At the ANA Masters of Marketing in October, Collective had the opportunity to poll attendees as part of our “Audience Insight of the Day” sponsorship. We asked marketers to address their greatest concerns in the digital space. Their answers sent a clear message of where our industry needs to focus attention.
Today’s digital marketers must invest in the best tools available to manage their campaigns and drive measureable results. However, marketing technology tools require significant investment, not just in dollars, but also in data and labor. Marketers spend hours and thousands of dollars setting up campaigns in technology stacks that they’ve either purchased whole or cobbled together. They “strategically invest” in point solutions that don’t always turn out to be advantageous.
Marketers get stuck using these platforms because they’ve simply invested too much time, money, and data. They become entrenched in the solution they’ve implemented, effectively trapped by the technology partners. Post implementation, it’s not cheap or easy to switch, even when it’s clear that better options are available – or when campaign goals and workflow requirements change dramatically and unexpectedly.
What happens, then, if the provider of the technology stack suddenly decides to change policies about inventory access, data ownership or privacy, or suddenly raises prices or fail to disclose the hidden costs? Marketers are in too deep to just switch solutions. In effect, they’ve lost control of their campaigns.
This scenario has probably happened to most marketers. For instance, Google’s decision to remove YouTube inventory from outside ad exchanges impacted thousands of marketers – many of whom may have chosen a specific network because it offered YouTube pre-roll. The elimination of DMP tags from Google was also an unexpected blow. Changes in algorithms, tagging regulations, or ad specs may seem minor to a platform provider, but to marketers the impact is stressful, time-consuming and often expensive. Yet as our industry matures and consolidates, experiences like this seem to be a common occurrence for marketers.
How are marketers meant to handle these challenges? What do they do next when they’ve suddenly lost access to ad inventory, but are still beholden to the partner they’ve chosen? For marketers with their budgets invested in one type of video solution and thousands of iterations of data-driven advertising creatives, simply “moving” the ads to another platform isn’t as easy as it sounds. More often than not, marketers won’t even have the technical expertise to make such a move.
What marketers need is an unbiased, knowledgeable partner who can help guide the way. The ideal partner understands the ecosystem, has experience with the technology, and is unbiased in their choice of point solutions. This partner isn’t a person on the marketing team or an agency, and it’s not some technological ninja or matchmaker.
It’s a marketing system integrator.
That’s what marketing technology needs: system integrators with complete platforms. They need solutions that bridge the walled gardens with a focus on building successful campaigns. These integrators aren’t typical agencies that solve problems through services and expertise. They build systems that are more flexible and that integrate with multiple technology partners, making it easier for marketers to adapt. Typical agencies may also work directly with these marketing system integrators to expand their own options.
If a system integrator isn’t a person or an agency, what is it? The best system integrators build platforms that are open to diverse, quality partnerships. Salesforce is a good example. They don’t prevent marketers from working with Marketo or Hubspot, despite the fact that they own Pardot. Salesforce will integrate neatly with Constant Contact or MailChimp, and allow you to bring in any solution you like. There are other CRMs, MAPs and CMSs that are good system integrators as well. Marketers aren’t forced to change partners to work with the solutions these integrators build. They are unbiased, foundational platforms, open to integration with any quality partner.
The walled gardens are the fly in the ointment, since they tend not to play nicely with systems they don’t own. That’s indicative of the problem the whole industry faces, though. Those big platform players, the keepers of the gardens, are so focused on their own interests that they have driven the industry to become platform-centric. The advertising/marketing technology industry is looking out for itself, not focused on marketers and target customers.
As a result, marketers are forced to make sacrifices every single day. They have to choose a specific partner because that’s the partner that integrates better. They lose visibility into campaign results because dominant players change the rules, or they have to set up a second (or third) reporting interface because some partners won’t play nicely with the marketer’s existing solution. This cuts into a marketing team’s time and productivity, and ultimately impacts their results and the end-user experience. If we’re here to serve marketers, this needs to be fixed.
It’s time for marketers to take center stage. When we start to focus on building successful campaign systems for marketers, the industry will thrive, grow, and evolve in a way that’s good for everyone in the ecosystem. Until then, marketers will continue to struggle as they fight to keep control.
Media buying continues to evolve year after year. From the timeless direct-deal down to automated programmatic buying, our industry has exploded with ways to purchase inventory. One relatively new inventory source quickly gaining traction is the Private Marketplaces, also known as a PMP. Recently, an E-Marketer study projected that in 2016, roughly 28% of digital spend (over $3 billion) will be allocated to PMPs, making them a thing to keep your eye on.
So what is a PMP? A Private Marketplace is a customized publisher inventory source run on an invite only basis. Publishers are able to make inventory available to advertisers, similar to how a direct buy has always been executed. The difference however, is the deal is executed via programmatic media buying, allowing for access to most of the targeting and tools used in the open RTB world, but with a much higher level of inventory control, predictability, and quality.
While there are a few different types of Private Marketplaces, they all function similarly. A publisher will reach an agreement with an advertiser on specific inventory within their network. Publishers will often offer higher quality guarantees, predictable CPMs, and even publisher audiences to advertisers to entice them to commit to certain budgets. Once a deal is reached, the publisher will share a Deal ID, which contains all the agreed upon terms of the deal, with the advertiser. An advertiser will share the Deal ID with a partner to execute. Partners then have access to that inventory and apply programmatic controls and targeting as if they were buying from an exchange.
Through the VISTO™ marketing platform and managed service, Collective is able to accept negotiated PMP Deal IDs on behalf of our clients, and run them through our partnerships with SSPs. This will allow clients to have further insight into the PMP and enjoy the benefits of a truly open and transparent view of their media buy.
Everyone is well aware at this point in 2015 that there are infinite benefits to being a programmatic buyer – cost-efficacy, time management, scalable audience insights, real-time optimization, etc. However, with all of the large real-time transactions that come with high volumes of programmatic trading, one thing that seems to get very lost in the shuffle is the direct relationship between the actual buyer and seller of inventory. Sure, there are ways to connect directly through programmatic pipes, though I’d still bet that the majority of exchange connections today are indirect intermediaries of inventory.
But this begs the question – with an ever-growing list of programmatic efficiencies, do we even need direct publisher relationships anymore?
The answer is easy – YES. And it all boils down to quality. Direct relationships allow both buyers and sellers to have a clear understanding of what’s important to each party and how to evaluate accordingly. Whether a campaign is actioned via programmatic pipes or managed by a direct publisher, a buyer can communicate the value of KPI’s like viewability, interactions, brand exposure – essentially any quality or performance-based metrics to the seller – for a much more efficiently executed transaction. Conversely, if a publisher values a certain type of advertiser, creative type, or execution, they could sell programmatically in the open market, though they’d likely have more success with a direct relationship intact.
That isn’t to say that direct relationships are better than programmatic. The point is that despite the heavy shift to programmatic, advertisers should not discount the power of building direct publisher relationships. Both methods benefit buyers and sellers, just in different ways. The key is to have a beneficial balance between the two to drive value and performance.
So even in a world of programmatic, there’s no reason not to be direct as well.