It's no surprise that ad tech -- and online advertising as a whole -- is going through a period of drastic change. After all, digital advertising strategies crafted in the late 1990s are not likely to survive the era of extermination that comes with the onset of a "mobile-first" world. And if mobile kills the former Internet marketing star, how does the advertising technology industry respond before the unthinkable happens: digital dimes are turned into mobile pennies?
Why, by wielding data, of course.
At the 2016 Interactive Advertising Bureau Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, California this past week, the trade association for online advertisers announced the establishment of their new Data Center of Excellence(CoE), the news picked up by press. Founded and funded by eight companies: Acxiom, Conversant Media, Experian, Integral Ad Science, LiveIntent, Oracle Data Cloud, The Weather Company and inaugural Chairman Joe Zawadzki’s MediaMath, the CoE is an independent unit within the IAB that has a clear mandate to ‘drive the data agenda for the digital media, marketing and advertising industry.’
Given this broad mandate, the IAB was clear about what part they wanted the CoE to play: According to Patrick Dolan, the IAB’s EVP and COO and their member of the board of directors, “the new Data Center will fund industry research projects, provide benchmarks, create actionable insights on data management across platforms, host data-focused events, and develop industry best practices, guidelines, and standards for privacy, data security, and consumer data protection. It will produce educational materials including certification, videos, and webinars.”
The timing could not be better.
Bots And Blocks
In 2015, the Internet advertising industry felt the twin shocks of Robots and Ad Blockers. While these issues are not new, they became front page news and the talk of conferences and the press with increasing user adoption of ad blocking and more investigations into whether ads are seen by real people. While the Center of Excellence is not charged with solving these problems for advertisers and the publishers they support, there’s no arguing that the newfound emphasis on "data" at the IAB is overdue.
A Better World For Everyone
Working with the Winterberry Group, the IAB has established a strong case that "data" is the next area of focus for the IAB. According to Winterberry’s research, fueled by a panel consisting of 120 publishers, technology vendors, and marketers, data-driven marketing is their top priority. One of the key findings was that "cross-channel audience management initiatives, such as campaign measurement and audience identification, will command substantial attention in 2016." What’s driving this interest? "Growing Volumes of first-party audience data and heightened emphasis on accountability and the demonstration of ROI across marketing and media efforts" are shifting the conversation in the direction of "people-based marketing."
The difficulty of marketing to people using mobile devices has frustrated brands and publishers. And the annoyances and violations of mobile advertising has turned off the most important constituent, the humans behind the screens.
The IAB’s new priority is not only in response to declining Web display ad effectiveness -- it’s also a nod to the fragmenting nature of "mobile search," another extremely "human" activity.
Surprisingly late to the first party, compared to Facebook and Twitter, Google got into the data-driven display game this past fall when it introduced "Customer Match," its take on Facebook Custom Audiences. What "Customer Match" does is leverage brands’ first-party data to improve search results -- effectively leveraging first-party data to amplify intent.
The IAB’s efforts are really about much more than making your banner ads more effective.
Even if you pine for the halcyon days when advertising was all about the quality of the campaign and its creative, it’s becoming clear that data is the linchpin in modern marketing. If marketers fail to adapt to a shift in how consumers use devices and consume media, don’t blame the IAB. They are using data to reinforce the message that data is critical for marketing success in this new environment, whether it is on a Web page, within search results, in an App or within an email that you open.
The Future Is About People, Not Pixels
For those of us who have been preaching about "people-based marketing" over the last few years, the establishment of the IAB Data CoE is a welcome recognition of what we see as the new reality in marketing: the consumer is at the center of the conversation, not the cookie.