What I Hope to Learn in Orlando’s Magic ‘Data’ Kingdom

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) inaugural 2020 Masters of Data and Technology Conference kicks off today. It will be interesting to learn how brands see themselves transformed by all the digital (and offline) data surrounding prospects and customers at this Magic Data Kingdom in Orlando.

As I get ready to embark to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) inaugural 2020 Masters of Data and Technology Conference (beginning today), I’m very curious to listen in and learn how brands see themselves transformed by all the digital (and offline) data surrounding prospects and customers.  With CMOs telling ANA that this topic area is a strategic priority, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed this week in Orlando’s Magic Data Kingdom.

Are “they” — the brands — finding answers to these questions?

  • Do they have command of data in all the channels of customer engagement?
  • Are they deriving new sources of customer intelligence that had previously gone untapped?
  • Can they accurately map customer journeys — and their motivations along the way?
  • Are they truly able to identify customers across platforms accurately with confidence?
  • How do data science and creativity come together to make more effective advertising — and meet business real-world objectives?
  • What disruptions are shaking the foundations of B2C and B2B engagement today?
  • Are investments in data and technology paying dividends to brands and businesses in increased customer value? Do customers, too, value the data exchange?
  • Is there a talent pool in adequate to deliver data-derived, positive business outcomes? What more resources or tools might they need?
  • What impacts do barriers on open data flows — walled gardens, browser defaults, privacy legislation, “techlash” — have on relevance, competition, diversity in content and other business, economic and social concerns? How can these be managed?
  • Are “brand” people and “data” people truly becoming one in the same in marketing, and in business?

Admittedly, that’s a lot of questions — and perhaps the answers to some of these may be elusive. However, it’s the dialogue among industry peers here that will matter.

The mere emergence of this conference — “new” in the ANA lexicon — is perhaps a manifestation of where the Data & Marketing Association (acquired by ANA in 2018) hoped to achieve in its previous annual conferences and run-up to acquisition. The full promise of data-driven marketing — and “growth” in an Information Economy — can only happen when brands themselves (and, yes, their agencies and ad tech partners, too) have command of data and tech disciplines, and consumers continue to be willing partners in the exchange.

Imagination lives beyond the domain of the Magic Kingdom (where we all can take inspiration from Disney, nearby). Likewise, aspirations can be achieved. Let’s listen in and learn as ANA takes rein of this brands- and data-welcomed knowledge share. Growth is a beautiful thing.

 

Developing Technology Standards to Support Privacy Regulations of the Future

Advertising has played a vital role in the Internet’s mass adoption. But, as the industry evolved, consumer privacy took a back seat. Today’s technologies provide an opportunity to rebuild the digital advertising infrastructure to benefit publishers, brands, and consumers — and build in privacy, from the ground up.

Advertising has played a vital role in the internet’s mass adoption, but as the industry evolved, consumer privacy took a back seat.

Consumer privacy became a national conversation after Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm used by the Trump campaign, was able to obtain raw data harvested from up to 87 million Facebook profiles and use it to segment and target users in ways that critics argue amounts to voter manipulation.

Since then, congressional committees and governmental agencies have expanded investigations into Facebook, Google, and other ad tech industry players. GDPR came to the US in the form of CCPA, the California Consumer Privacy Act, a law designed to give consumers similar power over the data they generate online.

Our industry is now struggling to prove to both consumers and regulators that we can be trusted with their data, but there’s hope. Cutting-edge technologies provide an opportunity to rebuild the digital advertising infrastructure to benefit publishers, brands, and consumers — and build in privacy, from the ground up.

The First Step: Joining Forces

Cryptography and blockchain have already emerged as solutions for adding verification and validation layers that ensure accountability and efficiency in the media supply chain. But the only way to drive adoption of these forward-thinking solutions and solve for consumer privacy is by bringing together key stakeholders in the industry, educating them on the benefits and developing the technical standards that will create the change the industry needs.

“I knew blockchain paired with cryptography could deliver significant change to the advertising industry,” says Adam Helfgott, CEO of MadHive and founding member of AdLedger. “I also knew it would take a concerted effort to drive adoption across such a broad landscape of stakeholders.”

