New Players, Same Old Problems --- But At Scale

Have you been reading the trade press lately?  Have you noticed some new names and faces being discussed?  I have, and I find it interesting to finally see some diversity in the companies getting talked about — which also signals the continued maturity of the digital and data-driven marketing space.

On one side is the fact that we exist in an oligopoly.  The lion’s share of media dollars is spent with Google and Facebook.  The top 100 advertisers are focused on a short list of partners who provide them with a wealth of services and go deep, enabling new efficiency and increased effectiveness across all digital channels, including the burgeoning world of digital TV.

On the other side, you can see the trade press taking an active role in trying to talk up new, large, enterprise-level players adopting effective techniques and blazing new paths.  A quick pass today and you can see names like Salesforce, IBM, Verizon, AT&T, Shazam, and more.  



These are mostly either large companies or nontraditional entrants to the space.  Many are telco companies that are diving deep into digital content.  Others are large software companies who recognized (finally) the opportunity in marketing and have made their way to the business through acquisition.  I applaud the trade press for seeking out these folks and looking to broaden the conversation.

The trade press does not talk as much about brand-new start-ups.  The innovation in the space is coming from mid-size companies.  

To get in the press, you have to have a real business that works with real customers.  

I sense the data-driven marketing space has matured to the point where the problems and challenges are clearly defined.  If you evaluate the trades to review the topics from two years ago, one year ago and this year, you will see many of the same core challenges.  You will see questions about programmatic efficiency at scale and viewability.   The difference is that two years ago marketers wanted to know how to leverage programmatic and how to measure viewability.  Now they are asking about both at scale, across channels.  

The challenges are not website-focused.  They are across websites, mobile, and TV platforms.  They are search + display + video.  They are cross-platform challenges, not silo’d.  This is a mark of maturity because we’ve solved many of the basic challenges, and now the problem is scaling those solutions.

The trade press is doing a good job of discussing new players and seeking out established companies that are investing in scaling these solutions.  This doesn’t mean that Google and Facebook are still not the dominant players, but it makes for a more interesting read when you can hear from and see how admirable companies outside “the norm” are solving their problems.

I was asked this past week if I’d heard about any new challenges from marketers. My response was “no.”  It feels like the same challenges, but at a different scale than before.  To some that’s scary, because it means we still haven’t overcome these challenges.  To others it is comforting, because they can feel that even if they haven’t solved such issues yet, they are not alone.

My hope is the trades will find ways to broadcast and publish more of the solutions rather than restating the problems. Solutions are what the readers need to see, and what will provide the most value as we go forward.

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