It’s shaping up to be another challenging—but exciting—year for marketers. In a RampUp panel called “Visionary: Where Marketers Head Next,” moderator Terry Kawaja, founder and CEO of LUMA Partners, laid out some major hurdles for advertisers and the data services industry to jump in 2016:
- First, as more consumers become mobile-first, it’s ever more challenging for marketers to identify them as they move across devices.
- Second, the marketing supply chain has become almost overwhelmingly complex.
- Finally, while advertising technology can provide more opportunities than ever for marketers to make use of data, a large portion of consumer data is locked behind the walls of Google and Facebook.
This visionary panel, composed of Bill Glass, CEO of Connexity; Bruce Falck, CEO of Turn; Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, CEO of Drawbridge; and Rajeev Goel, CEO of PubMatic, sat down to discuss how modern marketers can meet these challenges.
“We are in a time of unprecedented fragmentation and proliferation of devices,” observed Sivaramakrishnan. “Understanding consumer identity has become foundational.”
Goel added that large platforms—like Google and Facebook—that consumers log into have huge scale compared to DSPs, but the identity data is usually not portable. “This has created a huge dichotomy of haves and have-nots,” he said. The fact “that identity can’t be shared like in a cookie is a huge challenge.”
Solving supply chain fragmentation
As marketers increasingly use a variety of data sources to inform both marketing strategy and execution, the old model of marketer to agency to vendor has been disrupted, Kawaja noted. At the same time, companies like McKinsey and Accenture are playing an increasing role in helping brands acquire and profit from data.
Modern marketers must become technologists, and simultaneously be savvy enough to vet an increasing number of solutions and potential partners. This can understandably lead to paralysis. “Marketers may need to work with as many as 19 vendors just to get into the game,” said Falck. “Because consumption has gone digital, they have no choice but to figure it out.”
He said the first step is often simply getting first-party data in order, and then deciding what to outsource—and what to put off dealing with until later. He added that a few years ago, brands might have relied solely on their agencies to make these decisions. “Now, it’s the domain of the marketer.”
Glass, from Connexity, proposed a different approach for brand marketers, one that doesn’t require them to get down into the weeds of technology. “A marketer needs to think through a basic framework,” he said. First, they must understand the audience in a holistic way. Next, they need to define their unique metrics for success. Once they have that framework, they can use it to evaluate technology solutions that fit their needs.
Is in-house the solution?
When it comes to programmatic buying, Falck didn’t see brands keeping this capability in-house—although they will need in-house expertise to understand the programmatic buys done on their behalf. “It will take real partnerships and conversations between marketers, agencies and [vendors],” he explained.
Kawaja asked the panel whether agencies will inevitably need to own and employ their own, proprietary data and technology. While some panelists, like Sivaramakrishnan, felt owning technology could help brands differentiate in the market, the majority consensus was largely that brands should not turn completely in-house.
Said Connexity’s Glass, “The value [agencies] can provide is understanding the relationships between technology companies and connecting the dots for marketers.”
Contending with walled gardens of data
Kawaja kicked off this part of the discussion with a disquieting question: “If the combined market share of Google and Facebook continues to grow, what is the opportunity for the rest of the industry?”
According to Glass, marketers have one powerful weapon against the hegemony of Google and Facebook: “The most powerful data you have is your own first-party data,” he said. He insisted that Facebook’s lifestyle/interest data is actually a somewhat limited view. He said a better approach is to marry first-party data with relevant data such as purchase intent data, to create powerful “seed sets.” This approach is one of the best ways marketers can identify customers who are the most likely to become your customers.
Falck agreed, adding that big brands may themselves compete with the data duopoly. “We shouldn’t forget that companies like Wells Fargo know a lot more about their customers—with a completely different point of view.” That is, a financial company knows everything that an individual has paid for, how they save and how they use their money. “Companies with lots of first-person data may be able to do things more cheaply and effectively [than Google or Facebook].”
While those dominant players are keeping a tight grip on their data and insights, other data providers are working to provide the kind of transparency and portability that marketers need. It’s slow going, however.
The whole view
What marketers really want and need is a fully rounded view of each individual consumer—and that can only be achieved by marrying rich datasets that hold information about behavior across channels (shopping, work, entertainment, social, mobile, travel, etc.).
Data services and analytics providers are evolving and expanding to meet this need. For example, Glass noted that Connexity had acquired Hitwise, a pioneer in online behavior measurement. By correlating its measurements with offline behavior and consumer attitudes, he said, “We’re evolving that product into offering less of a domain-based view and more of a people-based view.”
Drawbridge is another example of this evolution. Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Drawbridge CEO, explained that the company continues help marketers manage content and optimize consumer experiences as the number of connected devices grows to 6.5 billion by the end of this year. Bringing in mobile devices helps them create a full digital view of the consumer.
While the capacity to use data to understand customers will continue to improve, the complexity of the marketplace will only increase. Goel predicted that we’ll see even more companies with rich troves of consumer data, such as Verizon with its AOL acquisition, beginning to compete with the big two, whether they choose to keep their data walled off or provide it in an open exchange. He predicted, “There are many other categories of companies that have rich data and will be looking to create new businesses.” And as the opportunities increase, so will the need to simplify.