The End Of An Era?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s 2024, during Cannes, and the conversation is still about data -- although this time around the conversation seems to be less about how to use data and more about whether we can still use data as marketers.

I exaggerate to make a point. With the recent announcement around the shutdown of Oracle Advertising, the conversation has shifted to the viability of data and targeting in a privacy-centric, AI-driven world.

Data is still important, but the nature of that data and the accessibility and use of that data has changed.  

My viewpoint is distinct because I helped herald in the data age, having been CMO for BlueKai and the first of the elements that made up Oracle Advertising. We acquired a number of amazing companies and created something the industry replicated and emulated across many, many companies.

I wrote much of the positioning that was copied by other companies to help marketers understand the ways to use data. I was a strong proponent of the data age, but now I wonder whether it is necessary anymore.  



The fact is, we are shifting from using data to leveraging AI, and AI is trained on data. The systems we use as marketers are trained on data that we used to have direct access to.

If you couple that with the move toward only relying on first-party data and the deprecation of third-party cookies and the data associated with it, you arrive at the conclusion that agencies and marketers no longer need access to the data.  

They simply must trust the systems that have been trained on whatever data is available and use those systems to automate the targeting.

If that is the case, then these systems can also be trained on privacy regulation, and we enter a stage of the advertising age where consumer privacy can be automatically enabled while still delivering a level of targeting that is useful and effective. This frees up time for us to get back to what we should be doing: crafting engaging, relevant messages once again.  

This feels to me like the end of an era -- because we will no longer be preoccupied with access to and use of the data.

Instead, we will focus on the stories and the relationship between consumer and brand.

We will trust our partners. And in fact, we will transfer the responsibility for the training of the systems -- and the compliance with regulation and privacy -- onto their shoulders, while we focus on the end consumer.

This is a heavy weight for the walled gardens and the large technology partners to bear, but when you examine the landscape of who those companies are, they are ready for it.

Companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon are the traditional companies that will be shouldering this responsibility even as new entrants make their way into the fold.  

These will include companies like OpenAI and Jasper, which have marketing tools built with AI and which may not be involved in targeting, but will be involved in the creation and delivery of those messages.

Even companies like The Trade Desk will be ready for this, and it actually makes life easier for marketers.

Taken to the extreme, this signals a return towards something that more closely resembles the “Mad Men” days ,when marketers could trust a platform for delivery while focusing on the story.

So while I look back fondly on those days with BlueKai, Oracle and the rest of the data economy, I am very excited that one era is ending and another one is opening.

How are you looking at these changes to come?

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