Does Real-Time Marketing Mean Decreased Quality In Favor Of Relevance?

Does the development of a real-time marketing culture deliver true value to brands, or does it create an opportunity that sacrifices quality in favor of relevance?

On our panel this week at OMMA RTB, we discussed the idea of real-time bidding (RTB) driving a real-time marketing culture, and the give and take associated with that dichotomy.  RTB is a driving force in the industry these days as more and more data is made available and there are more platforms being created to extract value and drive efficient execution in digital media.  As these platforms expand in use and potentially broaden their scope to include other channels such as digital OOH and network-connected TV, how does the role of insight and storytelling fit into the mix? Advertising and marketing thrive on storytelling and the ability to creatively weave together insights into messages that resonate with the consumer, but if we move to real-time execution, do we lose the quality associated with taking your time to be creative?



I would argue “no,” and most of the panel agreed. Our panel was very agency-heavy (with the exception of myself), but I feel they were accurate in stating that real-time marketing actually requires more upfront strategic planning than any other kind of marketing. If that’s the case, agencies and marketers can create a stronger, more holistic strategy in anticipation of a real-time execution platform, so they’re not sacrificing quality in favor of relevance.  In most cases, you are increasing relevance while also increasing quality!

To do this requires substantially more work than is currently being applied to marketing. That creates a stronger opportunity for those with the appropriate skillsets to do strategic planning, while marketers and agencies that can rise to that challenge will succeed the quickest.  Developing such skillsets also requires significantly more training and experience, but training in the agency world of the last 15-20 years has been close to nonexistent. I say this with a deeply rooted appreciation for the agency model, -- but I know about the lack of training because my agencies were among some of the biggest culprits.

However, I sense the winds changing, as large shops are getting in line with the fact that there is immense opportunity for revenue in this sector.  To be honest, I am surprised we haven’t begun seeing real-time marketing agencies emerge, since our industry has a passion for identifying new trends and creating niche services around them.  Maybe it’s only a matter of time. Where there’s money, there’s positioning to be had. 

The fact is that real-time marketing is a component of a much larger brand interaction strategy; it is not the entire strategy unto itself.  It can almost be considered a line item or a campaign concept.  It’s something that can be implemented in conjunction with a standardized reach and frequency effort to convey a core message and build trust in the eyes of your target audience.  Real time can be very effective at reaching consumers when they are in a timely mindset, but it’s not for everyone, because you cannot establish a 100% connection to all consumers “in the moment.”

So, no, I don’t think real-time marketing means you sacrifice quality, though it certainly does create the opportunity to make more mistakes.  If you plan in advance and establish a roadmap for how your real-time marketing efforts can be integrated into your overall strategy, you can effectively transform your culture and increase the effectiveness of whatever budget you apply to speaking to your target audience.

How are you looking to integrate real time into your marketing efforts?

4 comments about "Does Real-Time Marketing Mean Decreased Quality In Favor Of Relevance?".
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  1. Keith Huntoon from LiftEngine, March 20, 2013 at 12:26 p.m.

    Great article, Cory, and I think you hit the nail on the head. Every one of our clients understands the concept of real-time marketing, but many are intimidated by the up-front work required to make it successful. Machine learning and other automated platforms can inform decisions, but these platforms can be threatening to many marketers and aren't always flexible enough to incorporate changes clients need to make based on upcoming events, promotions, etc. 'Threatening and inflexible' is a tough sell. Your concept of a Real-Time agency makes a ton of sense. If a real-time agency can provide strategic planning yet offer clients control/oversight of tactical execution via an easy to use platform, I believe we’ll have a home run.

  2. Rob Schmults from Intent Media, March 20, 2013 at 12:27 p.m.

    I don't get setting up "relevance" as being somehow antithetical to "quality." While I won't go so far as to say the two are synonymous, a person for whom your ad is relevant should be a high quality (and qualified) target for that ad. Definitely love to know who on the panel disagreed with your premise and why...

  3. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, March 22, 2013 at 7:17 a.m.

    The answer to your question about decreased quality is obviously yes. You say yourself that it, "requires substantially more work than is currently being applied to marketing". So if you keep the budget the same, to compare like-with-like, this can only mean that a smaller proportion of the budget is available for content, and hence quality will be lower.

  4. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, March 22, 2013 at 7:23 a.m.

    Fortunately *ahem* we find it's a false choice, because real-time marketing actually requires less work, and you have more resources for higher-quality content.

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