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One of the biggest hurdles digital consultants must constantly overcome is the speed at which the industry changes. While the rules surrounding traditional media have largely remained intact over the last two decades, digital media can undergo one or even two tectonic shifts in a single cycle.

The digital environment shifts so often that it’s not uncommon for practices and platforms used at the beginning of a cycle to be completely obsolete before the end of it. That’s why discussing the future of digital can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. It’s with that in mind that I discuss the three skills digital consultants will need, regardless of these shifts, ahead of the 2020 cycle.

Holistic buying

The way most campaigns determine budget between digital and television continues to be primarily based on art, rather than science. To be successful in future cycles, digital consultants (and TV buyers, general consultants, and campaign managers) must transition away from looking at media budgets across different mediums as independent of one another and start viewing them holistically.

In other words, budgeting from the center to spend as efficiently as possible across all screens.

To be clear, this does not mean simply putting more money into digital, it means taking into account viewing habits, demographic and geographic waste, cost per target rating points (TRP) on both digital and TV, market by market, and determining the most efficient ratio of digital to TV. In some cases, this means more TV and other cases more digital. But that’s the point: the ratio should not be static. It should be dynamic based on your target audience at the market level.

Digital consultants should take note. Some firms, like Cross Screen Media, have developed media planning software that lets clients do just that. Armed with this resource and adopting this data-driven mentality, means digital consultants are able to transition from being digital evangelists to paid media efficiency experts. That way they provide a significant value-add to their campaign and allow the decision makers at the top to be better stewards of the budget. 

Ad fraud countermeasures

Whether it’s YouTube, who just this year faced verbal and monetary backlash for endangering brand safety, or Facebook, who is the recent subject of false "reach" reports, no platform is without its problems in the ad fraud department. The result?

Skittishness among marketers and a lot of “I told you so” coming from the camps of traditional advertisers. In fact, the nation’s largest advertiser, Procter & Gamble, who spent $2.4 billion on advertising last year alone, cut $140 million in digital spend just last quarter, citing brand safety concerns and ineffective ads.

So, when candidates bring up ad fraud concerns, it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s our job as digital consultants to be upfront with our clients, offer solutions, and when we can’t directly, demand that our partners in the digital space, do. As these fears grow, digital consultants must become better educators of our clients on what fraud exists and where to look.

Moreover, it’s on us to provide a clear and concise explanation of the steps we are taking to ensure our delivery isn’t fraudulent. This is most easily accomplished by focusing on the tangible, like online and offline conversions, rather than just simple metrics, like CTR and viewability, which non-human-traffic commonly take advantage of. Doing so will go a long way to assuage the concerns candidates have and refute digital detractors when it comes time to allocate a budget.

Ways to justify the spend

While ad fraud may be the most common knock against digital advertising, effectiveness isn’t far behind. Digital consultants remain in a constant struggle with TV and radio over share of budget, and it’s one they typically lose. Why? Most campaigns recognize the necessity of digital, though few are sold on its ability to move poll numbers like television does.

This is partly the fault of consultants who too often point to analytics as justification for an effective ad spend. While this might make sense for the purpose of prospecting or say, converting absentee voters, it is a poor measurement of persuasion. Views do not equal votes and reach is not a signifier of saturation.

That’s why at Go BIG Media, we are tying not just key analytics to our reporting, but demand campaigns more regularly invest in surveys that measure audience response to online ad spends. In some cases, the allocation of corporate digital spends are now approaching 50 percent, and it’s not because those spends are ineffective. In a world where budgets are often cut, and financial goals are rarely realized, it’s on digital consultants to justify their slice of the pie and demonstrate their campaign’s unique ROI.

Dean Petrone is the president of Go BIG Media.