They Are Building Walls – Three Huge Ones

lunghuangupdatedData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Lung Huang, vice president of global partnerships at 84.51°.

As the summer winds down, I am already putting this line into practice: “Well, let’s pick this up after Labor Day.”

As true as the sun rises from the east and sets in the west, few people want to start big data-driven projects weeks before Labor Day. But when they do embark on those big projects after the holiday, marketers will find a shifting ecosystem.

While we have watched the political theater on cable TV outlets over the past year, marketing platforms have diligently added new levels to their walled gardens. Within the last two weeks Google and Facebook reported fantastic quarterly results, which reinforces their strategy without having their ecosystem fully closed off yet. Not to be left out, Verizon, which now owns AOL and Yahoo, seems to be delivering mixed signals to the marketplace on its final intent.

Savvy marketers need to be prepared to navigate this changing world. It is hard enough to measure the return on investment for simple things like desktop or mobile, but they must now also confront the challenges of artificial intelligence, bots and virtual reality.

Although their freedom to roam in the wilds of the marketing world will become more constricted, there are some distinct benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all in marketing, and the same goes for ad tech.

Data Journey Is A Trip

Recently companies have been refining their own arsenal of data and what data means to them as an advertiser. Everyone’s data success stories are varied, but we all want our data to be protected, powerful and portable. That is the nirvana we all seek in the data-driven marketing world.

What I have learned over the past few years regarding how people use data could be summarized in yearly themes:

2013: Data had to be big and you needed a scientist to understand it.

2014: Data acquisition was a full-time job.

2015: Data modeling was sexy and widespread.

2016: Data is great, but just keep it within our platform.

Over the past three years we all learned that while data is a great thing, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss “good” data, which we are defining as we go along. The value of data will be tied to how accurately we can measure the effectiveness of campaigns.

Members Only, Please

A walled garden only works if there is a benefit, and I contend that playing within the rules is the only way to go at this point. I would liken this process of a walled garden to getting my own “members only” jacket to wear at the Facebook or Google campuses (and yes, the Facebook version probably has a hoodie and the Google version is multicolored). You can do as you please within their world, but just don’t take the jacket to another party.

While there have been cries by some whose business plans were blown up with the walled-garden model, can we actually say that the largest publishers are wrong here? Rather than waiting for our ad tech world to to clean itself up, they started a process to make it better.

Worrying Won’t Change The Outcome

Our outcomes will be our best measure of the expanded benefits within the marketing worlds that Facebook, Google and Verizon create. Worrying about them building this closed ecosystem won’t help, but helping them create the best possible product will create a thriving industry. I do believe the competition brings innovation.

So what is the advertiser to do? Well, the best plan is to focus on the outcomes of working within the walled garden in the short term. My best outcome will be different than yours, but in my view, the role of personalization will only come when we have better clarity and confidence that the results we are seeing are truly real results. While the marketing platforms control how you are able to work within their world, they cannot limit the outcomes you gain.

This is a journey for all of us, but the progress we are making today will create long-term value for our respective companies and customers. We all need to do our part here. We need to determine if it is really better in their world rather than the open world we live in now.

I would be so happy to give more details on what advertisers can do, but let’s schedule time after I get back to the office after Labor Day.

Follow Lung Huang (@Lung_Huang), 84.51° (@8451group) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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