What Are The Hurdles In Cross-Digital, Audience Buying?

Cross-Channel Media BuyingOf many holy grails, the one involving effective cross-channel, digital media buying (let alone traditional channels) seems to remain elusive for the most part. Sure, you can capture a few search-ers who are showing intent for a blue Buick and then retarget them through display ad exchanges, but that’s hardly the scalable motherlode for effective cross-channel media buying that many see on the horizon for advertising.

AdExchanger asked several executives from the media buying side of the ecosystem about how cross-channel is looking today beyond the significant challenge presented by the nexus of cookies and privacy. Specifically:

“What’s your take on the hurdles of cross-digital audience buying today?”

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Jayne Pimentel, Head of Display Media, Razorfish London (Publicis)

“Advancements in Display Advertising technologies – specifically those related to data collection, management and analysis – have allowed smarter cross-digital audience buying to evolve. However, as with most advancements in the space that sound fantastic in theory we are seeing some challenges in practice. Three main hurdles facing any cross-digital audience buyer today are data management, device fragmentation and privacy.

  • Collecting, analysing and synthesizing the vast amounts of data required for integrated cross-digital buying is no small feat and would surely be impossible without a good way to handle those processes. DMPs have emerged to help ingest, clean up and process this data to make it usable for RTB, but there is still more work to be done.
  • Truly cross-digital retargeting is currently not fully realised due to device fragmentation and trying to make the connection between browser cookies, UIDs, CRMs, smart TVs, etc. We’ve seen a growing trend towards device fingerprinting and other methods to help connect all of those dots, but privacy and accuracy concerns still exist.
  • The Eurozone is in a period of uncertainty with respect to the new EU Cookie Directive and what its implications may be from a privacy (targeting) perspective. The outcome could certainly have a major effect on the data available for audience buying across the digital landscape. While we of course believe that the relevancy and value of messaging can be increased while maintaining an individual’s privacy, this is currently a serious threat.

Technical and political hurdles notwithstanding, there is an ever-increasing amount of very rich data out there and a number of constantly improving solutions to help manage and make sense of it all. As a result we are now able to make more intelligent cross-digital buys than ever before that improve the results for our clients. Looking forward to what’s next!”

Sean Muzzy, Managing Director, N.A., Neo@Ogilvy (WPP Group)

“Technology and privacy have and will continue to be hurdles for cross-digital buying. However, there’s a bigger hurdle that marketers should attack first; breaking down the silos that we’ve created for the channels themselves. In many ways, we’ve followed how technology has evolved and have bucketed expertise. But now it’s time to follow our customers and how they’ve evolved. Here’s some homework.

  1. Align your target audience segments and desired responses to your communications.
  2. Understand your customers’ journey and where your brand logically intersects.
  3. Define the role(s) of each channel at each point in the journey.
  4. Design a framework that allows you to deliver multi-channel experiences.
  5. Test, measure, and optimize.

Sounds simple but often times the same messages are being dumped across multiple channels with disregard for customer context and ultimately experience.

When it comes to buying across digital channels, we have to remember where we came from. As different areas of the digital ecosystem evolved, each channel was perfected in isolation. We’ve combatted this by steadfastly believing in unified tracking and understanding attribution. We’ve also identified clues from search and social that when combined with conversion data, paint a very connected story about performance.

From a buying perspective, we’re seeing that going across certain channels, for example, PC and mobile, is easier than it’s ever been. Google has also been busy connecting their platforms over the past year, which will no doubt streamline cross digital buying across their ecosystem. Now, this has been met with huge concerns around privacy. But, I think we could look at say Facebook or Apple for clues to how this will play out. Changes are made to privacy policies and there’s a burst of backlash, some people defect, then the bulk of consumers realize that they can’t live without iTunes, their newsfeed, or in this case Google search.”

Chris Tuleya, Vice President, eDR, Underscore Marketing

“The hurdles aren’t limited to merely cookies and privacy. I see some similarity between unified digital buying and the mess that addressable TV is going through. You have different end-user technologies, different enabling technologies for measurement that are often measuring different things via different methodologies. It’s enough to make you want to take a step back and ask whether or not cross-digital audience buying even makes sense.

