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How to Become an Ad Spy

Aug 15, 2017 4:00:00 PM

Looking to become a bit more Bond-like to spy on your competitor’s digital advertising activity? There are ways for you to do that on a daily basis, because let’s face it, your competitors are already spying on you.
 
Beat them at their ad game with these tips to stay ahead, and keep your strategy responsive to real-time market changes.

Ad Spy 101

1. Identity Your Competitive Set

Do you already know who is competing against you in your space? Taking a look at categorical data will let you know how your brand ranks by advertising spend, and what the surrounding rankings look like. Spending too much, or too little on ads? Benchmarking against your competitive set is the easiest way to figure this out. 
 
Competitive intelligence tools, like Pathmatics, not only help you identity the top digital ad spenders by device-type for any given timeframe (even yesterday!), but you can also narrow down by competitor. If you are a travel brand, dive into that vertical to view how others are buying, what sites they are targeting, and most importantly, how they are spending their ad budgets plus how many impressions they are gathering.

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2. Make an Advertiser Comparison

Pathmatics makes it easy to compare your brand’s advertising efforts against your competitor, or competitive set, with the Advertiser Comparison tool. Look at creatives across your set, and if you are releasing more or less than others in your space. Are you spending twice as much as your competitors? Identify what your brand’s share of spend is and determine if the ROI is there for your digital efforts. Or, identify if you can save money by scaling back, yet still win by digital impressions.

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Spending less than your competitors? If you are reaping in the most impressions, your strategy could be working. But, if your spend is low and you aren’t seeing the ROI on your end, upping your budget to compete on a more direct level may be the way to go. 

How is your competitve set budgeting their dollars, not only across device-types, but between channels? Are they spending on programmatic, or going direct to publisher? Only Pathmatics' intelligence platform can break down exactly how your competitor is spending, and through which intermediaries. 

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Dive in deeper within each advertiser to identify exactly which ad networks, DMP's, and other services your competitors are using - and see how each of their creatives is hitting target sites. You literally have a magnifying glass into each ad placement with a tool like Pathmatics. No more guessing!
 
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3. Make Your Target Site List

What sites are your competitors’ advertising on that you aren’t? The Advertiser Comparison tool lets you navigate through their strategy, site-by-site, to see where your brand may be falling short. Identify new site opportunities that you may never have even thought about, and even see how the site is selling impressions (and how your competitor is ending up there) to choose the best way to buy.
 
For example, if your brand is Marriott International, there are several sites that both Hilton Worldwide and Wyndham Worldwide are spending on that Marriott isn't. Now you can evaluate any missing opportunities and determine if they fit into your strategy.
 
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If you see that your competitor is advertising on many of the same sites that you are, but is spending more and gaining the most impressions, maybe it’s time to up your spend on the sites that are working best for you. Hilton is blowing both Marriott and Wyndham out of the water on CNN.com, making a case for increasing spend or moving that money to a site with less competition.

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Advertising on sites that aren’t doing anything for you? Some long-tail sites may not be worth your dollars, especially if your competitors don’t see any value in the sites either. While you could be hitting some secret gems that are fueling you traffic and conversions, sometimes you can audit your list down to make your list as efficient as possible.
 

4. Look at Historical Data

When is your competitor upping their spend, and on which device-types? Are the holidays a time when a competitor sinks more money on video advertising, and how has that strategy shaped up year-over-year. Keying into historical trends will give you ideas about how to shape your budget throughout the year.
 
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5. Stay Up to Date with Daily Alerts

Did your competitor release a new campaign yesterday or increase their spend on a specific site? The best way to know is to receive daily alerts on their activity so you can react accordingly. The digital advertising landscape changes faster than most can keep up with, so this ensures that you will always be on top of your spy game.
 
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Becoming an ad spy makes you a powerful force on your brand or agency’s team, and allows your strategy to become more proactive over time. What other ways do you use competitive intelligence software to spy on brands within your space?
 

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Jordan Kramer

Written by Jordan Kramer

An out-of-the-box thinker with a love for disruptive ideas, Jordan's background spans PR and events for the wedding & hospitality industry in Los Angeles and Scottsdale and also launching one of America's most unique food trucks. She jumped from the food start-up scene to the tech start-up scene in 2013 to join one of the most unique companies in ad tech. Jordan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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