There was a point, not that long ago even in media terms, where the digital marketing industry got beyond excited about the opportunity to genuinely start talking to customers in a one-to-one fashion.
Every big media group had its approach to customer data platforms and audience-first platforms and I, for one, was guilty of getting carried away.
And then GDPR came, and various ICO changes. Then tech giants like Meta and Apple made major changes to their privacy policies, and those solutions we’d slaved over and spent on went out of the window.
There is rightly a big focus on data legislation and privacy in particular right now; it’s even become the topic of a number of big spending, big reach broadcast campaigns for those aforementioned tech giants. Couple that with the memory of being burnt by the dream of true one-to-one targeting, and the words ‘data and privacy’ often seem to carry negative connotations.
Instead of feeling wary though, what if we focus on the opportunities and benefits for brands, and being inspired by the future?
In a world where people are more aware than ever before of their data rights and how to enable different levels of privacy across their devices, even smart TVs, brands’ biggest opportunity for growth is through smarter application of their own first-party data without appearing creepy, or overly persistent.
Since the crackdown on the use of personally identifiable information (PII), the industry hasn’t gone backwards or stalled, it’s gotten better. Huge technological and targeting advancements are still being made, and as we await the, albeit delayed, death of the cookie, the role data application plays across the whole media plan is growing in importance.
The biggest opportunities come from borrowing techniques that performance experts have been utilising for years.
Suppression can be more powerful than targeting
The number one thing we should be asking is why do we show messaging to customers about something they already know?
There are occasions when all data points point to this working to drive retention and loyalty, particularly in hyper competitive industries like retail. But when we’re facing inflated media costs and external macroeconomic challenges threatening media budgets, we can make inroads to minimise ‘wasted’ impressions across broadcast and mass targeting media through suppression audiences.
Tapping into data clean rooms and programmatic supply to overlay first-party data audiences in audio visual plans can add a cost premium, but we’ve seen the benefits pay off, especially when looking at acquisition campaigns.
Contextual delivery results in a better experience for humans
This shouldn’t be new news. The increased regulation around the use of PII data in marketing communications gave rise to a number of leading media owners building contextual targeting solutions. Agencies were also quick to move in this space – including my colleagues at dentsu – and there’s been numerous studies outlining the power of contextual targeting.
It also feels more natural for those eyeballs we’re trying to capture. GumGum has found that 79% of consumers are more comfortable seeing contextual than behavioural ads (see, less creepy) and this mentality should carry beyond display advertising and social (in my eyes, Pinterest is the master of context).
The application of data signals (including temporal and geographical) that identify a context, as well as revealed intent like search data – Pinterest, again is more search than social – can provide more targeting opportunities and white space for brands to win in, than using audience-led data, and is considerably easier from a permissions perspective.
Match that with relevant creative
Again, the application of dynamic creative technology is nothing new. But it is now more universally available and multichannel than ever before.
The mechanics and templates that have been regularly used in programmatic and social activations carry over to broadcast video on demand and digital out-of-home. And when layered with those context signals, and first-party data where applicable, brands can truly connect with culture and become more relevant for potential customers in the moment.
Test, test, test and learn
Whenever data is being used, we create a data feedback loop by nature, giving every media planner and buyer the opportunity to learn what works. We believe in experimentation on every plan, and a lot of this relies on the use of A/B testing to prove the incremental performance gains of a certain tactic, format or targeting cohort.
Everything outlined above can be easily structured and explored this way, across a multitude of platforms and in all industries. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the amount of data, or the legal legwork we might have to undertake with our clients to close the feedback loop, we should be getting excited at the ability to learn and constantly evolve.
Unlocking the power of data and capitalising on increased expectations in privacy is something performance specialists have been exploiting for years and it’s time the rest of the industry caught up.
Head of Planning