"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Kate O’Loughlin, senior vice president of media business at Tapad.
More than ever, advertisers, agencies and ad tech vendors are trying to find the best way to amplify the efforts of the creative, big-idea side of the business and the nitty-gritty technical components.
As a result, we are seeing the rise of more marketing science and data-driven teams that illustrate the activation of scientists against sales needs.
Ad tech companies recognize the need to implement structures that unify engineers and business divisions to draw the best talent and inspire creative thinking across teams. Ultimately, these implementations lead to a proactive approach that will differentiate a team’s results among industry competitors.
While there are many benefits to a unified approach, there are also many challenges. For example, this cultural shift might put employees outside of their comfort zones, resulting in additional time needed for guidance.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities to build strong bonds between these two cohorts.
A User-Oriented Approach
It always helps to step back and think less about what technology does and instead focus on why it does what it does.
In order for engineers to write the most useful code, business leads must openly articulate the client challenges the technology is supposed to solve. While this seems like an obvious approach, some technology companies do not have a transparent workflow in place allowing business teams to effectively communicate with their engineering teams.
Companies that create silos between tech and business teams foster an environment for poor communication, potentially leading to mistakes and unnecessary work. Forward-looking companies should encourage interdisciplinary product discussions when the business team is seeking solutions for clients. By attacking both the problem and the solution in a cross-functional way, both teams start out on the same page, with the same expected results.
Any time technology is developed or deployed for a campaign, it’s important for all parties to zoom out and find the benefit to the end user who will interact with this piece of technology or code. A clear definition of why something is being built in the first place helps define goals and keeps everyone aligned.
Another way to make sure teams are communicating clearly is to get scientifically oriented employees integrated into the wider team.
In a recent interview, Georg Petschnigg, CEO of the app development company FiftyThree, spoke about how his company is thriving in large part because it aims for a one-to-one ratio between designers and engineers.
Ad tech companies can deliver more unified communication by mixing together their right- and left-brained employees on balanced teams. Engineers can find value in participating in sessions with other departments. Data science is also easy to integrate as nearly every department, from product to client services and campaign intelligence groups, is likely to rely on data at some point.
Clients also love hearing from the science and engineering folks fueling technological innovation. They know the science and engineering teams aren’t trained salespeople pushing an agenda. This also helps further illuminate the larger issues that data and technology are supposed to solve.
If the scientifically minded team members hear about the challenge directly from the client, they’ll have a clear idea of how to develop their work in a relevant way.
Building A Culture Around Iterative Development
Finally, one of the smartest ways to build bridges between science and creativity is to build on successes and failures. Too often, engineers are briefed on a project, sent off to work on it and don’t have a forum to collaborate again for months. This prevents any other departments from providing valuable feedback at critical points in the development process.
I have seen success with developer teams involving other departments at regular intervals, taking feedback and adjusting the product as necessary. Every technological undertaking should allow for small changes that build up to the larger goal, with lots of opportunities to course-correct.
No technology solution arrives fully formed, and advertising technology is no different. It is built through a combination of business understanding and engineering know-how. And in an increasingly cluttered marketplace, the outcomes are a greater differentiating factor than ever before.
Anyone who touches advertising technology – from brands to agencies to tech companies – must be thinking about unifying their teams and streamlining communication to succeed.