Precogs and Tinkerers, Enquire Within … Platform Dependents And Last-Click Counters, Please See Your Way Out

Nirish Parsad, Practice Lead, Privacy, Identity & Martech, Tinuiti

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

Nirish Parsad, practice lead for privacy, identity and martech at Tinuiti.

I’m a pretty techy guy. So when I moved into my new house, it was an annoying problem (but not an insurmountable one) that my home automation system was highly fragmented. My thermostat didn’t know my dog Taz was home after I left, and my lights didn’t inform me when a package was delivered. To add insult to injury, I had to use a cumbersome device called a remote control to operate my television. 

Lucky for me, I’ve been tinkering with computers since I was 10. So even though there’s no single software fix, I MacGyvered solutions to solve these minor inconveniences. 

Usually, my thermostat goes into away mode when I’m not home. But by hitting a few APIs, creating webhooks and writing some rules, when my camera picks up Taz, my home gets the temperature comfortable for him, turns the lights on if I’m not home by sunset and plays a podcast so he’s not waiting in silence for my glorious return. 

Wire smart tech stacks like a smart home

I’m saying this not to brag about my hacking abilities but to highlight the marketing technology analogy – it’s the exact same problem we all face today. Various capable systems – all operating under the same roof and solving interesting problems – don’t talk to each other and therefore can never reach their full potential. 

This fragmentation is further exacerbated by signal loss. No need to rehash how the privacy movement has rocked the marketing industry to its core. But one thing has gotten lost in the era of cookieless browsing and opt-out by settings. Most marketers are sitting around and doing nothing about it. Or, more accurately, they are waiting to see how Big Daddy Google or the next crop of mar tech is going to solve the problem for them.  

So why is everyone squawking about the problem but not actually innovating to find a solution? It’s because the art and science of marketing got lost along the way. 

Nostalgia …

In the early days of digital marketing, with only a handful of tools, you had to wear multiple hats and be a full-stack marketer. You had to know how everything worked together to protect marketing investments. Tinkering was the only option since no single button could tell you how your advertising was performing.

Today, a new crop of marketers specializes in specific channels. But they’ve never had to actually tinker to discover how the holistic experience across channels works. Yet that’s exactly what has to be done to survive the imminent final blow from Apple – when all forms of tracking disappear. This push-button marketing of the past decade has vaporized the creativity and innovation needed to survive our new privacy-by-default world. 

Most signals today are already gone and the most valuable audiences can no longer be tracked. Marketers will soon look back longingly at the old days. “Remember when we could actually follow people around the web with creepy ads for the shoes they already bought? Ah, those were the good ol’ days,” says future you.

So, what does this all mean? First, fear not, advertising is not dead, but you are probably going to need some help to do more with the audiences you do have. To find ways to maintain attention and determine if what you’re doing is working, you’ll need to round out your squad. 

Hire a “prognosticator” and a “tinkerer”

First, get you a “precog.” (Yes, that’s a Minority Report reference to those prognosticators in the movie.) This is your data science and insights capabilities. I’m not talking about “analytics” or someone conjuring up reports. Data is messy, and it always will be. To survive the cookiepocolypse, you need a crew capable of not only making sense of your disorderly data but building machine learning models to understand the why and drive decisions while keeping holistic measurement ongoing.

Next, you need the “tinkerer,” a person who coordinates the rest of the organization and orchestrates data to put the precog’s insights into action. Tinkerers distribute intelligence from precogs to existing channels and systems. 

Warning: Data will still be messy, stacks unwieldy and systems fragmented. But your tinkerers will find order in the chaos and will figure out ways to get that data into the right place by whatever means necessary. That includes maximizing technology investments, protecting your sales and marketing investments, and improving the customer journey by finding ways to use data to attract and maintain attention. 

When I got my start in marketing, there were 100-something mar tech solutions. We’re well past the 10,000 mark today. You can try integration, but you’ll fail if you don’t add the precog and tinkerer before you go out and buy more tech.

True data-driven marketing – as counterintuitive as it sounds – is not magic buttons. It’s people. Stop searching for the El Dorado platform to solve your problems. Invest in the precog and find those multi-stack tinkerers. They’re hiding in plain sight, keeping the lights on (for their dog).

Follow Tinuiti (@Tinuiti) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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