Uniting brands, agencies, publishers, and technology vendors provides an open forum for collaboration, allowing the industry to express their concerns and tackle the issues head on. Advertising industry leaders like Meredith, Hershey, IPG, Publicis, and GroupM are forming working groups that release findings for broader industry education, while companies like Omnicom, MadHive, and Beachfront are already engaging in proof-of-concept projects to tackle issues like fraud, brand safety, and transparency.

So, it begs the question: Why not leverage these technologies for privacy as well?

The Privacy Solution = Privacy-by-Design

Cryptography is already being used to keep consumer data safe, at-scale, in an industry adjacent to advertising: e-commerce. Every time you buy something on your favorite website and the little green lock pops up in your browser as you type in your credit card information, cryptography is being used to protect that sensitive information.

But cryptography’s potential runs much deeper than this single application. It can provide mathematical proof for things like data provenance, while simultaneously ensuring regulatory compliance. This gives publishers the ability to secure their first-party data and thereby control access to their most precious resource – their audience. For advertisers, this immutable chain of custody and identity validation of supply-chain participants creates a brand-safe environment in which customers are reached with the right message at the right time.

The best part? Cryptography and blockchain can be baked into the underlying digital advertising infrastructure, which will automate this entire process and create a system with privacy-by-design. But the only way to integrate these technologies and drive mainstream adoption is through the unification, education, and collaboration of key industry stakeholders.

Long-term fixes take time, but the value prop for publishers and advertisers is evident. And maybe the GDPR and CCPA regulations are the push the industry needs to join forces and work toward a long-term solution.

Confidence in Data Depends on Confidence in Analysis

It’s striking how marketing organizations — specifically, data-driven marketing organizations — seek to overcome challenges in people, platforms, partners and processes through analytics.

Push-me, pull-you. Chicken or egg?

Data or Analytics?

As I continue discussion on the “The Data-Centric Organization 2018” research report (Winterberry Group, in partnership with the Data and Marketing Association and IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau] Data Center for Excellence, it is striking how marketing organizations — specifically, data-driven marketing organizations — seek to overcome challenges in people, platforms, partners and processes through analytics.

Data and Analytics in marketing
“The Data-Centric Organization 2018” | Credit: The Winterberry Group by The Winterberry Group

Analytics spending may be tiny (just 2 percent of data services budgets, according to another Winterberry Group report, “The State of Data 2017”) but the significance of data analytics cannot be understated. We all want it, need it and compete for it in a tight pool for talent, because smarter data activation — predictive models, marketing attribution, triggers (and more), what we might call data strategies — depends on it.

Ad tech and marketing tech are inviting, but they require professionals with analytics fluency in order to flourish.

The report states, “As reported in 2016, practitioners consider data analytics the most critical skill to support the future of their data-driven marketing efforts; however, emphasis on data management and processing has increased, and technology/IT has declined in priority.”

While it’s popular to think that brands are pulling more and more data skill sets in-house, there is actually good news for at least some third-party agencies, consultants and ad partners in this quest for analytics prowess: “Data users credit their supply chain partners with supporting their efforts to derive value from the use of data,” the report concludes, “ … and are helpful when it comes to optimizing the use of marketing technology, as well.” Thus, success in audience activation depends on these partners.

Nonetheless, deepening analytics bench strength is a near-universal concern, both in-house and among marketing service providers. Until such expertise is attained, marketers will remain only moderately confident in the marketing tech and ad tech in which they invest.

So how do we get to a better place? Analytics consultancies are playing a “foremost role in supporting data activation,” followed by third-party data managers and in-house database managers. Organizations say they are becoming less reliant on brand agencies, media agencies and marketing strategy consultancies in this regard — perhaps indicative of the high regard given to data intelligence and to firms that live and breathe data in their everyday practice.

Can we do it? It’s going to take time — and talent — to get our people and skill sets caught up to our tech. I’m a big believer in STEM and marketing education to help us achieve our data-driven storytelling dreams. But we’re talking thousands of such professionals in need. That may mean not only attracting legions of college students to our field, but also boning up in mass the skills of existing current marketing practitioners — supplemented, perhaps, by artificial intelligence and AI’s own skilled handlers.

For marketing to thrive — it has to be data-driven. We do not have the luxury of choice.