In the past 10 years, brand teams have matured their direct marketing infrastructure to a point where they work with a single set of customer data. They install CRM software, populate a customer database, and then message customers through their software across retail, web, and email channels. Things can get more complicated with the addition of point solutions for rich media, social marketing, mobile marketing, etc., but most of these software platforms are built to bolt onto this ecosystem, which rests happily on the common foundation of customer data. More important, most marketers are focused on driving the same thing -- revenue, through digital or traditional, physical channels; whether it's easy or difficult to attribute a sale to a particular marketing activity, everyone is doing their best to connect those dots.
Many of digital marketing's advertising peers, on the other hand, rarely have an established technology ecosystem, a common audience or a defined set of success metrics. Instead, they grapple with a wide variety of data up and down the "advertising supply chain," coming from agencies, programmatic platforms, and publishers. Each player in the chain uses a murky, often unique definition of audience data and has created a host of metrics that work for a volume-based media spend, but don't work at all for brands that are trying to figure out what's actually driving revenue.
These differences in data, incentives, and metrics create a gaping chasm between marketers and advertisers, and perpetuate the costly divide between the conversation advertisers are having with consumers and the one marketers are having with consumers. In a world where technology and changing consumer behavior should be driving advertising and marketing closer together, this gap impedes the relevant messaging that consumers value.
Owning your audience closes the chasm
Ideally, advertisers would overhaul some of their behaviors to move closer to marketing best practices. Namely, they should disregard most of the "audience insights" they receive from third parties and change agency incentives to encourage attribution that marries with marketing activity.
Change is not easy. Hundreds of millions of dollars can flow through well-established advertising systems, some of them tied to other groups (like TV media buyers) that have even larger relationships with agencies, and few advertising teams have large technology and analytics departments to replace third-party technologies. But recent advances in audience advertising technology have provided a path out of the wilderness for the brand advertiser willing to shake up the status quo.
While most advertisers probably won't rip up a digital advertising system that's been established over the past 15 years, many brands are focusing on first-party data-driven audiences as the initial step to improving the state of digital advertising. The process usually begins when a brand advertiser convinces their company to work directly with a Digital Marketing Platform (DMP) or similar audience technology, rather than allow their agency to manage the relationship. By working with a DMP directly, brands (Proctor & Gamble is a good example) are doing much more than ensuring that they have control over their own audience data (which is a very good reason in itself); they are setting up their entire business to be aligned across marketing and advertising -- including new metrics and new agency incentives.
One audience benefits advertising and marketing
If a company keeps an audience database in-house, marketing technology teams have access to it and can start comparing it to their own customer data. Suddenly, audiences can be tracked from ad to website to checkout much more accurately than before. This starts the transition from separate to shared success metrics between teams, and provides a way to create much more continuous customer conversations.
Additionally, advertisers can use audience targeting to start replacing impression-based advertising. By targeting real people, advertisers and marketers can start making the move together to true customer engagement.
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