"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 Eoin Townsend, chief product officer at Collective.
Today’s digital marketers must invest in the best tools available to manage their campaigns and drive measureable results. But marketing technology tools require significant investment, not just in dollars, but also in data and labor. Marketers spend hours and thousands of dollars setting up campaigns in technology stacks that they’ve either purchased whole or cobbled together. They “strategically invest” in point solutions that don’t always turn out to be advantageous.
Marketers get stuck using these platforms because they’ve simply invested too much time, money and data. They become entrenched in the solution they’ve implemented, effectively trapped by technology partners. Post-implementation, it’s not cheap or easy to switch, even when it’s clear that better options are available – or when campaign goals and workflow requirements change dramatically and unexpectedly.
What happens, then, if the provider of the technology stack suddenly decides to change policies about inventory access, data ownership or privacy, or suddenly raises prices or fails to disclose the hidden costs? Marketers are in too deep to just switch solutions. In effect, they’ve lost control of their campaigns.
This scenario has happened to many marketers. For instance, Google’s decision to remove YouTube inventory from outside ad exchanges impacted thousands of marketers – many of whom may have chosen a specific network because it offered YouTube pre-roll. Google’s elimination of data-management platform tags was also an unexpected blow. Changes in algorithms, tagging regulations or ad specs may seem minor to a platform provider, but to marketers the impact is stressful, time-consuming and often expensive. Yet as our industry matures and consolidates, experiences like this seem to be a common occurrence for marketers.
How are marketers meant to handle these challenges? What do they do next when they’ve suddenly lost access to ad inventory, but are still beholden to the partner they’ve chosen? For marketers with their budgets invested in one type of video solution and thousands of iterations of data-driven advertising creatives, simply “moving” the ads to another platform isn’t as easy as it sounds. More often than not, marketers won’t even have the technical expertise to make such a move.
They need access to unbiased knowledge that can help guide the way and help them understand the ecosystem – not some technological ninja or matchmaker. They need solutions that bridge the walled gardens with a focus on building successful campaigns.
Salesforce is a good example. Salesforce doesn’t prevent marketers from working with Marketo or Hubspot, despite the fact that it owns Pardot. Salesforce will integrate neatly with Constant Contact or MailChimp and allow marketers to bring in any solution they like, providing an unbiased, foundational platform that is open to integration with any quality partner.
The walled gardens are the fly in the ointment, since they tend not to play nicely with systems they don’t own. That’s indicative of the problem the whole industry faces, though. Those big platform players, the keepers of the gardens, are so focused on their own interests that they have driven the industry to become platform-centric. The advertising and marketing technology industries are looking out for themselves, not focused on marketers and target customers.
As a result, marketers are forced to make sacrifices every single day. They have to choose a specific partner because that’s the partner that integrates better. They lose visibility into campaign results because dominant players change the rules or they have to set up a second or third reporting interface because some partners won’t play nicely with the marketer’s existing solution. This cuts into a marketing team’s time and productivity, and ultimately impacts its results and the end-user experience. This needs to be fixed.
It’s time for marketers to take center stage. When they do, the industry will thrive, grow and evolve in a way that’s good for everyone in the ecosystem. Until then, marketers will continue to struggle as they fight to keep control.