I spent a lot of years on the agency side -- probably too many, to be honest. It took me a while to be interested enough to get truly entrenched in “the valley,” as it’s known -- but I now have a much deeper understanding for the tech side of “ad tech” than I previously did. In doing so, I’ve come to recognize the sea change that’s taking place: how our industry is finally ready to launch into the enterprise phase, being serviced by enterprise solutions in much the same way as the rest of business has for years.
As part of its evolution, the digital media business has the ability to deliver targeted messages across many devices and channels using technology providing the circular feedback loop of real time data on performance and audience. That model for technology driving data in real time continues to expand; we can now deliver the “dashboard” that marketers have been talking about for years. These kinds of solutions create efficiency, scale and better performance for marketers, much like other enterprise solutions do for other business categories like CRM, operations and finance. Those business categories are owned by companies you are very familiar with, such as Oracle, Success Factors, IBM, and SalesForce -- all of them eyeing the marketing category as an area for growth and also competing with start-ups, as everyone begins to understand what the “marketing technology stack” will look like.
Technology companies -- many of them already billion-dollar businesses -- all recognize that the marketing category is potentially much, much larger than any other category of business they deal with. Think about how much companies spend on marketing every year, from traditional CPG companies to auto to retail. That number is massive -- and now there’s an opportunity to “power” those marketing spends, either through data, infrastructure, optimization or execution.
Big data, social, mobile, cloud -- these are all terms thrown around by marketers (including me), but the single unifying theme is that marketing has begun to grow up and become a technology-driven business. The cloud provides access for marketers, while social and mobile provide touch points for brands to interact with consumers, and big data is nothing more than the way to read those interactions. All of these are innovative areas of marketing, and marketing is primed and ready for the enterprise solution, so the question remains, “What is a marketing technology stack?" I see it as a build of three primary areas: data, execution and location.
Data refers to the information that powers all the rest. Data is the glue, the webbing behind execution and location. Data is the area of the stack that is fixed and indispensable.
Execution refers to the way that messages are delivered. Execution includes ad serving, brand verification, and safety measures. It also includes reporting and optimization and other tools that most digital marketers are dependent on, and that can easily be integrated into offline systems as well. These are relatively fixed, but can be changed when you evaluate the opportunity cost associated with these changes.
Location refers to where the messages are placed. Location is the most dynamic and fickle component of the stack. Location means inventory systems, DS’s, networks, publishers and many of the consumer-facing companies that the industry touts everyday. These folks are the flashiest of the bunch and also the most susceptible to changes in the air. Where you spend your money now and where you spend your money in five years on this part of the business will likely be very different!
Some of these components offer more enterprise-esque solutions than others, but regardless of the stage each component is in, it's clear where the winds are headed. The marketing category is moving towards enterprise. New companies are carving out their areas for growth, while those established companies I mentioned earlier are making acquisitions and sniffing their way into the space. This year will likely be one of innovation coupled with acquisition, which will lay the framework for the marketing business of the next 25 years.
Are you paying attention?