As part of The Drum’s Digital Advertising Deep Dive, we meet with HP’s Senior Director of Global Digital Media Activation Freddie Liversidge (one of the judges for the Drum Digital Advertising Awards 2022) who talks about the challenges of standing up to internal media practice, spurring innovation as the honeymoon phase fades, and files run out. Third party cookies and more.
Can you tell us your background and role at HP?
I started my career in agencies around automated media. I think it was cool. But then, I started to see the housing trend increasing in digital advertising. And I went to Deloitte, and then I actually went back to an agency, which is kind of ironic.
I was in this agency [and the man who’s now my boss] He called me and said, “Hey, should we be home?” And because I’m a bit cocky, I said, “Yes, only if you hire me to do it.” And so he did. I came in and basically built that internship. Now I take care of the in-house media team globally. We have 120 people in the company at HP to play media – all over the world, from China to the US to Europe to just about any country you can think of. We are in 70 countries.
What was the structure of that internal agency like? What challenges did you encounter along the way?
We built it on six different criteria. We strategize together to say, “Look, we basically want control of our data. We want transparency in the media we buy. We want to have the ability – which seems ironic now – to closely relate our team members in the office together.” [The point is] Everyone was the same. This agency-client relationship is not anymore. It was peer to peer. We also wanted agility. We wanted speed. We didn’t want to call an agency – we wanted to be able to run a dime in hours instead of days or weeks. This was the impetus to do so. We tested it in North America and then deployed it worldwide for the past three years.
Maybe I can talk to you for an hour about the challenges. [First of all,] Saving costs – The business was also looking at me and saying, “Hey, can you save us money on what we paid the agency?” And in hindsight, it was really easy to say. Just remove some margins the agency might top, and voila, you’ve got some pretty good savings. Now, three years later, they say, “Hey, how much savings can you make?” It is difficult to continue to increase these savings. So this was a challenge – how do you keep your finance team happy by continuing to create internal savings?
[Another challenge is] Attrition – How do you keep them entertained… and keep them growing within an internal team? This was a challenge, especially with the great resignation [happened] In the past six months or so. Another is innovation. And I hate that word… but [I mean]How do you stay relevant and exciting to the marketing organization you support as an in-house agency? It was really easy for the first two years because we were the new kids in the building. But how do you keep being cute and sexy? Once the honeymoon is over, what does it really look like?
In general, what is HP’s approach to digital advertising? What are the priorities?
We have two [major focuses right now]. [With] Pandemic… All of a sudden, people needed computers and printers at home, because they were working from home. We’ve seen some really good growth and revenue. But we are now moving into a world where a computer and printer are not convenient – so we need to push demand generation again. This half.
But we also have a brand problem. Most people know who HP is but a lot of people put us in a bucket of a “printer company” or “computer company”, but they can’t really tell you those more detailed bits about our different products. So balance these two [priorities] is the challenge.
So [we’re focused on,] “How do we start changing our digital strategy?” I’ve been very focused on the audience with a cookie – we were a huge believer in highly targeted one-on-one conversations and really getting to the right person. So how do we do that now in both order creation and branding where the cookie disappears? How do we get back into context? [Or should we return to] Audience approaching in the ’90s and 2000s where there will be some waste?
This is why we tend to have more full screen connected TV and go to video and contextually relevant content. We’re really trying to push these elements through digital strategy. Interest will also return to the fore as other approaches based on analogy begin to crumble. The average consumer sees 2,000 ads per month; How do I make sure my ad appears? This is where the economy of interest comes in. If I know that TV has a higher attention span, how do I start making sure I’m running content that captures that interest? [Plus, when you look at,] “How can we improve media in real time?” Attention becomes more important.
Like most advertisers, I imagine HP is struggling with the death of the cookie, evolving privacy policies and pressure from big tech to evolve? How were these changes bypassed?
sure we have [been impacted by Apple’s privacy changes]. [For] Example… If you look at the percentage of browser purchases across our digital strategy right now, it has moved to Chrome more than it used to be, which is a fundamental problem for HP. With cookie erosion, [Apple Safari’s] Intelligent Tracking Prevention came out and iOS 14.5 came out, and we haven’t worked out the strategy that has been arranged for Apple devices yet. So we saw that all of our purchases basically go to the Google stack and Android devices. From a digital perspective, we’re very focused on, ‘How do we start talking to users when they’re on an Apple device,’ [using a] Content-based approach? How do we use other tools in the marketplace such as contextual data and first-party data when available?
And what does HP’s privacy stand like?
HP can be very conservative and greatly values consumer privacy. In some ways, I feel like I’m fighting the Privacy Office because we’re very conservative with our approach – which I think is a good thing because we care so much about the customer and how we talk to them.
