Last month, Julie Warburton, formerly the European regional director for search and search operations at Microsoft, joined Efficient Frontier as client services director, EMEA. Her career in search and advertising has included senior positions within Microsoft and Yahoo!, where she specialised in search, display advertising and media. Julie started her online career as advertising operations director at Yahoo! Europe in 1998 and moved to Overture as head of implementation, ahead of the acquisition of Overture by Yahoo! in 2002. In 2004, she joined Microsoft to launch the adCenter business across Europe, and went on to take a variety of roles across Microsoft Advertising, managing clients service for search, display, the media network and ad operations.
We caught up with Julie to find out a bit about her new role.
Julie, you’re responsible for Efficient Frontier’s client relationships in Europe. Can you tell us what you see as the drivers in performance marketing in Europe?
In the last three to four years there’s been a marked trend towards brands wanting to drive real value and demonstrate ROI from their online activities. They’re investing in technologies and online advertising that is measurable in financial terms – performance marketing – to the detriment of some branding and awareness advertising. They’ve got to be able to demonstrate a return for their budget. We’re still seeing the very high-end brand advertising going ahead, but performance marketing seems to be stealing budget from the more ‘middle ground’ brand advertising.
The economy has played a big part in this shift, but also companies like Efficient Frontier are able to make advertising completely accountable. That’s good news for the brands, of course, but also for the marketing directors, who can report back to their boards on the effectiveness of their online spend.
As the economy improves, I can’t see brands wanting to give up that accountability and going back to the way things were before. The days of the late 90s – buying impressions or views, rather than action – have gone for good.
What are the biggest changes that you’ve seen in search and advertising in the last few years?
Two to three years ago, advertisers moved away from specialists to consolidate all their work (and fees) through their brand agencies, or even took departments in house. But what’s interesting now is that those same advertisers are realising that they just can’t get the kind of specialist expertise that way. The technology investment alone now for performance marketing campaigns is enormous, and it makes no sense for each agency – or brand – to build it themselves, and then train up employees to use it, when they can use specialist teams.
How different is the market now from when you started at Yahoo!?
Incredibly different. We used to have a ‘Wall of Shame’ at Yahoo! where we used to stick ridiculous emails and photos. Eleven or 12 years ago we had an email up there from an advertiser promising to fax us a banner ad!
There’s been a huge increase in automation of processes. Reporting and analysis was done manually using Excel spreadsheets, and ads were all created manually, too. We simply couldn’t have dealt with the volumes that you can manage now, using technology.
What are the biggest lessons you learned during your time at Yahoo! and Microsoft?
The most important lesson I learnt was to think like the client. Always consider what matters to them, what do they need to know about their customers’ journeys. They need us to help them to create smart campaigns that get results. They also need us to help them report to their management teams, by analysing data to give them real insights into customer behaviour.
What’s important to clients at the moment, and what will they want to see in the next year?
The thing that is exciting clients more than anything at the moment is how to optimise campaigns across different channels. A lot of our clients are thinking ‘by device’ at the moment – tracking, for example, by tablet. Understanding your customer’s journey across different channels and then optimising your campaign accordingly is a key goal for many customers.
Brands are working hard to integrate their search campaigns with their social media campaigns, particularly Facebook. The acquisition of Context Optional is a response to this need and will really change the way brands manage their social presence alongside search and display.
ROI is, of course, extremely important. Clients want value – they want to use their budget effectively and efficiently. They don’t want to maintain the status quo – they’ll try new tools and initiatives that will improve ROI.
How do you see the Google / Facebook rivalry panning out in social media?
It’s really too soon to tell what the impact of Google+ will be and how consumers will use it. It could be very interesting if it manages to pull in other aspects of Google.
The US rollout of Google Offers is interesting – it could hit Groupon hard.
What are your ambitions for Efficient Frontier?
I’d like Efficient Frontier to develop its reputation as achieving the best performance through the best technology and the best people. We’re continuing to grow the team, investing in the best talent both by hiring well and by developing long-term careers for employees. We’re winning fantastic new business and are attracting the best people to run it.
Social is seeing phenomenal growth at the moment. What’s driving this growth and can it be sustained?
Social has a long way to go before it peaks. It’s being driven by where consumers are going, not just by the technology – brands need to understand where the audience is, target effectively and work out how best to engage with that audience. Consumers will always be social, and will always use different channels to support their networks of friends, online and offline. For social media to work for brands, brands must be super-relevant to consumers.
How would you sum up Efficient Frontier?
We enable our clients to understand the return and interaction from each online channel, then deliver the best performance with our platform and great services team.