In spite of the barriers, the adtech industry is finding ways around problems such as measuring online TV audiences, coping with the increasing complexities and restrictions of cookies and the shift to device ID audience measurement. Martyn Bentley, Commercial Director, UK at AudienceProject, looks at how tech innovation and collaboration is creating a window onto digital audiences.
As the year draws to a close and the mind wanders wistfully to lazy days watching classic family films, a parallel between Jurassic Park and the marketing industry occurred to me…
In Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr Ian Malcolm, nailed the uncanny ability of nature and human ingenuity to bridge gaps when he famously said, “life uh…finds a way”. The same can be said of the marketing industry, which despite the challenges thrown at it, shows its tenacity by working around these and continuing to evolve.
It’s been a treacherous eighteen months since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) but as we enter 2020, we’re seeing greater innovation and imagination than ever before.
In fact, it’s almost like a script from a movie blockbuster…
The cast of Jurassic Park had to face one of the most terrifying ordeals imaginable when confronted with flesh-eating predators, and while not all survived, those that did, came out stronger. Now this may be a stretch, but I believe the same analogy can be applied to the GDPR. The data protection regulation sparked varying levels of panic among every company that handles data from the moment it was announced. Many businesses feared its impact would force them into extinction or, at best, result in them facing major fines, but fortunately, most vendors found ways to be compliant without compromising operations.
The good news is that GDPR hasn’t caused anything like the devastation many worried it would; the casualties have been minimal – so far anyway – and in some cases, market retreats blamed on GDPR were actually the fault of strained business models. That’s not to say it hasn’t impacted organisations, many CMOs are still struggling to gain greater control over their first-party data, but effective solutions have been realised. And by working with a proficient data activation partner, brands can unlock the valuable insights they sit on to reach a better targeted audience at scale.
Teamwork is your best chance
It’s not a coincidence that many of the Jurassic Park characters meet an untimely end when operating alone, while those working in a team live on to get paid another day, in a sequel.
The point being that in our industry, collaboration is the key to survival – and by working together we have the best chance of navigating the chicane of GDPR and also out-running the looming dominance enjoyed by Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA). 2019 saw some major acquisitions and partnerships such as Bain buying Kantar and Taboola tabling a merger (aka takeover) with Outbrain – and even this week the announcement of the Teleria/Rubicon merger, looks likely to establish a very strong team and combined proposition. These deals among others are significant, because they represent resistance to GAFA and demonstrate how the wider industry is rising up to collectively penetrate the four-strong fortress.
Adapting to survive
I may be moving into tenuous territory, but just as we see the characters in the film adapt to survive, so too has the marketing industry. Publishers that were struggling to monetise are continuing to diversify their revenue portfolios in increasingly inventive ways – namely via direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings. Buzzfeed was one of the first to test this model with Tasty and its branded cookware, which is a significant revenue generator for the news and entertainment company – and the story for Future Plc has continued to evolve very positively too with the latest chapter the recently announced acquisition of TI Media.
Larger publishers and broadcasters are also pushing out their own unique platforms to take chunks out of the biggest beasts and win consumer attention and subscriptions – think BritBox and Disney+. ITV has also launched Planet V (operational in 2020), which we understand will aim to unify ITV and other Broadcast VOD inventory.
Advancements in tech are also benefitting publishers, with a new generation of DMPs on the market, which are not only faster but claim to circumvent the need for cookies. And with access to quality, brand-safe first-party data, publishers are also enjoying increased interest from marketers, and beginning to make gains on the GAFA ad spend monopoly.
Another area of development in ad tech is contextual advertising, which is what advertisers used to reach consumers before the internet. In the digital generation, contextual has taken on a new lease of life and offers marketers a solution to accurately target based on audience behaviour, while remaining GDPR-compliant.
Tracking the target
One of the biggest dangers faced by the characters in Jurassic Park is that they are not aware of the real-time location of the dinosaurs. Marketers experience the same problem – bear with me here – when it comes to tracking user journeys as they move between media touchpoints. Un-aided by GAFA, which typically restrict the use of identifiers that can be used for cross platform tracking and thus monopolise control over first-party data. In particular, brands have struggled to be able to join the dots between linear, CTV and streaming services and this continues to be a major theme at conferences throughout the industry. But the technology is already out there that can help to solve this – it’s more a question of the participants having the will and realisation that team-work is the answer. I can almost imagine a watchable marketing industry mini-series on this specific theme dropping in 2020!
Anyway, just like Jurassic Park’s ending, the industry forecast for 2020 is one of relief and positivity. Vendors, publishers and brands have not only survived the GDPR but have found ways to strengthen their offerings while remaining compliant. Greater advancements in technology and team-work throughout the coming year will enable better targeting, measurement and monetisation, and further advance the evolution of our exciting industry and all its participants.