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Auckland-based digital media provider Exponential – part of the Exponential global group – told a packed Auckland meeting of ad people at the Roxy Lounge that “engagement is key to the customer journey”.

But there were differing opinions on its role. For Vivaki head of digital media Nick Boulstridge it is “the most important metric out there”. “CTR is dead”, he said.

Most were there to hear Exponential head of strategy Tyler Greer who flew in from Sydney to present Brand Success in the Age of Consumer Control – a version of his presentation that was made at AdWeek New York in October.

Tyler told how he believes traditional demographics-based campaign strategy has broken down and what this means for a brand’s ability to reach and connect with its market. He outlined just how this gives brands the opportunity to connect directly with consumers in-market and the ways in which an effective campaign should understand, define and measure engagement in order to positively impact brand equity and sales.

An expert panel of digital media exponents – including Vivaki’s Nick Boulstridge, Contagion social influence director Tom Bates; ANZ digital marketing innovation manager Eric Rowe, and Exponential APAC managing director Ben Maudsley – debated how agencies and brands are adapting their media strategies to truly engage consumers in today’s evolving advertising environment.

With Tyler Greer moderating, the panellists examined a wide range of issues centred on how advanced data capabilities and technologies can both challenge and provide great opportunity for brands, the areas of collaboration (and tension) between brands, agencies and creative, and how engagement plays into the programmatic world.

The panellists all agreed that engagement is key to the customer journey but there was differing opinions on its role. For Nick Boulstridge it was the most important metric out there, while for Eric Rowe it is an important part of the journey but “not a metric or your goal – we have one goal and that’s conversions.

“That’s the only thing that really matters to me.”

Tom Bates noted that on the creative side “for us engagement is something that plays a really important core role in all branding now.”

The role of how data is used to drive engagement was discussed extensively with Greer posing the question ‘is there too much data?’ Tom Bates noted that the silos between the ‘keepers’ of the data is beginning to change but that the challenge at the moment remains “breaking down who owns it, who leads it and how you put it into practice”.

He said that getting data early in the creative process is important and that “it can be your best friend – but it’s about unlocking it and collaborating around it”. Exponential’s Ben Maudsley concurred, noting that was is important is “actionable data at the end of the day”.

The panel closed with a question from the audience as to where engagement fit into the programmatic landscape; is it one or the other. Tyler Greer said: “We tend to talk about programmatic in a very monolithic way – it’s all programmatic, or it’s all something else. And I think that’s a really dangerous road to go down and say ‘if it can’t be programmatic then it’s not part of our strategy’ or ‘if it’s not programmatic then it’s not going to be right for us’.

“We don’t need to put everything in that bucket. There is clearly a role for programmatic and a very important one indeed. Perhaps we’ll find a way to make engagement programmatic – whether it’s by buying models or by reporting, or however we choose to do that.”

The panel concluded that it remains to be seen how programmatic will incorporate engagement, but that programmatic was not just a performance-based play. Nick Boulstridge noted: “There are multiple touchpoints where you can breathe the whole dynamic creative piece as you understand where the audience is, then being able to put the relevant message to them and then we are now engaging with them so again it’s pushing a different path through the purchase funnel.

“So again I think in New Zealand it is very much an education piece and think there is a massive misunderstanding of what programmatic can actually do.”

About Exponential
Exponential delivers innovative advertising experiences that transform the way brands interact with audiences across desktop and mobile. Exponential’s platform fuses one of the largest global digital media footprints and proprietary data with user-centric ad formats designed to drive engagement and action. Creativity and audience insights form the foundation for building smarter, more relevant solutions for advertisers and publishers. Exponential was founded in 2001 and has locations in 22 countries. For more information, please visit

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