D.O.A.: Death of Advertising
This is anti-auto-tune, death of the ringtone
This ain’t for iTunes, this ain’t for sing-alongs.
Jay-Z – “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)”
As I have followed the RTB and programmatic trade media, I find it generally consumed (when not discussing fund-raising) with discussion about the impact of the technical advances that enable RTB and programmatic buying. I obsess over those advances and I applaud the revolution I believe these technologies are producing for the greater media and communication industry. Before you continue reading, you should know that this isn’t another anthem about increasing or decreasing CPMs, transactional friction, latency, measurement or computing power -- but rather an attempt to frame what RTB could and should mean to marketers and brands.
RTB means the death of advertising as we know it. Perhaps more than any other advance in the history of media, RTB changes the essence of marketing communications as they have existed in the past. This is not because RTB reflects a shift in offline to online marketing spending, or the disruption of linear advertising -- but rather, because it reflects a brand’s potential to speak directly to consumers via mass media. In this regard, RTB goes further than search in impact. Search was the advent of a new channel – or, as some argue, the redefinition of an existing demand-based media like directories -- but search is not a mass medium or broadcast channel despite Google’s success. (Average time spent on Google per user in the US is 1:01 per month, according to the Guardian; consider that Americans average 33 hours of television consumption per week according to Nielsen).
In the planning and buying of media, the most significant change wrought by RTB is the deconstruction of the CPM, or “cost per thousand” currency. Used by all mainstream media planners, buyers, and sellers, the CPM itself predestines that purchased media is in essence generally mass media. There is nothing inherently wrong with mass media, but the nature of mass is about scale, quantity or reach. Until the advent of RTB planners, buyers and sellers had generally focused on reach and frequency as key goals and measurements because these are what the mass media form permits and excels. In the U.S., young planners and buyers are correctly schooled that there is no more effective reach vehicle than the Super Bowl. What this lesson misses: that reach in itself is not the most effective way to communicate a brand’s message to consumers.
RTB empowers the tailoring of every aspect of a brand’s communication with a consumer, transforming mass media to direct communication between brand and consumer. The ability to buy individual advertising impressions, based on large quantities of data about that impression and inevitably about the consumer of that impression, enables the concept of “customization at scale.” This notion is not advertising as most recognize it using mass media, but rather the death of advertising, because it alters the interaction in the intermediate communication layer between brand and consumer. This level of close interaction imposes a tremendously more difficult environment for marketers, as every single media brand exposure has the opportunity to be definitively more valuable and thus requires much more detailed planning and purchase. It also rewards marketers able to learn, adapt and generally be dynamic. Interestingly, this does not pose a new paradigm for publishers or producers of content -- but rather, in maturity, should place even higher values on publishers that can deliver high value audiences via quality content and quality environments.
It’s imperative for marketers to understand that today’s RTB and programmatic environments are immature, with significantly too much focus placed on bidding and price rather than marketing and communication outcomes. This becomes even more relevant when we consider that most communication channels can and likely will be delivered in some real-time or programmatic capacity soon. There should be no concern that science is overtaking the art of marketing, as the need for creativity has never been more meaningful. RTB is enabling individual marketing communications at unprecedented scale, which will only grow as more channels become RTB- and programmatically enabled.
The greater ad tech ecosystem needs to be less insular and start moving the conversation toward the profound impact it can, and is, having in marketing communications -- not about whose tech stack is bigger, who can bid shade better, or who is better at gaming broken attribution models.
I know we facing a recession
But the music y’all is makin gon’ to make it the Great Depression