Marketers need to start using data more intelligently if they are to keep up with consumers and stay at the top of their game. This was the overarching message at the AppNexus Programmable Marketing Forum, in partnership with Campaign, held in London earlier this month.
The strains of a Parisian brass band performing Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love, opened the day and set the tone for an assessment of 2016 in advertising—with brands spending more money than ever, and events such as football’s Euro 2016 tournament and the Rio Olympics offering multiple opportunities for the sector.
The new era of marketing
According to Nigel Gilbert, vice-president, strategic development, Europe, at AppNexus, we are moving into "a new era" of "programmable" marketing—with real-time data driving intelligent marketing.
Unlike in 2015, where programmatic advertising involved media-buying, cost optimisation and some targeting, marketers will soon have an unprecedented number of channels to reach consumers, which means acting faster and providing better value.
Catherine Williams, chief data scientist at AppNexus, explained the difference by showing how programmable marketing can learn from humans through data, whereas programmatic marketing does not respond to human intuition. Gilbert added: "We are at peak marketing. It’s not OK to be good, you have to be great."
At the heart of programmable marketing is, of course, the internet. Brian O’Kelley, chief executive and co-founder of AppNexus, pointed out that by 2020, the internet will connect to 34 billion devices. This proliferation will open the door to richer levels of experience and engagement, with the internet evolving from static to dynamic.
Karsten Weide, vice-president, media and entertainment, at market research and analysis firm IDC, expects that computers will become "all-knowing about us".
"The future of marketing is about data, not media; 2020 will be about cognitive marketing, algorithmic intelligence and real-time data analysis," he said.
Today, each of us encounters our own "personalised" internet experience, with companies retargeting us across the web with products we might be interested in. However, O’Kelley called for improvement, pointing out that children’s toys he has already purchased for his daughter dominate his online pages.
He said: "[The internet] has to be customised. Some companies have done a great job at this, but it’s not enough. We have to find a way to be more intelligent, to match the right creative to the right person."
As well as using real-time data, O’Kelley said that programmable marketing means being part of an "ecosystem" or "gateway" connecting partners and clients—and the ability to build customised algorithms.
For this, you need to find the right partner, Matthew Herman, associate director, marketing platforms at US retailer Wayfair.com, pointed out. Brand campaigns, he said, need to be kept personal while work-ing with an external party. The home-furnishings retailer runs all its campaigns in-house, and "wanted to bring [its] own algo-rithms to best optimise" them.
The solution? By partnering with an open platform such as AppNexus, Wayfair was able to add its own technology to the mix, while boosting online sales.
Herman suggested marketers ask whether they have organisational buy-in and what core competencies exist in their company. Then they can see whether those skills can be used across the business, streamlining workflow and boosting profit.
The problems facing CMOs
A Campaign-curated panel discussion with senior marketers found the main challenge facing them was identifying the right people to work in their organisation.
Andrew Warner, vice-president of marketing at Monster, cited the importance of the right balance between marketing generalists and tech specialists in a team.
Huawei’s global director of digital marketing, Nick Graham, predicted that we will soon see an end to the first-generation internet marketer: "Content hasn’t been disrupted enough yet."
In its place will emerge a marketer role that brings together data science and social science. Arguing the case for data scientists in marketing teams was John Goulding, head of product management at Media iQ Digital. As "problem-solvers", data scientists can maximise brand relevance. Goulding showed, for example, how businesses can use data science to convert online reservations into offline sales.
Meanwhile, measurement remains a big obstacle for chief marketers. Dominic Grounsell, global marketing director at Travelex, said: "I want first-party data. Marketers are obsessed with marketing KPIs, such as dwell time and clicks—businesses don’t care. You have to prove the financial case. If we can prove the case for content, I’d invest in it all day long."
Warner called for businesses to take greater ownership of their marketing strategy. "We are a tech company. We build our own solutions as well as buy in. You need an understanding of the right technology for your business."
While creative agencies are producing a high standard of work, the onus is on marketers to choose the right partner.
Another theme was the innovation of language in marketing. Adam Ray, head of programmatic, Mindshare Worldwide, highlighted the "disconnect" between the language of thinking and doing.
He suggested marketers move away from words such as algorithms, tech stats and QPS, to simple language that makes sense. Using a who/what/where/when/how structure, Ray demonstrated how language can be used strategically and applied to a media brief—say, the Rio Olympics.
"When it comes to thinking about brands, we need a unified language to deliver the message we want," he said.
Quotes of the day
"As a CMO you are like a music conductor. You are going to have to accept that career paths are going to change."
—Andrew Warner VP, marketing, Monster
"We have to find a way to be more intelligent to match the right creative to the right person."
"My Amazon homepage is full of princesses."
—Brian O’Kelley chief executive and co-founder, AppNexus
"We need to turn advertising into content."
—Karsten Weide VP, media and entertainment, IDC
"We have oversold the internet."
"The onus is on marketers to accept a high standard of work."
—Nick Graham global director of digital marketing, Huawei