On Tuesday, June 5th, Digilant hosted a dinner panel in Seattle titled the “2018 Fast Track to an Integrated Digital Media & Marketing Strategy.” Digilant‘s Chief Executive Officer, Raquel Rosenthal, moderated a discussion on the evolution of digital marketing with the following local marketing and advertising professionals:
- David Patton, Director of Digital Media at Vulcan
- Adam Stalker, VP Social Impact, Nonprofit & Political Practice at Formative
- Sharon Chan, VP of Innovation, Product & Development at The Seattle Times
This is my summary of what was said and what I took away from the event and not word for word for how the speakers answered each question.
Raquel from Digilant kicked off the discussion with this first question.
What industry buzzwords or shifts do you think will impact digital marketing this year? For example: GDPR, Transparency, Attribution, In-housing or Blockchain.
David from Vulcan was the first to answer this question. For him from all the buzzwords Blockchain is most likely to have a general impact on the advertising world and what we will probably talk about the most. It fixes a trail of action and shows you how a fish gets caught before it gets to your plate. Transparency, attribution, GDPR, Blockchain will talk to all of that. How we process the amount of data that we are creating will be huge. So Blockchain is my topic for the year because it will be huge.
GDPR to me, said Sharon from The Seattle Times, is like Y2K, a lot of build up and preparation especially in the media. At the Seattle Times we talked to attorneys and thought it would be a bigger deal for us, but then all we really did is turn off retargeting in the EU. In the meantime, the panic of GDPR has made us all become consent monkeys. AI (Artificial Intelligence) is one of the keywords I would pick, voice assistants are going to be a big deal.
Adam from Formative said that he is interested what GDPR will mean for the longer term. What it will mean for advertisers who can’t retarget their visitors, paywalls cost more, publishers will make less money for premium inventory. In the US we’ll get a couple of years to see how Europe deals with it before we do. Voice, Alexa and Google home, if we think how search has dominated the advertising space for such a long time and now voice interactions will be increasingly part of our lives, so it will be interesting to see what that will look like.
Transparency and in-housing are two big buzzwords we are reading about a lot in relation to programmatic media buying. But the reality is that most brands are not taking things totally in house but still relying on their agency partners. Why is it such a buzzword then? Is it because of transparency? Why are people talking about it, but not really doing it?
David’s response was that there is an expertise related to the traditional way of doing things. People are only bringing in some of it in-house because they don’t know how to do the execution part on a bigger scale. Adam thinks that clients like to talk about bringing stuff in house like social and search but there is an expertise and value that comes from working across different clients that you don’t get from working in-house. I personally came to appreciate what agencies can provide to their clients.
We haven’t talked about the customer experience yet, there used to be only 50 partner options in the ad-tech ecosystem and now there are 5000 so the customer experience is now really changing and Customer Experience Officer (CXO) is becoming a common job title.
I get the idea of a CXO started Adam, I get it, but it’s also what a CMO is responsible for. The CXO is somewhat driven by Silicon Valley startups as an anti-marketing thing, that they don’t need to invest in marketing, and that their companies and products can be successful without spending money on marketing. The need to focus on that overall experience, thinking about it holistically as a cross channel experience is a big shift. With the 5000 ad-tech partners there is no excuse not to present a better experience for the consumer.
Sharon’s answer was that customer experience is something we struggle with at the Seattle Times. We sell advertising and subscriptions and have hundreds of ad calls. Advertisers are looking for a better experience for their consumers and to me It’s shameful that Google had to come up with ad standards with Chrome, all because publishers weren’t paying attention to the experience.
What about the silos of data? What are the consequences of these trends?
David was the first to respond by saying that he is having a very hard time with the amount of data we are getting. It’s getting to the point where we can’t deal with the volume of data in a way that it will inform us in a nimble fashion. We are not sure if we are pulling real insights from all these new great dashboards that are supposed to show us how to use our data, even if you stitch it all together, you have to know how to make great decisions from what you pull out of all the data.
Sharon said that they are trying to be very focused on what is driving that actual subscription. Their AI team is developing a subscriber influence score; they want to know what story or email they read before they subscribed. Building their own scoring system and own analytics so that they can answer one simple question: ‘what influenced that consumer to subscribe?’ According to Adam, nothing slowed the innovation of ad-tech more than Facebook because they don’t allow 3rd party ad tracking, something we could do before, but not anymore. GDPR is actually pushing us back rather than improving the user experience.
What do you think the impact of the announcement that Google just made, about no longer being able to export DoubleClick IDs, will have on targeting, performance and attribution?
David said that he thinks it’s going to affect all of those things. Google has been good at thinking of that end user experience because they have the data on that user and people will be forced to used their solutions because it’s most efficient and cost effective. It’s more concerning for the advertiser but not for the end user.
Adam thinks that Google is trying to get ahead of the curve and make all the changes at once. People will start to complain about the crappy ads they get targeted with as it becomes more difficult for ad formats like native. Instead of being very specific to the user, contextually relevant ads will have to be more generic and not as targeted, because it’s going to hard to do much else.
For Sharon, from a news publisher’s perspective, they tend to trust Google more than Facebook for now and are taking the wait and see approach.
Are you or companies you work with investing in marketing attribution platforms and strategies and why yes or not?
David said that they are not investing in it at this point. For right now they are not very interested in how the consumers converted but getting the conversions. They aren’t investing enough dollars to make the investment in an attribution solution.
Adam also said that they are not spending the ad dollars at the level they used to, so attribution has not been that important for them right now. Attribution a bit passé, they’ve been hearing about for a long time and now walled gardens are making it more difficult. What’s going to become important for them is attribution between online to offline, people have smart TV’s that have data, real attribution will be really important when online and offline are not blurred and the consumers get a real experience.
Do you think that brands are going to continue to invest in social advertising or will they be more hesitant based on Facebook’s recent data privacy news or YouTube’s brand safety challenges?
There has been no pullback from social at all, even during the Zuckerberg trial, answered Sharon. So yes, she thinks people will continue to invest in social. David said that when social platforms first launched they brought together people that weren’t able to connect. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, are all free and nothing in America is free. People are going to remember that, so how do we keep it free, the benefits for the consumers will outweigh the data privacy issues. Adam thinks that eventually the pressure for data privacy will decrease as brands get more slack for data breaches. Facebook made a bunch of unrelated changes to their platform after their data scandal and people seemed ok with that.
What new digital ad formats or platforms have you tried over the last year?
David said that they have been talking a lot about podcasting, they are starting to dip into the programmatic area. People are passionate about podcasts and it would be efficient because we can narrow down the targeting to exactly who we want to reach. Voice will be fantastic and huge especially combined with Amazon and Google e-commerce offerings, because they have so much data the ads will be even more effective.
Sharon said that this year they tried a couple new things, one of which was headline ads and was a huge failure. Now they are trying to do more with native. For them the way they decide what to do is a little different than on the publisher side. If they try something new or develop something new it has to be profitable for the business. But if she was on the other side she thinks that she would definitely try something like podcasts.
Adam echoes the podcasts, but also SMS and messenger, because it feels like a one-on-one connection with consumers, more like a conversation and specific answers for their situation.
Again, thank you to our wonderful panelists. We look forward to our next event in Boston, June 12th. If you are interested in attending please reach out to us here: [email protected].