Transparency has been uppermost in many people’s thoughts and prominent in headlines over the last year. The deadline for GDPR compliance is looming, focusing attention on how all organisations handle personal data. The discussions arising from scandals surrounding the alleged unauthorised use of social media data have all, at heart, centred on the notion of transparency. And of course, in advertising we have long had discussions about the relative opacity or otherwise of how campaign performance and media spend can be tracked and measured.
But to a great extent, the actions required from this debate have now been formalised. Measures have been put in place, programmes are underway and there is a general acceptance that ways of working and behaviours that were tolerated or overlooked are no longer acceptable. We’ve moved on. The focus must now be on efficiency and experience. How can we harness emerging technologies to kick-start change and propel the quality and execution of marketing into the stratosphere, as well as ensure audiences get the best possible experiences?
One key part of this challenge is clear: the days of siloed channel strategies are numbered. Brands are now looking to define a unified end-to-end strategy play. So how can they do that?
They need to start thinking and working in new ways. That means achieving greater business outcomes, taking advantage of their data and designing audience-led campaigns. They also want control over the stacks they use, and have more direct relationships in their supply chain. And they want a clear account of where their media spend is going and how well it’s working.
Brands should consider a lab-based approach, with experimentation and a willingness to test and learn. That’s going to be essential as a more personalised, audience-led strategy develops. Creative work will have to become more dynamic and varied across multiple variations, and content communications increasingly diversify.
Emerging technologies have a big role to play here. Much of what brands need to do in digital advertising can, and should, be automated. But equally, that doesn’t imply having to make a binary choice between humans or machines. Finding the ideal and balanced combination of the two is critical. Take chess, for example. Artificial intelligence (AI) has beaten grandmasters head-to-head time and again. But grandmasters and AI playing together against even the smartest machine always win. And CMOs need to become the grandmasters that work to orchestrate people and technology working together.
Of course, CMOs face an enormous challenge in simply keeping pace with the speed of technology development. The shift to digital is moving faster than ever. Changes are happening rapidly in areas like ID management, decisioning, cloud-based adoption and market data-driven communications.
And CMOs need to be on the front foot. Working with the main players in these emerging spaces – from adtech, to martech, media and more. They need to understand that the data architecture for which they are responsible is the source of huge potential growth. As well as the possible reputational damage if digitally enabled work is not carefully and sensitively managed to make clear choices about what is put in front of a customer, and when.
It is a major ask. But the upside from getting this right is significant. Some brands are already starting to take their digital strategies in a new direction and seeing the results. Businesses like Telefonica and Maserati are breaking down the old siloes across channels, and using digital to deliver integrated relevant and personalised end-to-end customer experiences.
Many others are registering the tectonic shift that’s taking place in how media is transacted and how data is fuelling media strategies. They’re looking hard for answers about what those changes mean to them and their business. And that can only be a healthy sign of a better digital future.
Amir Malik will be speaking to Digiday’s UK Brands Editor, Seb Joseph, to discuss this topic at the Digiday Programmatic Summit Europe 2018, here.