The different sub-channels within digital often play different roles in the context of the marketing mix. In any brand’s plan, I might be using search as part of a drive-to-site strategy to reach low-hanging fruit, while web-based display plays an awareness-driving role. Mobile might play a role in the promotional plan driving contest or CRM signups. With all these sub-channels contributing to different aspects of a brand’s communications strategy, you might wonder why it’s desirable to try to unify audiences and metrics, much less unify a buying approach.

Even if you wanted to look at things in a cross-channel capacity, though, you’ve got plenty of technical challenges. How do you measure total exposure when you can’t drop cookies on exposure in a search campaign, can’t depend on cookies for mobile and have much of your cookies blocked within e-mail? Moreover, how do you measure exposure when consumer privacy expectations differ from channel to channel? A consumer might not object to your tracking their display ad exposures across the web on their computer, but they might fly off the handle if you tried to take the same approach to tablets.

The technological hurdles are significant, but perhaps they aren’t quite as significant as the strategic hurdles.”

Philip Smolin, Vice President of Product, Turn

“To achieve true cross-channel audience buying, advertisers, publishers, and technology platforms all need to make cross-channel a core element of their strategies. We’re making good progress towards this: advertisers are planning campaigns that execute across channels; technology platforms are giving customers the ability to manage display, video, mobile, search, social and more buys from a single application; and publishers are expanding outside of display and creating more video and mobile inventory.

But there is still more work well all must do. The ecosystem must come together and to connect the dots between various browsers and devices to get a true universal audience view. We are seeing the adoption of multi-touch attribution, but having MTA reporting without the ability to act on it means we have incomplete solutions. Taking the benefits of audience targeting and combining them with premium content across channels is key to this transition. We’re seeing publishers make more premium, cross-channel content available through real-time exchanges for certain large buyers. This private exchange model will see rapid adoption in 2012, and will begin to rebalance the way premium cross-channel inventory is bought and sold.

All of the above, of course, needs to be done in a completely privacy-compliant way. It also must be done at scale, which it is not today for the video or mobile channels. The year 2012 should be an exciting time as Turn an others help this all unfold.”

John Grudnowski, Managing Partner, FRWD

“The largest hurdle is true understanding from most agencies and clients. Cookie deletion is a hurdle, but on large enough audience buys it is less an issue. The true hurdles are “understanding” and “proof”. With understanding, client’s know the truths of cookie deletion & accuracy; know the controls on price, privacy and inventory quality. If it’s easy to understand and drives brand value, simply put, hurdles are removed.

This leads to a catch-22 or cart before the horse situation. Creating understanding (and thus removing the hurdle) requires simplification, which only comes from expertise through repeated failures and successes. Most brand advertisers are not on the absolute forefront of audience buying and cross-platform optimization. Most do not deeply study the evolving digital ecosystem. In aligning budgets, they rightly take cues on everything from the agency recommendation to (even more so) internal best practices on proven successes. Come decision time, it’s difficult to invest (at scale) in areas which are untested & therefore unproven.

Proof then is the core to understanding yet the catch-22 remains. Without budget, there is no test. Without the test, there is no proof. Removing the hurdle means education and implementing a client-accepted standard for measurement & comparison. Then executing tests in full partnership with client teams.

Inherently, cross-platform audience buying makes perfect sense, but without agency and client understanding the hurdle remains.”

Seth Hittman, co-Founder & CEO, RUN

“While cookies and privacy certainly are openly discussed as the main hurdles, our experience to date has led us to believe that an additional, and arguably more pertinent hurdle remains as the true barrier towards cross-digital audience buying. It’s been widely documented, with several articles published this week alone, that the ecosystem as a whole is experiencing an over-saturation of vertical technological solutions, despite the surge in programmatic spending. That burden becomes far greater now that Mobile and Video are gaining momentum thanks in large part to RTB. When you consider the fact that on any one transaction, there can be as many as 10-15 different technologies in the stack to complete the process, the idea of cross-digital audience buying for most marketers today is both operationally and financially inefficient.

The real answer to the various gaps that exist today is to provide marketers with the right mix of tools under a singular platform. This horizontal solution can allow for audience standardization when it comes to segmentation and execution, across display, mobile, video, iTV and beyond. Rather than adding more clutter by replicating what those vertical specialists are already working towards, the ecosystem is in need of an intuitive solution that affords marketers the ability to help harmonize audience data in such a way that a technological standard can be established. Only then can that intelligence be meaningfully applied and thus executed in a real-time process, across the appropriate mix of digital mediums.”

By John Ebbert

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