"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 Matt Keiser, founder and CEO at LiveIntent.
There is little doubt that Facebook is the leader in this new era of people-based marketing. It was the first mainstream product on the market and it ushered in an era of bold moves and thought leadership. Facebook earned this position by leveraging its technology, deterministic data and moxie.
Facebook may have the lead right now, but the chatter from brands, which are the ones throwing data over the walled garden, indicates that there are a few other platforms not far behind. Google, for example, is working on a solution. Meanwhile, Yahoo, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon, eBay and AOL are bringing up the rear guard and soon are expected to introduce or expand their capabilities for marketing to people, not pixels.
This may make sense since all of these platforms cater to people. Why would the inheritors of this space not be from the business-to-consumer (B2C) arena? The backbone of people-based marketing is the data, and that data is based on B2C relationships.
However, this will be a battle of the tortoise and the hare. B2C is fresh out of the gate, but there is a slower yet more methodical rival bringing up the rear. B2B is, no doubt, discovering its path as we speak.
The Case For B2B
B2B is a natural inheritor of the throne because the value of the translation layer is shared. This means that no one company can wall it off from the rest. As long as every company gets back more than it gives, everyone wins. This is true in the B2B world more so than in B2C.
If given a choice, brands would happily trust their data to partnerships that deliver more value than they extract. Why would brands support a one-way relationship that enables a walled garden if they don’t have to? In people-based marketing, walled gardens are the provenance of B2C and nobody likes them.
B2B also holds a clear advantage in its portability. The data on the B2B side is more stable because there is much overlap between clients. If one leaves only a small portion of the data, the data unique to that client is lost.
Finally, the culture of B2B companies rewards its thoroughness. B2B companies are on surer legal footing. They read the small print. This makes services originating from the B2B world more appealing to brands.
What’s Holding B2B Back
Right now, a key advantage for the major B2C players is how they wield their translation layer. The B2B inheritor of the throne would need a way to link de-identified PII from a cookie or mobile ID to a supply-side platform (SSP), demand-side platform (DSP) or both in order to have the plumbing necessary to act on and target cookies or mobile. In the B2B space, Acxiom/LiveRamp, Neustar and Oracle’s Datalogix all have translation layers but they don’t have the rest of the stack, so they’re essentially left as facilitators in a transaction, not the fulcrum point. But if they get an SSP, DSP or both and made the translation layer a benefit of their platform, they would be in a great position to make a run at the B2C players.
There is a distinct advantage here for the B2B realm. A translation layer built from hundreds of businesses has the potential to be larger than a layer from one company, like their B2C counterparts. I recognize that Facebook likes and a social login give it potential power that B2B firms might find formidable. But the B2B side is steeped in something consumers and brands want: an open platform that’s portable, with a relationship that is more quid pro quo. Companies like Oracle are more likely to be trusted with the people-based marketing relationship than Facebook since it isn’t trying to control the relationship and set up a walled garden.
Google: An Enviable Position
If the future will be formed by a battle between B2B and B2C, then Google is in the sweet spot, with feet in both ponds just like Facebook.
Google has all the data it needs from its B2C properties, and it also has the B2B relationships needed to build a translation layer. Google’s network is like no other. More than 10 million sites use Google Analytics, including more than 55% of the top 10,000 websites and 63% of Fortune 500 companies. Google reaches, by some estimates, 80% of Internet users worldwide. This massive inventory pool is uniform across DoubleClick Ad Exchange and the Google Display Network.
Google, unlike most other titans, builds open systems. If it decided to build the translation layer using data from its publisher network instead of its B2C data, it would give brands what they are looking for: an open translation layer (service) with the assurance of consumer privacy (Google can silo consumer data).
If Google made its translation layer an open service that would instantly make Facebook’s Atlas a far less attractive solution in comparison. But the minutiae of building and leveraging a translation layer is nuanced, and what may appear to be a small detail could be the difference between a safe implementation and a privacy nightmare.
The question the industry is asking is: Has Google begun to make these moves? Is it on its radar?
Where Do We Go From Here?
Will the industry’s future be rife with internecine fighting or mergers between B2B firms? The Rubicon Project could acquire Gigya and integrate sophisticated identity management into its automated ecosystem. Perhaps Oracle could do something extraordinarily bold and acquire AppNexus. Or Salesforce could acquire Pubmatic and MediaMath to truly use data and automation to optimize the customer journey.
Maybe B2C pioneers will read the tea leaves and once again preemptively equip themselves for battle by acquiring marketing technology. For instance, Facebook could take the “marketing suite” path and acquire a jewel like Marketo for its crown.
Nobody knows what’s next and that’s why this moment is so exciting. But those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. Being a first mover matters so we sit on pins and needles and monitor who’s making bold moves. I see people-based marketing as the biggest transformation in digital advertising since the advent of the Internet because it solves so many pressing issues, from cross-device targeting to online-to-offline measurement and attribution. That’s why the future of the industry hinges on who leverages it best.