Scott Ries
Nov 30, 2017

Are you merely renting your customers inside a walled garden?

Digital media buying has to be in sync with the advertiser’s choice, not an enforced vendor list from the media provider, writes Sizmek's platform director.

Scott Ries
Scott Ries

There is significant angst in the digital advertising market about the walled garden players dominating media buys and restricting access to audience data. 

However, I believe the primary question that marketers should be asking is this: Do I own my customer relationship, or am I just renting an audience?

If you own your customer relationship you should be able to put customer data in a file on your ad-server. You should also be able to feed that data to your selected data management platform.

In turn, that data should be available to your teams running TV, digital display, mobile, programmatic, email marketing and out-of-home initiatives, enabling them to deliver consistent and relevant messaging to your potential customers. Most importantly, you should be telling a brand story that doesn’t reset when your consumer skips from one media to the next.

Walled gardens are renting you an audience, prohibiting advertisers from creating a media agnostic view of their desired customers. They will determine what vendors you can use, what level of attribution your agency partners can provide, and restrict cross media innovation. There have been many instances where these arbitrary restrictions have seriously affected advertisers. Whether it was a lack of clarity around video completion rates, lack of verification related to page/video content, or manipulation of search results to favour owned products . We need to make sure that an independent and continuous review of media become the norm. 

Furthermore, in a walled garden world, an advertiser is also directly paying to build a targeted audience that their competitors can dip into at will. As soon as someone shows interest in your message, they will be tossed into an advertising vertical shark tank where their brand is just one of many voices competing for attention.

Digital media buying has to be in sync with the advertiser’s choice, not an enforced vendor list from the media provider. The walled gardens may have opened up a little bit in the last few months to allow for some third party verification, however they still don’t allow for de-duplication of conversions, and for frequency capping across other media. These practices amount to basic campaign controls everywhere else.

The reality of course, is that Google and Facebook, who both have vast amounts of consumer data, provide unique advertising power. Brands recognize the power of their sought after deterministic audience data, and invest accordingly. However, we believe brands need other technologies that helps them link their advertising strategies inside of the walled gardens, to their wider media plans.

Brands are going to continue advertising within these environments but they will look to partner with technologies that sit on top of walled and non-walled environments. This allows them to achieve a complete view of their audiences across the digital landscape.

Working with a partner that gives advertisers a total view of the entire ecosystem unlocks access to other key dimensions of data—namely context and creative.

The Walled gardens are focused mainly on audience but controlling the context within which an ad is placed, or making sure the right creative is shown to the right person depending on their stage in the purchase funnel is critical. Without access to the complete consumer journey both inside and outside a Walled garden, brands are not able to deliver personalised brand stories and sequential messaging.

Until such time as the walled gardens address their accessibility issues, advertisers should really be re-evaluating who they invest in, and work with independent partners that sit on top of open and closed environments. Is having a direct relationship with your customer not more important than a simple media plan?

Scott Ries is platform director at Sizmek, based in Sydney.

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