On his way home from his first day of high school, my kid got a little lost on the subway. He might thrash me for divulging that, but it was an honest mistake; navigating the New York subway system can be confusing, especially for a neophyte. So the fact that he traveled north to Harlem instead of south to Brooklyn was almost entirely excusable. Still, it yields an interesting question: Facing one of the most advanced subway systems in the world, with a phone through which he can now access free Wi-Fi at several stations, did he approach his journey with too much faith in the technology and engineering he's been handed? Did he take strategy—his own unique plan for getting from point A to point B in a way that's best for him—for granted?
It's popular these days to suggest that digital advertising is going through nothing less than an existential crisis. As IAB's Randall Rothenberg recently pointed out, many publishers are potentially facing as much as 40% less ad revenue because of ad blockers. Mobile is a challenge to monetize and marketers continue to be vexed by mobile attribution, despite the fact that mobile is quickly becoming the way most of us consume information and communicate—and where more ad budget is rightly following as a result. The complexities go on.
It would be hard to deny that we—marketers, publishers, agencies, technology companies—are in a tangle of our own making. The ad market has made tremendous strides in engaging people with more creative, differentiated, relevant and responsible advertising. But in the process we've facilitated the creation of a lot of lower-value advertising—that looks essentially the same, is poorly targeted and is muddled in slow, ad-dense pages. In other words, the stuff people hate.
The return to a market of predominantly higher-value advertising won't necessarily be a panacea. But it will be one of the most critical pieces in turning this thing around. To get there, we first have to understand how we got here.
The False Choice of Ad Tech
Much like my son was likely putting too much faith in the New York subway system and his smartphone to get him magically from school to our house, ad buyers and sellers have let the power of technology distract them from remembering its proper place—as a tool to serve their own unique strategies. Conversely, when technology leads, advertisers and publishers have less control, and the aforementioned state of lower-value advertising can result.
What's facilitated the over-reliance on technology? Buyers and sellers have effectively two extreme choices when it comes to ad tech: Navigate a range of disconnected startups focused on single innovations—aka point solutions—or put all of their eggs in the basket of a big media company that consolidates innovation but tries to constrict clients to that one basket—the "tech stack in a box."
It follows, then, that a new, two-part option—an open ad-management framework that both consolidates innovation and gives clients the freedom to choose tools that best suit their particular needs—is the way back to strategy-driven, higher-value advertising.
Part 1: Consolidating Innovation to Serve Your Strategy
Everyone loves a bright shiny object. So the trend to throw as much innovation as possible at a campaign is understandable. But throwing a bunch of disparate point solutions at a campaign perpetuates the mess. Alternatively, when innovations are assessed as part of one connected toolset, it's easier to make better decisions about what to leverage relative to your particular needs—to your strategy.
- Data unification means smarter decisions.
Navigating multiple platforms to get an overarching sense of campaign effectiveness means manually stitching together multiple, disparate data sets. Alternatively, unifying analysis on one platform makes it easier to tell one cohesive story about what's driving performance and make more informed decisions about where to take your campaign next.
- Fewer hands touching your data helps you differentiate.
Your data is your gold. Why potentially sacrifice your competitive edge by giving so many other companies access to that data? Blending it with other data sets (e.g., performance, brand safety) in one end-to-end system yields insights that are yours alone, so you create advertising that's yours alone.
- One platform to get the job done or 20?
Seventy-three percent of advertisers work with up to 20 vendors to execute campaigns, according to an AOL client survey. That means they're spending a lot of time trying to get those different platforms to work together for their campaigns instead of doing what they do best. Having open access to a range of the best innovations in one place makes lives easier.
Consolidation of innovation is the right first step to getting everyone back to strategy-driven marketing. Part 2 of this series, coming out Nov. 3, will address how an open framework helps when consolidation goes too far, limiting clients' freedom of choice.
About the Sponsor
Sizmek Open Ad Management brings freedom of choice to end-to-end advertising. With a single point of access to the best technology, data and strategic guidance—and the flexibility to choose solutions that fit their strategies—more than 42,000 advertisers, agencies, publishers and trading desks create inspiring, seamless advertising campaigns that connect them to their customers around the world easily and effectively. Open and independent, Sizmek's wide range of technology and data is bolstered by integrations with more than 100 partners, providing leading solutions for attribution, data management, audience measurement, search engine marketing, creative authoring and more. Sizmek operates in more than 70 countries, with local offices providing award-winning service throughout North America, EMEA, LATAM and APAC.