We try to keep up with every regulation but also give our own opinion of where we think [advertising is] scary. So for example, we shut down a lot of third-party data providers that we used to work with. We no longer work with them because we don’t necessarily agree with the way they collect information or we don’t think it is accurate. We’ve done a lot of work trying to follow the essence of laws and regulations versus just the letter of the law.
It’s a true delicate balance [between data privacy and targeted advertising]. Let’s be honest: We’ve all taken the crowd approach because it worked. We saw an elevator – we saw that it worked for our customers. So it’s hard to want to walk away from him in some sense. But we know it is inconvenient for customers. I don’t think we’ve ever, as an industry, gotten it really right. We end up in that dreaded spot of the chase [a consumer] Via the web with a pair of shoes already purchased. We seldom get to the point of helping out. if we want [gotten to that ideal of] ‘Right time, right place’ and every ad placement was helpful to the consumer and giving them more relevant information, I don’t think we would be in that place. We need to try to be collaborative and relevant without this creep. We’re starting to listen to people now.
Do you have any predictions about how the digital advertising industry will shape in the coming years in light of the various privacy changes taking place? Do comprehensive identity solutions have teeth? What about contextual targeting? Or will first-party data win?
The context was there – it’s just going through a reinvention. We all forgot about it because we got so excited for the fans. The content we place ads on is just as important as the audience we are talking to. And as a robot, I definitely didn’t think this way for a long time – it was all about, “If the audience is right and the content is safe, that’s okay.” But I think the content is key. The context will see a huge comeback. Even in our purchases today, the volume of deals we now have with publishers that have been gone for a few years is increasing.
In terms of first-party data, from an HP and industry point of view, our job in marketing and advertising is not just to talk to our consumer base. First-party data is great for a portion of your purchases – but it can’t be your entire purchase. I hear a lot of people place huge bets on first-party data, and I agree we should make the most of it, but it will never solve everything. At HP, we have a lot more information about our customers than our computers and printers. But we have to talk to new clients. We have to get an acquisition.
Regarding global ideas, I’ve spent the past two years talking to her [providers]. You may have met 20 or 30 different ID providers. A new one pops up every two weeks. Even if you look at [The Trade Desk’s] UID, which is the hot favorite, [the EU’s] The GDPR said it is incompatible. So it really doesn’t look great for Europe.
[Beyond the regulatory concerns,] I just can’t see a world where we login on every single website. This is what many of the imperative identity solutions will need. You will work on certain parts of the content. For example, for news outlets, we can do this – maybe you log into The Drum or The New York Times. [It might suit] Connected TV or streaming form, where you are likely to sign in. But if I was looking for a cocktail recipe, I wouldn’t log into this site. This makes UID – and any methodology that uses emails as an imperative way to match individuals – struggling. Also, people were afraid of cakes. I don’t know if sharing email addresses around the internet would make people feel more comfortable as a solution.
so we [consider] Probability-based identifiers, we’ll have… In my opinion, a new way of fingerprinting – just with a more positive spin on it. Again, it is capturing information such as IP address or other identifiers. People are starting to describe this data as personally identifiable information. This will be a constant battle of what is available and what is not.
Where do you see the practice of purchasing HP media from here?
For HP’s in-house agency, the short-term vision goes back to basics. We have just gone through a massive three year growth period and have employed 100 people. Now it’s about making sure our media purchase is as excellent as we can get it right. We clean up any sellers we’re not particularly happy with [and getting] Offer rates are high. That’s what he’s really focused on next year.
In the long run, it transforms with the industry and makes sure we push the envelope of new formats and new content. I’m really interested to see where the metaverse is [goes] And all the new forms of ads that will start appearing. I’ll make sure we push these new domains. also, [we may focus] On the more strategic elements of housing, planning calls and how we do more of these buying areas.
Now that you bring up the “m”, I have to ask: How does HP think of the metaverse? Are you already immersed in any of these spaces?
We are not working yet. There are some suggestions made that I think are very interesting. I’ll be very frank: most of what I’ve seen so far looks like an in-game ad. I think it’s valuable, don’t get me wrong – especially for the HP OMEN range [of gaming-focused products]the in-game advertising makes a lot of sense.
I’m interested to know how much it is [the space] It grows and becomes before we get to work hard in the metaverse. We definitely want to be there as soon as he’s ready. [I admire some] The things people do – I loved what Heineken did with making the metaverse beer [but saying,] “Beer actually tastes better.” If we can enjoy it, that’s what HP would love to do.
Read more from the latest edition of The Drum’s Deep Dive in our Digital Advertising Hub.