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How Google and Adobe are failing brand marketers

How Google and Adobe are failing brand marketers Victor Wong

The targeting capabilities of programmatic are for naught without the appropriate creative. To effectively execute omnichannel, cross-platform campaigns, brands need multiple versions of their ads. Yet, two of the industry's biggest players, Adobe and Google, are unable to meet those needs. What is a marketer to do?

In terms of programmatic, Adobe and Google are two sides of the same coin: Adobe is a creative software leader that offers some marketing solutions; Google is a marketing juggernaut that provides a suite of creative tools. Both are regarded as innovators, yet they are neglecting the same needs. In a programmatic campaign, advertisers can target multiple audience segments via multiple devices. That means their ads need to reflect different sizes, formats, and even different messaging. Without these varied ad types, you won't capitalize on programmatic's precise targeting capabilities.

Where Adobe and Google fall short

Adobe has admirably moved its desktop creative applications to the cloud, but they are still engineered with one creative execution in mind. They don't support omnichannel campaigns. Adobe Creative Cloud has ample design use cases, but its broad application takes away from it functionality for programmatic advertisers. To Adobe's credit, it kept up with the industry's migration to HTML5 by evolving Flash Professional into Animate CC. But Animate CC is still geared towards building a single, often complex creation -- it doesn't support multiple versions and, frankly, advertisers do not need many of its advanced features.

Adobe launched Marketing Cloud without any creative tools but, in 2015, acquired a dynamic creative optimization (DCO) product called Tumri. Marketing Cloud is meant to address programmatic advertisers' needs, but if Animate CC is overkill, Tumri falls short on the opposite end of the scale. DCOs are highly automated approaches that offer little flexibility. Advertisers can make multiple versions of their creative, but it is hard to customize them and quickly execute data-based optimization. Adobe's two offerings are polar opposites and both fail to find the middle ground marketers need. Plus, neither is intended to support creative for some popular advertising networks, including Facebook.

Google offers free creative tools to help it sell more media. It's a smart strategy and the solutions can help you get started quickly. But like Adobe, it can't help if you want to advertise on Facebook. Google takes pains to keep advertisers within its own ecosystem, but marketers are keen to try out different tactics. This breeds frustration. Google's solution for automating creative across multiple screens, DoubleClick Rich Media Dynamic Creative, is so complicated that agencies usually have to hire a specialist to develop on it and, because they then don't have the reins, it is difficult to experiment and make changes to improve campaign performance.

How advertisers are coping

Most likely the big players will refine their offerings, but it won't be enough. Google will continue to improve its ability to target across Chrome devices and browsers and to deliver impressions at scale, but programmatic is not just about finding your audience -- it's also serving tailored creative that's most likely to resonate. Both Google's and Adobe's offerings are in stark contrast to open stack platforms that allow users to create ads that run nearly anywhere. These more open models will eat into the big players' market shares. For example, MediaMath prides itself on fostering collaboration via its open Demand-Side Platform, and it's no coincidence that it is one of the leading DSPs.

There used to be a perception that these big players could fulfill all of your digital advertising needs, but these days, they are just slices of a growing, changing pie. Google's and Adobe's shortcomings spell opportunity for other companies, but also create challenges for marketers, who have to manage multiple solutions to support their needs, hire more people to handle their creative needs, or worse -- plow ahead, understaffed.

Unless Google and Adobe make dramatic changes to their offerings and their approach, it is unlikely they will be able to serve as the programmatic creative solution for most clients.

Victor Wong served as the Interactive Advertising Bureau Local Committee Co-Chairman in 2010. He coauthored the IAB Local Targeting Guide. Victor holds a BA in economics from Yale University and is a fellow of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.

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