Commentary

6 Predictions For 2016: Conversant's Raju Malhotra Says One View Of Consumers Coming

Raju Malhotra is SVP of products at Conversant, a company that offers personalized digital marketing services with a fully integrated personalization platform, real-time marketing and programmatic programs and a sprawling affiliate marketing network.

Malhotra is responsible for leading product strategy across the company and integrating all its data and technology assets into one consolidated platform. He’s worked in senior management roles at Microsoft and McKinsey -- and most recently at Centro, where he was responsible for building a media management product for digital agencies.

RTBlog: What are the most important developments taking shape for 2016 in your corner of the programmatic/ad tech universe?

Malhotra: I think there are six developments that will be predominant forces in 2016 for digital marketing, although many of these will require more time than just a year to gain mainstream adoption.

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1.  Developing and acting on one view of consumersacross their devices, media and channels — will become a broad initiative: Marketers are finally beginning to recognize the importance of reaching and recognizing actual consumers within a privacy framework, where consumers have control of their information. The move toward a single view of the consumer will shake up the part of the industry that remains focused on connecting devices and cookies.  

2.An increasing number of marketers will want to activate their offline CRM data online. In doing so, they will recognize the limitations of existing solutions, including DMPs, toward achieving that goal. This realization will force agencies and ad-tech companies to find ways to prevent data loss as marketers’ data moves from one system to the next.

3.  CMOs working with ad-tech companies will make incremental measurement a "must-have" as they start weighing the incremental effect on an ad versus brand equity in driving conversions: The new requirement will create anxiety, fear and uncertainty for those companies using clicks as a convenient way of measurement.  

4.  Measurement companies will finally catch up to measuring consumer action on social media, attracting marketers to channels beyond Facebook and Twitter:  It’s hard to predict what social channels will emerge as the next big thing. But new forms of measurement suggest new opportunities for marketers and publishers.  

5.The focus on viewability will evolve into a discussion of ad quality, a measurement that includes fraud, brand safety and viewability: Optimizing simply for viewability can deliver unintended outcomes. For example, fraudulent traffic typically has high viewability.

6. Marketers will want to apply the learnings from their ad campaigns to other types of marketing campaigns: This will require ad-tech companies to work with them like marketing-solution partners, as opposed to single-point solutions.

RTBlog: What is the most important thing that needs to happen in cross-screen and cross-device attribution, targeting and measurement in 2016?

Malhotra: The industry needs to move toward consumer-centric marketing, which starts by obtaining one view of a consumer across media, devices and channels. Today, everything is siloed, and as a result, attribution and measurement suffer. What’s worse, marketers are unable to determine which messages drove incremental conversions and which didn’t.  

Individualized anonymous profiles can help marketers in reaching consumers with the right messages that can then be measured across devices, media types or even offline/online channels. It’s a hard nut to crack, but it’s possible and necessary for the right attribution and measurement.

RTBlog: How will the debate over viewability evolve? 

Malhotra:The debate on viewability is actually going to draw to a close, and the conversation is going to start shifting to what really matters: ad quality.

We talk about viewability as if it exists separately from ad fraud and brand safety. They are important on their own, but it’s the sum of the parts — ad quality — that leads to greater results. Focusing on viewability in the absence of ad quality will lead you to unintended outcomes.

RTBlog: What will the industry’s solution for ad blocking be?

Malhotra: Ad blocking is going to evolve into a solution that works for consumers, publishers and marketers. A viable ad-blocking solution has to address the needs of all three parties.

Recent discussions on the topic have been a bit lopsided. Clearly, consumers have the ultimate choice in this matter. If their ad experience doesn’t meet their expectations, they always have an option to choose ad-blocking tools. Many of these tools have been around for years. But these tools are still blunt instruments. They typically block all ads without any criteria for their relevance to the consumer.

That’s not a sustainable model, because advertising subsidizes most of the content and services available on the Internet. You’re already seeing adverse reactions from some publishers that detect ad-blockers. This will only create a downward spiral.

Marketers might not be affected in the short term. They typically pay for the delivered ads. But over time, marketers that are truly consumer-centric will have an advantage. They will still be able to reach their consumers through channels that are available to them.

In general, it’s premature to say specifically what the solution will be. But a sustained solution has to respect the three related aspects: consumers’ choice, publishers’ business models and marketers’ ability to reach consumers.

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