MediaPost Search & Performance Insider Summit: Data, Testing & the 800 lb Gorilla

MediaPost Search & Performance Insider Summit: Data, Testing & the 800 lb Gorilla

I have attended many search engine marketing conferences over the years, so I have a very clear expectation of what I can anticipate during these events. Usually there is a huge room filled with booths, enough vendor swag to fill a carry-on bag, and I hopefully walk away with some interesting tips and tricks to share with the search team about how to better structure our accounts or a new bid strategy we weren’t presently employing.  However, the MediaPost Search & Performance Insider Summit (MPSPIS) was much different.

This summit offered a collection of search industry leaders from some of the top brands and agencies across the country. These leaders came together to talk about the daily challenges they face. What made this conference more rewarding was the opportunity to hear from brands and agencies, large and small, who ultimately face the same challenges as we do within our daily work days.


Data can be your best friend or your worst enemy. With unencumbered access and beautifully aligned data tables, the world is your oyster. You can leverage the power of paid media data and business data to drive actionable recommendations, and powerful results for your clients or your brand. However, then there is the darker side of data. The side where manipulated data trickles in with no clear cadence. Where data lives in silos with no hope of access. This was the side of data I heard about consistently throughout the conference, much more than the data Xanadu we all strive to achieve. Brands and agencies alike spoke about their need to break down silos, standardize data and live in a world where we can clearly align paid media efforts with real-world business results. In many cases, this is easier said than done, but doing so brings several advantages: clear alignment on goals, clear alignment on KPIs, and clear evaluation of results.


One of the highlights of the conference was a keynote address by Grant Simmons from Not only was Grant extremely entertaining and engaging, but he hit on one of my key takeaways from the event, which is to test, test, and then test again. He summarized an ideal testing environment in a very clear and concise fashion:

  • Limit exposure (cost)
  • Limit time
  • Define ideal outcomes
  • Define next steps
  • Be upfront (to everyone)
  • Let the data decide

It’s easy to throw ideas against the wall and hope they stick, but without a clear testing structure, taking those results and making decisions proves difficult. In addition to a well-laid-out testing environment, it’s critical to clearly define a single point of truth to measure the outcome of the test and understand that “why” something happened is much more important than “what” happened. My favorite quote from his keynote was “Fail fast, and pivot.” Great advice that I will return to often!


The 800-pound Gorilla

I took part in a panel discussion with Joel Milani from Vitamix, which was moderated by Kerry Curran from Catalyst Media.  We discussed how brands and agencies deal with marketing’s 800-pound gorilla – Amazon. We discussed the different relationship Amazon has with brands compared to the relationship it has with agencies. While the relationships differ, there are common challenges with Amazon.

  • Reconciling the fact that you HAVE to participate on Amazon, even if it’s not a huge profit center
  • Dealing with an advertising platform in its infancy that still hasn’t completely figured itself out
  • Navigating the murky waters outside the advertising realm, and dealing with things like fulfillment (and Amazon’s decision to change Prime shipping to one-day, adding additional pressure on brands)

No one seems to have fully learned how to navigate Amazon, but it’s clear they are are a “must have” in an e-commerce marketing mix. Amazon’s next great opportunity likely lies in their DSP, where brands will have the ability to leverage Amazon’s massive cache of first party data for targeting both on and off Amazon. At this point, the offering is new and would be considered a Tier 3 DSP, but they have every intention of growing it to a Tier 1 offering in the near future.


In Conclusion

Not only did I leave the MPSPIS full of useful information, but I also left with the knowledge that the challenges we face at Harmelin Media are universal; and other agencies and brands are faced with the same daily struggles. BUT, when great minds, such as those convened at this conference, come together, we as an industry can share, learn and grow. And, those hurdles eventually become slightly less daunting.