“Marketer’s Note” is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O’Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.
We have a language problem in ad tech, and it’s only getting bigger. We love to use terms that have one meaning for us in “ad tech” and – I’m increasingly learning – another entirely in “marketing tech.” As these worlds progressively collide, it’s time for us all to understand where we overlap and where we diverge, for our own sakes – to facilitate more intelligent discourse and problem-solving – and for the sake of the marketing community we serve, which doesn’t need jargon, but help. Long and short, we all need to speak each other’s language in preparation for merging roads ahead.
“Data management” is a great example – when we in the digital advertising technology ecosystem talk about this, what we’re really talking about is collecting, normalizing, segmenting and activating anonymous digital data – think cookie data, ad server data – initially, and still primarily, for the purposes of paid acquisition efforts in display advertising. While there’s been some great movement in pulling in marketers’ first-party customer data for modeling and targeting, we are still operating entirely in the world of the anonymous, and still largely for the purposes of acquisition. On the other side of the equation are systems for “campaign management,” “marketing automation,” “CRM” (which goes beyond marketing) and the like, where giants like IBM play. This is a world we all would do well to spend some serious time trying to understand. At its most basic, what we’re talking about is some pretty digestible stuff – think email, direct mail, on-site offer management. But a critical differentiator is that these systems typically operate in a consumer’s (or customer’s) “known” state – via name, email address, phone number, etc. When the CMO of Teradata, therefore, talks about “master data management,” I expect she has in mind a whole different realm of data sets, processes and applications than what we in ad tech may be talking about (my bet is, though, with some overlap).
The big question, then, should be: How do these worlds come together? Because when every CMO talks about delivering “relevant, 1:1 experiences,” she’s implicitly expecting that the technology will show up to help her do that. If you look at Adobe, you see a company that has recognized the necessity of interconnected technologies across the “data management” and executional spectrum and has bought its way into many of the critical pieces – a DMP (Demdex, now called Audience Manager) for anonymous digital data collection, segmentation and distribution; an SEM platform (nee Efficient Frontier) for search and display management (though if I was a big display buyer, I’d go elsewhere); an analytics platform (Omniture) with massive adoption; and now, a campaign-management system in the form of its recent Neolane acquisition (oh, and of course, there’s their myriad creative asset development and management tools, not to mention tools for data warehousing and more). This is a company building an open, integrated marketing technology stack – the whole has thepotential (emphasis intended as there’s lots of work yet to do) to become greater than the sum of its individual parts.
This is why we would all do well to watch companies like IBM, Oracle, Salesforce and SAS very closely. How well do they get our world? Not very well, I’d venture to say. But what they have, which we don’t – as much as we’d ,like to tell the world we do – is very deep, embedded technology and (consultative) relationships with the largest organizations in the world. I can guarantee that a foray (for some, like SAS, a further expansion) into digital advertising is just around the corner. The opportunity for advertising technology players, in light of this, is huge: Demonstrate how you are a complementary enabler to marketers’ existing technologies – how, without you, they have only half the “marketing” story covered. (This could manifest as either a partnership or acquisition opportunity – if you’re a digital DMP or DSP, you’ve got something these big guys might want.)
For marketers, the opportunity in light of this is to look at the massive number of ad-technology vendors as gap fillers – what does company X do that is not currently possible with the tools in my marketing technology stack? Does it bring me real-time media-buying capabilities? Allow me to collect digital first-party data in a way I haven’t been able to before? Help me translate the data in my traditional database into something anonymous and targetable in display? In my dream world, every organization would have a person or group with ultimate stewardship over marketing technology – they would hold the master marketing technology map, and therefore would be able to identify: a) points of redundancy, and b) gaps in the stack. It seems like that would make technology decisions both clearer and cleaner. I’m starting to find examples – ask me about the cool way that 1800Flowers.com is thinking about this – but I’d love to hear about more (I’m researching this now).
There are a million caveats to everything I’ve said – companies make bad acquisition decisions; technical integrations are delayed or, worse, simply don’t happen; account management drops the ball. But I remain convinced this march toward integrated marketing technology is inexorable. And, for my part, I’d rather understand what it all means than try and wish it away or, worse, ignore it.