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Back to basics in 2018

2017 saw a series of dramas in the ad industry with YouTube losing some of the world’s biggest advertisers in multiple, high-profile, brand safety scandals and Facebook admitting up to 270 million fake and duplicate accounts. 2018 doesn’t look like it will be a quiet year either, considering the anniversary of ‘that’ speech by Marc Pritchard approaches along with the enforcement of GDPR.

Brand safety and spend efficiency will continue to be a thing and by May 28 2018, cookie targeting could be in a very shaky place when GDPR taking effect. For advertisers largely ignoring the tools available to increase efficiency and those relying heavily on the use of 3rd party audience data for behavioural, interest or demographic targeting, the year ahead could be quite tough.

As a digital marketer, how do you stay ahead of the game this year? What you should stop wasting your time and energy on? How can you find the perfect customers without cookie tracking? Is your campaign effective and why?

1. Get the house in order – the ‘what’
Ad tech industry is going through exponential growth with new technologies coming up every day. AI has been the hot topic for some time while Blockchain seems to dominate the conversation lately. The industry is constantly chasing the shiny new buzz word or trend for the sake of doing so, without really understanding the basics. The fundamentals of advertising have not changed: the relevancy of your advertising message to your intended audience will determine the result of your campaign. Forgetting this in favour of conversation about a shiny thing means your campaign will just be white noise.

2018 should be about going back to basics: know who your audience really is, what they are really interested in and where to really find them then catching them at the exact moment they have a problem to which you offer a valid solution. At the end of the day, what really matters is your campaign conversion and sales revenue and whilst I have no doubt the new buzzword tech can enhance performance or efficiency, it won’t if you fail to grasp the fundamentals. It might sound cool, but poor performance means higher pressure and reduced budget.

2. Context and Real-Time trend targeting to replace cookies – the ‘how’
For too long, advertisers and agencies have fallen back on opaque 3rd party data segments to target their so-called ideal customers. A car brand? Great, target “auto intenders”. A travel brand? Outstanding, target “travellers”. A shampoo brand? Excellent, target “fashionistas”.

Ignoring the obvious, and important, provenance question the assumption behind using third party audience is if people you target fall under your ideal customer profile, the chances of converting them increase when they see your ads. While it isn’t wrong per se, it’s just a broad assumption being every individual is exactly that. No wonder some of the world’s biggest brands are cutting down programmatic budget. Business results and sales target don’t live on assumptions.

GDPR will freak some people out, but the reality is reliance on third party audience targeting as an easy way to address campaign briefs is already long past its expiry date. More regulations help us think harder about what relevance actually means to the customer, not the advertiser, which is a good thing for the whole industry.

The immediacy of “audience in context” will help shape a post-cookie world. Context targeting reveals real time customer insight, identifying ideal customers based on current behaviours and declarations versus a cookie-based retargeting audience harvested “10 days ago”. It’s live, transparent and completely customisable for you and your brand need.

More advanced dynamic targeting allows you to follow an engaged audience across the development of trending themes and narratives. Backed by machine learning technology, dynamic targeting constantly improves and optimises itself to always deliver a relevant message to your customer as an interest or narrative might shift from one place to another.

Relevance in advertising is as necessary today as it was in the beginning; failing to understand context means failure to deliver truly relevant offer.

3. Verification and evidence – the ‘why’
Data-driven marketing has forced the industry to justify digital buying spend with data and evidence. Dashboards and reports seem to be the standard for campaign verification these days. Yes they might show you the CTR, CPC, CPA – the acronyms can go on. But what do they truly mean to your campaign and how do you know if you engage the audience in the right conversations?

Content may be king, but not if no one sees it, or worse still in advertising, a brand spends money for the “wrong” people to see it. The marriage of content and eyeballs: context. Digital marketers need more advanced metrics and tools to determine the relevance of the content they target to the effectiveness of their campaign. Every brand wants to catch customers when they are making decisions, not after the decisions are made. So knowing what topics attract potential buyers and which piece of content triggers the action is critical for any brand. A good verification tool can provide you with the customer intelligence for campaign planning as well as the confidence for campaign execution.

Advertising is always about solving a problem for consumers – placing the solution in their palm precisely when they need it. What connects the customer and your offer is its relevance. Technologies will change but the basics of advertising won’t. Be focused, go back to basics, work with the right partners for your need and stay ahead of the game no matter what 2018 will bring.

Chris Pattinson

Chris Pattinson is the Senior Vice President - Asia Pacific at Grapeshot.