In the digital advertising space publishers—large and small—are operating in a complicated, fragmented environment, affected by the impact of digital, the collapse of traditional advertising economics, and the pain of legacy technologies. In this same environment, brands and ad buyers are demanding more accountability, effectiveness, and flexibility in their placements.
Against this backdrop, SAS announced exciting news: the acquisition of aiMatch, an ad-serving technology company. So, what’s the leading provider of customer analytics and integrated marketing management capabilities doing with an innovator in cloud-based, digital ad server solutions? Well, the answer, specifically, is our joint shared passion for the power of data and how it propels businesses. More broadly, however, the answer lies within the 3 C’s that are emblematic in our marketing and digital advertising domains: Convergence, Complexity, and Confusion.
The 3 C’s, much like Escher’s famous prints on “impossible structures,” are inextricably linked. There’s no linear sequencing of beginning cause and effect, or starting and ending points. Each C loops into itself and with the other two C’s simultaneously, producing a convoluted landscape that’s hard to decode. So, let’s look at specific examples or illustrations that typify each C and how analytics-powered digital advertising and marketing shifts the paradigm.
The advertising industry, along with ever other media industry, is having to deal with the implications of convergence in the digital realm. Facebook is now a universal content and media platform. Mobile culture is becoming a global phenomenon. Content is immediate and intimate. Not only that, content is curated and co-created through peers and consumers in social platforms. Video advertising is growing at warp speed. And amidst all, this we have gamification and apps.
Convergence is about allowing one channel to take advantage of the features and benefits offered through other channels or outlets. The convergence of channels, platforms, ideas, content, revenue streams, and technologies necessitates that ad publishers, ad networks, ad-servers, and brands, each look at their respective environments in a more holistic manner.
The upshot: Analytic-driven advertising and marketing enables you to move from “connected” to “meaningful” experiences. In the digital sphere, getting it right at the onset gives businesses tremendous advantage. It makes every single message you send relevant to the people who want to hear from you. With deep analytics capabilities, ad servers can leverage the audience profile data in their workflow to allow publishers to sell highly targeted ads. From a marketer’s stance, behavioral segmentation derived from customer intelligence can help pinpoint and calibrate their digital ad buying for optimal effect.
The ad technology landscape is constantly morphing. We have new technologies related to data management and analysis platforms, ad operations tools, sell-side platforms, yield optimizers, attribution management tools, ad-delivery engines, and more. Further, we are seeing emergence of new digital advertising assets such as mobile, digital out-of-home (DOOH), and digital interactive signage. For instance, consumers within a certain range (from three to 300 feet) of a retail store can receive relevant advertisements, offers or communications through their Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices. Today, more than 90% of mobile phones sport this capability.
Delivering content at the right moments of maximum influence, amidst current and emerging channels, certainly becomes a daunting endeavor. And it’s only going to get even more complicated.
The upshot: Amidst this complexity, there is a clarion call for “contextualized experiences” customized around user profiles, content preferences, timing, and location. Marketers want more relevant, real-time interactivity that celebrates the uniqueness of each medium—and that is integrated with other multi-channel customer touches. The digital ad community desires greater precision in targeting, providing real-time value, and extracting revenue from their assets and services.
Confusion in the digital advertising arena typically expresses itself in making sense of “results” and orchestrating actions in a meaningful way. In a recent eMarketer report, 24% of marketing heads globally find online metrics hard to understand. Also, findings indicate that execs are most concerned with inability to quantify financial impact of their digital marketing programs. The same report shows that 32% are put off by the inability to generate customer insight from digital marketing campaigns, as many of the ad metrics pertain to ad performance but not bottom-line performance.
Another popular digital issue at ad conferences is the question of real-time bidding (RTB)—bidding individually on every single ad impression based on audience and cost, instead of bulk amounts of ad impressions. A recent report from the Rubicon Project (with Econsultancy and supported by trade groups such as AOP and IAB) suggest that publishers are seeing 20% lift in display ad revenue due to RTB. However, the report also highlights that one third of ad publishers do not work with ad network due to channel conflict (where publishers pitch direct) and data leakage (unknowing transfer of audience data from one party to another). This further amplifies the confusion of how to reconcile competing actions or objectives.
The upshot: Ad vendors who can transparently process and manage inventory in real-time, sell in an automated fashion through the variety of business models (ad exchanges, ad networks, and direct), and provide unparalleled audience targeting is going to be best suited to meet market needs. For marketers, analytics becomes the glue of the digital marketing suite that helps coordinate, design and execute across ad-serving, bid management, content management, social, mobile, web, email, etc. Marketers will also more fully appreciate the financial and customer impacts of every digital advertising/marketing action taken.
Industry conversations on brand publishers diving into a data-driven world have been in the works and continue to gain momentum. Yes, the new combination of SAS and aiMatch will surely extend integrated marketing management capabilities and provide deeper analytic rigor for digital advertising. But more important, advanced analytics and intelligence will play a transformational role for businesses and advertisers who want to excel in a digital world that continues to converge, become more complex, and be confusing to navigate.
What are your thoughts around the convergence, complexity, and confusion in digital marketing and digital advertising? Let me know what you think.