ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — Media Two is an interactive advertising agency that specializes in display, search engine advertising, design, video ads, podcasting, blogging, mobile marketing, and more. The company claims that its exclusive focus on interactive and the fact that it executes media “after the buy” and design “after the build” separates it from the pack. ADOTAS sat down with Michael Hubbard – the founder, CEO and media director of Media Two to find out how the company (and the founder!) manages to wear so many hats.
ADOTAS: Can you give me a brief outline of what Media Two does now and how its mission has changed since it launched?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: Media Two Interactive is a full service interactive advertising agency that focuses on media planning and buying and design of interactive media. We act as both an expert planner and buyer. Unlike most firms that call themselves “interactive” now, Media Two has been providing interactive media strategy for 10 years now. We focus on delivering ROI for our clients in a medium that most still don’t quite understand.
We saw interactive as a major force 10 years ago and it has only grown since in terms of influence, budget share and opportunities. So our focus on it hasn’t changed, merely our ability to use new channels, and the budget that our clients dedicate to it as they become more comfortable with it. Another major change has come from our design side which originally was exclusively built around supporting media, it has now branched off and also provides full Web site development as well.
ADOTAS: Michael, can you tell me a little bit about your work history and how your background has helped drive Media Two’s growth?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: Prior to forming Media Two, I worked at a Direct Response print agency in Minneapolis as a research analyst, then media planner and buyer, and finally as an account executive. I was an executive board member, and served a term as President of the Triangle Interactive Marketing Association — a professional, nonprofit organization dedicated towards the education and advancement of interactive in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill areas of North Carolina. I also hold a seat on the advisory committee at Wake Technical Institute in Raleigh, NC.
I began in the direct response print side of the agency world, so I was already familiar with ROI driven marketing – so the same principles that you apply to a DR campaign is what we apply here at Media Two. Even when I was just starting out in this business, it was clear to me that interactive was going to become a crucial part of the media mix, when the traditional agencies were sticking primarily to print and broadcast. As the industry has evolved, I’ve tried to bridge the gap between interactive and traditional, which is what our clients and agency partners look to us for – that ability to integrate our interactive and design capabilities with traditional techniques.
ADOTAS: How have you seen the market change and the demands for your services evolve?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: As every CMO in the land is demanding more accountability, they are all looking to the Web. Even the traditional media buyers are laying claim to the conversions that happen online. All of this demand has created a boom for a firm like ours that has been exclusively in the medium for 10 years. You can’t just learn interactive over night.
ADOTAS: At the end of the day, what imprint do you feel Media Two has made and will continue to make on the market?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: Accountability. There are too many businesses that make empty promises, and by pushing the envelope and delivering what we know we can, we make all of the other agencies have to live up to our expectations and accountability. If clients can come to expect the level of service an agency like ours brings, then it should raise the bar for all of the other agencies as well.
ADOTAS: You have said that search is a direct response vehicle and display is a branding tool … also that display can become a driver of search performance – directly impacting conversions. Can you explain how display can drive search performance?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: For clarification, yes, display is a branding tool – but we have ROI expectations for display as well. But for the greater good, our display objectives are for driving search conversions. If our display campaigns are targeted properly, then the client’s brand will be front of mind when a person goes to search on their product or service. After seeing display ads while browsing, users will often go to their favorite engine and search for the brand they saw in the ad. This may be because people don’t like to click on banner ads as a rule, but once they’ve seen enough ads to establish brand recall, they will go to a channel they’re comfortable with to find it. So even if the display doesn’t always drive the person directly to search, at least when they do, we’ll be front and center and remembered, therefore having a higher propensity to be clicked on, trusted and convert. But let’s face it – there are very few people out there that just do random searches, so if our display ads are properly placed, people will be more apt to search on the product to find out more than just what the banner ad was telling them.
ADOTAS: In your opinion, how effective are display advertisements now? Do you think video and other forms of interactive ads are pushing them into non-relevance?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: Ten years ago we could get a 30% click through rate from a display banner ad, and now, we’re happy if we get a 0.3% click rate. Does that mean I think they’re any less relevant? Absolutely not. The curiosity clicks have dropped off, but the conversions are still holding strong for the overall campaign.
Display advertising is still an effective tool because of its versatility. With the various targeting methods available, contextual, behavioral, retargeting, etc. there is vast potential for ROI because you’re reaching a highly qualified audience and not wasting media buys on users that are not likely to convert. And as we’ve already mentioned, it’s a vital part of the media mix because of its use in branding and supporting other programs.
The emergence of video and product placements and everything new hasn’t hindered the experience, it has enhanced it. Publishers are finding new ways to incorporate all of the new formats onto their sites, but there will always be room for a simple banner placement.
ADOTAS: Ideally, how should brands divide their media buy so they can get the best response?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: Everyone wants that magic formula, but each brand is a little different. Some can survive on Internet alone, while others, their audience really needs to see them in offline mediums as well. I read where Intel is requiring their partners to allocate 35% of their coop budgets to interactive – but that formula may not work for others. We need to sit down with each individual brand and come up with a custom marketing mix that works for them.
ADOTAS: How would you say that Media Two REALLY differentiates itself from its competitors?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: Plain and simple – we have 10 years of interactive media experience in an industry that is only 14 years old. Other firms have added interactive to complement their services, but our foundation was built on understanding and mastering interactive, and then utilizing that knowledge to roll out a full marketing mix.
We conduct the due diligence – the analysis of past results, using planning tools and then proposing and executing a media plan; but what sets Media Two Interactive apart is the work that we do for a campaign once it goes live. Our flexibility enables the on-the-fly campaign shifts in both planning and design that can significantly impact the overall success of any interactive initiative.
10+ years of experience and a suite of analysis and reporting tools enable us to project results before a campaign goes live, and our nimbleness allows us to react to environmental shifts and continuously optimize campaigns as they run. For us, campaign optimization is an ongoing process that encompasses a unique mix of data analysis, competitive research, and message testing, and it doesn’t just halt once the campaign is live.
ADOTAS: What would you like to say to the industry professionals reading this article about interactive advertising?
MICHAEL HUBBARD: Interactive is no longer just part of the marketing mix, it is the integral leader in the industry… That is not to say to drop everything else you are doing and only run interactive, but you do need to make sure you are properly staffed up for all of the emerging technologies; social platforms and everything else that interactive can throw at you. In other words, your newspaper buyer can’t double up as your interactive buyer.