GeoMinds: Death of The Specialist: The Evolution of Cross-Platform Advertising
In a cross-platform world, knowing many things is better than knowing one big thing, writes Simpli.fi's James Moore.
Specialist used to be an impressive word in digital advertising. It implied a depth of expertise, a guarantee of impact. Which is why traditionally, companies would seek out digital advertising specialists: mobile specialists, video specialists, display specialists and so on. With all that experience and focus, they could get the most bang for their buck, right?
Not anymore. As a model, specialization creates a workflow problem from a Frankenstack perspective. It’s also inadequate for an increasingly cross-platform world. Last year, 53 percent of advertisers sold cross-platform packages to clients; by 2016, 68 percent of all apps developed will be cross-platform apps, with the cross-platform tool market predicted to be $7.5 billion by 2018.
None of that should come as a surprise. Think about your buyer’s day. They wake up, check their phone, then read the news on their iPad while eating breakfast. In the office, they’re on their laptop. At lunch, they’re back on their phone. That night they’re watching their smart TV.
Consumers are, increasingly, exchanging content of all types for advertising moments that can’t be chopped into device-specific segments, as the specialist approach tends to do. Buyers don’t separate their advertising reactions by device; it’s all one brand experience in their minds.
Forward-thinking advertisers realize this and are using various methods to identify users across their devices or on the same device to link in-app to mobile browser. They want to know that User X on this desktop is User Y on this tablet and User Z on this iPhone. It’s mandatory knowledge for building the best campaign possible, as well as the agility to move nimbly across those devices.
The user lands on YouTube? You serve them a video. When they move to their phone ten minutes later, you serve an ad in an app. When they transition to their desktop, you’re there with a banner. That kind of understanding is critical to maximize available opportunities. Also important: the ability to report cleanly on the kind of ad frequency achieved even as they change devices.
All of this requires a cross-platform dexterity that’s the very opposite of – you could even say the death of — the specialist.
No doubt you can see the future. That mobile company will become a display and video company, while the video company becomes a mobile and display company and the display company evolves into a video and mobile company. There’s just no other way to accurately measure attribution and optimize dollars. Companies that continue to fly the specialist flag won’t be able to control messaging across those mediums.
Technology and the Transparency Tradeoff
Speaking of control, one major shift in the evolution of cross-platform advertising is our understanding of mindset. The theory until now has been that when you’re checking your phone in the morning, you’re of one mindset. Let’s say you’re thinking about your portfolio and checking in with your financial advisor. Two hours later on your desktop at work, you’re in another mindset: thinking about business. That night at home, idling checking NBA game schedules on your tablet in front of the TV, you’re in yet another mindset. Makes sense, right?
Well, it does to our human brains – but technology might say something different.
If you’re a financial advisor who wants to market mutual funds, the obvious decision is to target people who are reading financial planning articles or searching on related topics. Yet your technology wants to also serve an ad to them when they’re on ESPN.com, reading sports scores. This strikes you as illogical, given they’re probably not in a financial mindset.
So why trust technology? Simply put, it’s smarter than you or I. In our automated world, algorithms are optimizing across multiple variables in a multi-variant way. There could be 50 variables in play, such as the website the user is on, the page content, the device being used, the operating system and browser, the sites visited earlier, geographic location and so much more. The algorithms review millions of different variants and vet that out faster than you and I can imagine – and those variables may conclude the user is the perfect candidate for a mutual funds ad at that moment on ESPN.com.
Now you could inject your belief system into it and take back control, based on what you think is logical. But if you do, you’re opting out of an algorithmic-driven technology and resorting to yesterday’s people-driven technology, with all its human limitations and flaws.
Imagine that for your automotive campaign, the third best performing piece of data driving impressions today is Justin Bieber. Your mind isn’t going to make sense of that; it’s just too bizarre. Yet if you dig into the data deep enough, you’ll probably find a correlation that explains why serving ads alongside Justin Bieber content is resonating. But if you had opted out of that idea without investigating it, you would have missed out on a high rate of return and key insights involving your brand.
In essence, today’s cross-platform advertiser is asked to trade control for transparency. And that can be a tough reality to accept for former “specialists” who have traditionally enjoyed both.
The fact is that advertising tech has grown wings and claws, and can achieve things our own minds and instincts can’t. To evolve alongside cross-platform advertising, smart advertisers will accept this and extend their range of capabilities – and let the technology do what it does best.
*James Moore is the Chief Revenue Officer for Simpli.fi, a company recognized as the authority in search retargeting. Since the mid 90’s James has been involved in leading companies who are paving new paths in digital space.
**Editor’s Note: Our “GeoMinds” opinion series features posts written by outside contributors from all parts of the GeoMarketing community who want to share their views of the trends, issues, problems, and solutions changing the online-to-offline advertising and marketing landscape.