Are We Going To Talk About It, Or Are We Going To Do It?

The old expression, “actions speak louder than words,” is fast becoming the mantra in the ad tech space. On a variety of pressing topics, the industry intuitively knows what it should be doing and how it should be acting, but is failing to follow through. 

I’ve been in the audience targeting space for a long time; long enough to see the radical maturation process of both audience targeting itself and digital media in general. I witnessed first hand the explosion of behaviorally targeted display, then video, then programmatic, then multi-platform, with layers and layers of data (and startups) strewn everywhere in between. The pace of innovation has been staggering, especially recently, but I would contend largely misplaced. While advancements were made in what ad technology could do based on what the industry thought was important, there was no map drawn to what business leaders actually cared about. 



To illustrate this, below is a list of core questions that all of us in digital media should be thinking and talking about. Following are answers that juxtapose how a CMO and the majority of the industry would likely respond. 

Q: Does an ad that is seen have more impact than an ad that is not seen?

CMO: Of course. Viewability should be table stakes; every other metric is pointless if it doesn’t follow a viewed ad.

Industry: I guess. But viewability is only a secondary or tertiary objective. It’s all about online KPIs! It’s not about someone being influenced by an ad, it’s about getting a cookie on a machine.

Q: Are people that own and/or use Macs valuable?

CMO: Absolutely! Some would say even more valuable than consumers that use PCs based on HHI index and implied buying power. 

Industry: Nope. Optimize away from Macs (or at least from Safari browsers). Safari doesn’t accept third party cookies, so my vendors won’t get credit for those activities, engagements or conversions regardless of how qualified that consumer appears.

Q: Do people always research and buy on the same computer or device?

CMO: No. In fact, research shows most do not. Coordinated multi-platform targeting and measurement is critical.

Industry: Yup. My ad server can’t accurately track cross-platform and/or household metrics, so they don’t exist and/or should be disregarded.

Q: Does digital advertising drive offline behavior?

CMO: Of course, but we need a better way to track it. Only around six percent of total commerce is transacted online, we need to better understand how digital drives the 94 percent that is transacted offline.

Industry: Yes, but optimize purely to online. If it can’t be adequately measured, ignore it. Digital media is for online, traditional media is for offline. 

Q: Is your team using any of the same digital media tactics that you did in 1995?

CMO: What? It’s a completely different world!

Industry: Our entire measurement methodology is based on the last-cookie model developed by Doubleclick in 1995. Literally tens of billions of digital media spend is transacted based on a concept created while ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ was still on TV.


Am I being a little over the top? Sure. But this is the type of thinking that dominates the industry and sets us back. The ad tech innovation in market today is laser focused on being the best player in a completely flawed game. If a larger percent of ad tech investment currently deployed to “win” the conversion attribution game were rerouted to better solve for viewability, verification, cookie-less targeting, online/offline convergence and proper attribution, there wouldn’t be a new fly-by-night trend or a lumascape of confusion to cope with every month/quarter/year. 

Let’s be better. Let’s focus on viewable attribution. Let’s make household and cross-platform attribution standard. Let’s start better understanding multi-touch measurement and offline ROI in a meaningful way. Start embracing identity-based targeting and measurement immediately. Everything you do should track back to business outcomes, as those are the only metrics that truly matter. Measurement drives behavior and behavior drives results. Let’s go!

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