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As 2016 comes to a close, nearly every publication has taken the liberty to share their predictions for the coming calendar year. I personally find these pieces to lack a realistic grounding in reality – often not taking into account the intricacies necessary to fully integrate new and innovative technology into well-established infrastructure. While advertising technology has made advances far beyond anyone’s imagination over the past decade, much of this innovation still remains in silos and requires significant manual manipulation to have any influence in the automated-workflow of a given platform – contrary to how press releases may represent these integrations.
There is no need to focus on any one individual post, typically titled The Top X Marketing Trends for 2017, but let’s tackle some underlying themes I have uncovered across a myriad of sources:
1. Brands will address consumers with consistent messaging across all touch-points, including offline engagement.
Predictions which include tailored, in-person interactions and the ability for offline businesses to fully-embrace the customer journey are the root of the problem with predictive posts. Regardless of the author’s intentions and his/her relationship with the technology being discussed, the forward thinking implementation gives false hopes to business owners and pushes technological capabilities beyond their realistic function today.
While in theory there is a subset of data available and centralized in certain data silos which would enable such an interaction, the scale is so limited that the logistics of making it a reality are cost-prohibitive given the potential return. While all marketers dream of a Minority Report like existence, we simply are not there yet. However, given recent acquisitions by Acxiom/LiveRamp and Salesforce we, as an industry, are making strides to make this concept a reality. Unfortunately, these authors who predict that it will be so in 2017 are providing false-hope for brands and have clearly never been part of an acquisition within a large corporation.
2. Cross-device capabilities will span Display, Video, Mail, and Social
Similar to the sentiments I share in my first point, let’s, as an industry, walk before we run. Realistically, cross-device technology is readily available by a number of vendors in-market. These firms have spent years building, perfecting, verifying, and patenting their respective methodologies and are now in the process of educating the market. While many platforms have seen the true benefit of successfully integrating cross-device technology, not all have taken the initial step towards incorporating the functionality and many have devoted significant resources that barely scratch the surface of the capabilities provided by these third-parties.
While social platforms and advertising technology stacks have approached cross-device in separate, yet equal, ways, both continue to operate in silos. Social platforms choose to remain independent and rarely approve the integration and collaboration with a third-party. Similarly, most integrations with a vendor which relies on Personally Identifiable Information (PII) for advertising is unidirectional. While it is feasible for an advertiser to leverage a CRM file to target on a social platform, deliver an email campaign through an Email Service Provider (ESP), and on-board through a third-party to deliver display ads – these efforts are not collaborative across vendors and do not allow for a cross-device and cross-channel frequency cap.
Until there is collaboration between vendors, or an unbiased third party, there will not be a true cross-device means of communication across all these channels. Without the acceptance of a third-party involved in the transaction by the large walled gardens (specifically social networks) the statement that this is a reality for 2017 is not grounded in reality.
3. Identity will grow in importance and enable a shift away from last touch attribution.
Let’s not beat a dead horse. Similarly to the challenges outlined in point #2, identities are siloed between platforms and when a sync relies on the existence of PII the communication between vendors is unidirectional. As a result the ability for advertising technology to minimize its reliance on a last touch attribution model is limited. The complexities of consumer interactions across platforms both online and offline with brand engagements is unbounded. I share a vision with many in the industry of a new, all encompassing, and properly distributed attribution model incorporating for all consumer interaction during a customer journey, but this dream will not reach fruition in 2017 unless an agnostic, third-party is entrusted with the task of connecting the dots between all players in the space.
The following year will present great opportunity for those companies across advertising technology to communicate their long-term strategies with other vendors, agencies, and brands and justify why their innovative approach to a current marketing challenge represents a sound investment. At the end of the day the approval for a vendor to collaborate with a new technology is a vote that its solution does not check current boxes for a pre-existing, commoditized offering, but addresses the challenges which are most aptly demonstrated by the predictions of new capabilities shared in each year’s marketing trends to watch for…
Image Credit: AdExchanger