Driving marketing change in the 21st century

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With the vast amounts of information, intent, location and preference signals that surround us, advertising professionals must make better decisions, writes Daniel Young

As I sit here thinking about technology and the role it plays in shaping our daily lives, I struggle to come up with a way to begin talking about it without referencing October 21, 2015. For those of you who are not familiar with this date, it’s the date Marty McFly and Doc Brown travelled to in Back to the Future II.

You may question why this is relevant, but it is because so many of the technologies envisioned in this film have come to fruition. Unfortunately, we do not have flying cars or hoverboards readily available (those Segway toys do not qualify), but video calling, mobile phones, handheld computers, 3D and on-demand television are. So, at least some parts of our day-to-day routines were all introduced to us in that film.

But beyond these, what else have we got to look forward to? Well, according to Back to the Future, not only will we shortly be able to feed ourselves with shrunken rehydrated cuisine packs and be wearing self-fitting and drying clothes, we will also be able to experience new surroundings without leaving our living rooms.

For years swathes of people have been living an online life, whether it is through a game like Sims or World of Warcraft, or even creating a cooler, better looking and more entertaining version of themselves for Facebook or a dating profile. Amidst today’s advancements in technology and the cost reductions that are making production more and more affordable, these alternative personas and realities are set to be taken to the next level, where you will be able to dive head first into your very own world. Not only will this be a pastime for those with a desire to escape their nine-to-five routine, but it will also open a new advertising market, much like selling stars or real estate on the moon.

Many people choose not even to talk to one another in the traditional sense anymore and instead rely on apps to chat, shop, travel, order food and consume media. Constantly seeking to minimise wastage and maximise impact.

Our industry is no stranger to these developments. In fact, we are great adopters of technology and at the forefront of the evolution. Programmatic advertising technologies, with their roots in efficiency and effectiveness, serve as a perfect example.

Let’s not forget the advancements that we are already applying to this area. Both buying and selling sides are utilising data and tech to formulate regression analysis, which identify prospective audiences beyond that of their existing cookie pools; header bidding for maximum competition and inventory access; and the development of sites and creative to maximise user experiences and impact across multiple screens. In turn, this is advancing return on investment and attribution, all while combating the likes of ad-blockers and the bad actors responsible.

Now we also have ever-expanding connected devices to consider. Not only are we glued to our mobile phones, but we are also surrounded by a handful of other technologies, such as wearables, connected cars, medical tech, smart households and smart cities. Mostly everything that can be connected to the internet will eventually be connected.

This presents an immediate opportunity. Take a smartwatch for example. It tells you, amongst other things, when you should have a glass of water or take additional steps. If this isn’t an advertising opportunity for a beverage or sportswear brand, then I don’t know what is. But that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Each one of these devices is a beacon or a signal, gathering vast quantities of data from multiple sources to formulate an increasingly robust picture of us as consumers and in many cases creatures of habit. The information gained and the application of this data will be extremely valuable to those who harness it correctly, especially when you consider that many of these connected technologies will not even have a screen.

Instead, many of these ‘things’ will be destined to form an integral cog in an advertising machine, constantly churning out learnings and providing actionable insights, increasing effectiveness and further streamlining processes. At the end of the day we as advertising professionals aim to achieve this so we can deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time in the right context. Right? This, however, creates questions around privacy and the usage of identifiable data, although that is a topic for another article. That said, transparency around this matter is essential. What remains clear is that embracing technologies which are transforming our professional and everyday lives is of the utmost importance if we are to succeed.

Personally, I like to believe that you can’t make an informed decision unless you are informed. So with that in mind, if with the vast amounts of information, intent, location or preference signals that will be surrounding us we cannot make better decisions – strategic, measurement or otherwise – then I fear that we may be better off in our virtual worlds. We would have failed in our current roles as advertising professionals. Over there, we could at least cruise around on our very own hoverboards and remain blissfully unaware of the facts.

Daniel Young is yield and programmatic director at Digital Media Services

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