With digital spend reaching tipping point, advertisers deserve a smoother pitch to invoice experience says Donna Nichols, vice-president of media, CloudSense.

It’s been called ‘a seminal moment in the history of the ad industry’. No not the biggest spend on a glossy TV ad ever – or even the launch of a controversial taboo-busting campaign. It’s something far more important to those in the ad world. It’s the news that digital advertising will account for half of all spending on advertising in the UK this year for the first time.

According to the latest forecasts from Strategy Analytics, nearly £8 billion will be spent on digital advertising in 2015, marking an increase of 9.5%. The percentage of digital total spend is higher in the UK than anywhere else in the world.

This rise is partly due, of course, to changing consumer behaviour – the way we get our daily news fix or are entertained. It’s also down to the growing sophistication in the way we use mobile and tablets, for example. But, on the other hand, there’s also been another shift. Gone are the days when brands had minimal choice on where they placed their ads, or the medium for their message.

Publishers and broadcasters now recognise that they need to take further lessons from other commercial sectors and start to treat their advertisers to the best possible customer service in a practical sense. Charm and powers of persuasion are no longer enough – what is needed is more support to ease the customer journey.

Stand out from the crowd 

First and foremost, as all retailers for example know, the product itself can’t just mirror what everyone else is offering. It needs to be a compelling proposition. Many publishers are responding to this by introducing additional media channels, such as video or services such as e-newsletters or events into the mix. They need to be continually bringing new products and services to market to keep their advertisers engaged and interested, but to maximise advertising opportunities across the different channels, publishers must have the ability to re-invent their offerings and create options to cross-sell platform bundles.

Publishers and content companies following this tack are already seeing results. Take the specialist sports content company Factory Media. This business has been particularly creative about developing new forms of media advertising for its big-name brand customers and has subsequently experienced accelerated growth over the past few years across its offices in UK and mainland Europe.

As publishers are increasingly realising that, despite the importance of the ‘shop window’ of the front page of the website, the real battle for advertisers are being fought and won in the back office.  In other words ad teams may be smooth at selling but still not reaching targets. They are hampered by not being able to book cross-media ads in one place, by having no record of a cancellation made by phone, or by a lack of integration between their current system and their ad server.

Practical support for ad sales 

When it comes to carrying out a fast configure, price and quote (CPQ) exercise, which will determine the effectiveness of the sales process, their hands are too often tied by a lack of co-ordination with the back office. Improvements to this process will ultimately allow publishers to become more innovative and responsive to their advertisers and bring new offers and products to market quickly. Publishers that recognise the importance of creating a platform which allows for innovation, fast delivery and encourages interaction and loyalty will soon see the returns as digital ad spend becomes king.

This realisation of the importance of practical support for ad sales is encouraging publishers to harness technologies such as the cloud and new CPQ platforms, which can be built on top of legacy systems, in many cases designed solely for processing traditional print ads. The older unwieldy technology stacks still found across the industry are just not agile enough for today’s evolving demands.

It’s also no longer satisfactory to use CRM systems that don’t cover the entire organisation or provide a single view of an individual advertiser across print, digital, social media and other channels. On the other hand, new cloud-based platforms streamline processes through the full sales lifecycle, slashing admin time and costs while leaving teams free to drive up sales orders.

The rapid expansion of Factory Media, mentioned earlier, is now being driven by such a platform, which provides tools to develop quicker and more accurate quotes across its cross-media sales. According to Andy Boxer, sales director: “This gives our customers more choice and an easier buying experience across all our channels, enabling us to sell more effectively.”

The report by Strategy Analytics also predicts that overall UK ad spend is projected to grow by 5.4 per cent to £15.8 billion this year. Only by acknowledging that their advertisers deserve this hassle-free, pitch to invoice service will publishers reap the rewards.