WireColumn: Audience Convergence & the Death of the Channel

Gareth Davies is Co-Founder and CEO of Adbrain

We live in an increasingly multi-screen world. Cisco forecasts The Internet of Things to comprise 50 billion connected devices by 2020, that’s 6.5 devices per individual on the planet; pretty significant considering that only 35% of the global population is currently online. The major driver in this multi-device connected future is of course, mobility.

With mobile accounting for 15% of global internet traffic — forecasted to reach 25% by the end of 2013 — there’s no denying the far reaching implications for both advertisers and publishers as consumers shift their discovery, engagement and purchase behaviours to mobile devices. In effect, ubiquitous access and multi-device audience convergence makes the distinction of device and marketing channel irrelevant, providing of course that as an advertiser I understand my audience, can tailor my message, and deliver relevant, impactful and measurable brand messages, across screens at scale.

At the heart of this value chain is the audience. The concept of audience itself can be a polarising subject depending on to whom you’re talking. For buyers, data is increasingly the key that unlocks audience, determines consumer intent and allows, particularly in a data-rich RTB environment, advertisers to commoditise supply and spin straw into gold. At least that’s how the story goes. This argument heavily de-emphasises the importance of the premium publisher, favouring instead the premium audience, defined as a user with an above-average propensity to engage and ultimately convert, irrespective of the channel through which they come. Whilst there is room for a deeper exploration of the importance of premium content versus behavioural and environmental context, and the significance of private and premium publisher marketplaces that marry both, there are clear advantages for smart buyers who can leverage increasingly rich, cross-device data sets in order to reach their marketing goals.

Purely based on the level of trade press coverage, one can be forgiven for having glossed over Google’s recent Enhanced Campaigns product update. For those that may have missed it, Google has rolled desktop and mobile search into one integrated auction environment, allowing advertisers to bid on both intent, and location-driven contextual data. No longer do I separate my search spend, now I simply tweak my bids based on where my consumer is, what screen they’re on, and Google’s calculations of their propensity to convert in a real-time environment. This is a significant strategic play for Google, and constitutes a fundamental shift in thinking away from desktop as the default digital advertising channel, to a mobile first ad proposition, where buyers have access to the rich, contextual data that is uniquely available from mobile.

This is an exciting move and is the first of many, particularly when we look at the emergence of next generation display ad technology solutions, such as Adbrain, and their ability to leverage unique and environmentally-rich data sets to better understand audience behaviour, both in mobile and desktop, creating a single customer view across screens. Until now, advertisers and agencies wishing to reach their increasingly mobile audiences have had to manage multiple blind mobile ad networks on their plans, a manual and inefficient process depriving them of the insight, visibility and control needed to deliver results at scale. As a mobile industry, we can now start to look at alternatives where transparency, control and results are the order of the day, allowing advertisers to leverage their first and third-party desktop and mobile data sets to deliver more relevant, engaging and measurable ads to their audiences at scale. Whilst still early days, it’s clear that the future is bright, and the future is cross-device. If you don’t believe me, take Google’s word for it!