I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

James Blog 1 - Image

A renowned tech investor used to be better known as lead singer of a celebrated Irish rock band. In the mid-80’s Bono imagined “the kingdom come when all of the colours will bleed into one…” The song “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” about the search for a perfect destiny captures some of the sentiments that we face around digital media and marketing today.

Undoubtedly, most marketers have not “climbed the highest mountains” through their marketing and media efforts. Marketing rhetoric depicts a perfect alliance between programmatic buying, dynamic creative delivering responsive, real time campaigns that perfectly connect with the audience.

There are lots of reasons that this imagined reality is out of reach for most marketers right now.

Over promise/under deliver (programmatic)

The marketing community spends a huge amount of time and energy talking about programmatic and not enough time focusing on campaign deployment and delivery through this emerging technology. A focus on the technology means that client expectations are not being managed prior to deployment. Many clients report dissatisfaction at programmatic results and campaigns after an initial foray. While Australia now out ranks the US with the adoption of programmatic, with over 48% of clients employing the service, there is also one of the highest levels of dissatisfaction. Nearly 2/3 of advertisers were unsatisfied with the performance and associated agency costing model.

While programmatic enhances broad buying capabilities and targeting and in turn streamlines buying operations 1) it requires expert level stewardship to ensure optimal delivery and results 2) it still needs to be guided by higher order marketing and business goals and 3) it needs to sync with other marketing and media efforts. Elemental but easily forgotten in the rush to tick a new box.

Clients need to have the confidence to challenge their suppliers about guarantees around viewable ads, protection against impression fraud. As important is the need to critically assess how the enhanced media targeting and personalisation is married with personalised content that enriches user experience.

The reality is that there are holes and imperfections at every stage of the buying process. From the ability of the DSP’s to accurately target real consumers, through to the verification of the ad buying process. Transparency and openness is needed at all stages to apply learnings and best practice (not purely around the cost model.)

Left arm/ right arm (agencies)

Great media buying without great & relevant messages that connect with the user really isn’t great media buying at all. So are media agencies failing to understand and exploit emerging media and formats? Are they not able to develop sophisticated, personalised targeting to drive greater relevance? In the main there is both the experience, the technology and the smarts to execute. Where there is a disconnect is through the role that media agent plays versus creative partner.

Digital still gets ‘added on’ in many instances mainly because roles and responsibilities between different parties are not clearly defined. Agents are still divided by a focus on medium or message rather than both in tandem. It’s still the exception to see data-led creative ideas that grow out of campaign specific learnings and data. While both media and creative agencies increasingly claim to offer end to end services their lack of specialisation in their add-on services inhibits their specialist credentials outside core competencies. Creative agencies still think of media as “the buy” without an understanding of the role it needs to play higher up the funnel. Media agencies still out source creative and production responsibilities limiting the depth of their content design capabilities.

Scalable and responsive (production)

Legacy processes and ways of working have also helped to inflate costs across the supply chain. Putting to one side, for now, the debate raging around the programmatic disclosure model, production costs for campaign development inhibit of the creation of personalised and relevant consumer messaging.

Scalable, adaptive content requires a move away from the epic cinema ad model of old. How can the content be adapted and built to be more personal, more engaging and more relevant? Too often content continues to be built out of concept with not enough context, placement and meaning. This focus inflates costs and inhibits the development of adaptive content.

Can we find what we’re looking for?

“But yes, I’m still running…” Bono recognised that even with something great it can be made to be better. Technology continues to re-shape and evolve how we communicate as people and businesses. Yes, there is much to admire but there is still a lot to question and interrogate. Headlines today focus on the light and dark of change and in turn creates hero and villain narratives that deflect the conversation about some of the critical areas of opportunity and progress. We need to address the grey areas and cast a critical eye over the process from end to end.

Those brave enough to find what they’re looking for will be businesses that harness new technologies, great people with a shared operating manual. In tomorrow’s world they will all be united under one roof, with an unified objective – to seamlessly target the right audience with the right content every time.