestrating successful integrated campaigns for years, reaching the coveted and elusive youth market for such clients as Disney, Activision and Microsoft. The company specializes in combining a brand’s earned media, paid media and owned media to create what it calls the “earned media multiplier,” wherein these three elements converge to break through the clutter.