2016 has been a fascinating year for the industry, best summed up as the ‘year of transparency’, as the ANA (alongside Facebook’s ‘inflate-gate’) helped to remind brands of the importance of transparency, and driving this throughout the entire media supply chain. As Ryan Kangisser, founder and managing partner of ad tech and martech consultancy, Stack I/O explains, it has signalled a fundamental change in the way of working.
Marketers have needed to take a much more proactive role in the way they manage their media and associated partners – agencies, technology vendors, media platforms, content producers, and data providers. While the big multinationals could outsource this to their newly installed ‘chief media officers’, for everyone else, it simply became part of the job description.
Throughout 2016, as these issues were unravelling (and being diffused), priorities changed, with many more questions being asked around internal organisational design (make versus buy), agency operating models (full service versus specialist), and the role of technology (best-of-breed versus best-of-stack). Suddenly the ‘all-you-can-eat-buffet’ agency model was being questioned, with brands open to more agile and transparent models. Coupled with this, brands started to explore part in-sourced models to create more control (strategy, data, technology selection, etc.), while leaving their agencies to focus on the execution.
As for the technology companies and media platforms, this has been a fruitful period, as with more direct partnerships (which they have actively pursued), they can establish much deeper and more sustainable relationships.
A year of action for brands
Well, hopefully a year of action; as by asking all these questions, it is time to make some decisions and time for brands to take control of any inertia that may be holding back the acceleration of their marketing efforts.
Brands need to take control of capabilities and what is needed (both internally and externally) to drive this change.
– Greater upskilling through concerted learning programmes and more dedicated expertise (e.g. ‘marketing technologist’)
– More collaboration internally through closer ties between marketing and IT
– Closer partnerships between brands and technology/media platforms to improve the flow of information and access to innovation
– The emergence of more hybrid agency models as brands choose to work with more specialists or managed service offerings from the technology providers
Brands need to take control of technology to ensure a needs-based approach is adopted for technology rather than ‘technology for technology’s sake’.
– Clearer strategy around technology and the tools and processes necessary to drive change
– Much more attention on the capabilities necessary to drive value from the technologies
– ‘DMP-alooza!’: we expect to see many more DMP vendor evaluations as brands seek to reset expectations and refine their use cases around what they need from their DMP
– Greater focus towards a ‘best-of-stack’ model than ‘best-of-breed’, in light of recent acquisitions (Salesforce, Adobe) and the desire for a more interoperable technology deployment
Brands need to take control of data to ensure a much more responsible and value-driven approach is adopted.
– Much greater focus on leveraging first-party data with third-party providers set to become increasingly sidelined
– Implementing stronger governance and control so brands become better equipped to act in accordance with changes to data legislation
– Wider deployment of available measurement techniques/technologies for validating targeting, brand safety, viewability, and fraud
– Greater focus on attribution and incrementality to improve efficiencies and address suspicion over potentially inflated metrics
Agencies will be in a strong position
In theory, agencies will be in a very strong place, provided they support their clients through this transition, rather than stand in their way. This means embracing this appetite for transparency, and working with greater agility so they focus on where they add the most value.
The reality is an image problem has developed around the future of media agencies; but in the context of digital transformation, and a world of dynamic, data-driven, one-to-one communications, is there anyone better placed to help stitch this all together? Nevertheless, addressing this so-called image problem will be crucial in 2017 to avoid the circus we saw play out in 2015 with the unprecedented number of pitches.
Advice for agencies in 2017
– Be much more open in how you think, act, and do
– Help to fill, rather than exploit client knowledge gaps
– Create utility, not dependency
– Acknowledge your own limitations and use the wider agency network effectively (‘horizontality’)
– Think ‘proof of concept’ first before full deployment
– Encourage and facilitate more open dialogues between your clients and relevant technology and media providers
– Work much more collaboratively with external agencies and internal client teams to demonstrate the value of an integrated agency model
Technology companies will accelerate brand outreach
Finally, we turn our attention to the technology companies, who we expect will accelerate their outreach with brands as they seek to establish deeper, more ‘institutional’ relationships.
If we take dmexco 2016 as the barometer (alongside what we experience every day through the vendor evaluations we manage), this sector, we believe, still has a way to go. There is still too much pontificating about ‘speeds and feeds’ and not enough on use cases, ROI, and how to actually deliver effective deployment.
Technology is not the silver bullet; so there needs to be much more sensitivity shown by the technology community in respect of the challenges brands are facing. For example, the reality of decentralised organisational structures, legacy ways of working, hybrid agency models, imperfect data, talent gaps, etc. – all of which require careful consideration and deciphering before implementing any solution.
Advice for ad tech and martech companies in 2017
– Focus more on ROI than product features
– Be realistic with implementation and identify potential blockers/obstacles up-front
– Drive value (and therefore adoption) as early as possible through effective proof-of-concept testing
– Take the time to understand the brands’ organisational structures and supporting agency models
– Make it easy to buy!
2017 will be a year of action and change; yet it holds much promise for brands, agencies and technology providers.