Consumer Focus Is Lost in Ad-Tech Complexity

When asked to rate themselves on their effectiveness in maintaining a “unified consumer view” in their online and cross-channel marketing, marketers, agencies and publishers alike give themselves a failing grade. It’s not a shock that most marketing and agency pros blame the complexity of the technology, multiple emerging channels and lack of unified measurement for losing their lock on consumers. But publishers? When publishers lose track of their audience, and their ability to find and engage consumers regardless of medium, there’s something seriously wrong with the picture.

State of the Industry: Rating Digital Marketing Effectiveness
Working with PulsePoint and The CMO Club in late February and early March, Digiday’s State of the Industry Survey drew 689 opens and more than 400 completed “Digital Marketing Capabilities Assessments” from digital media and marketing pros.

Marketers gave themselves consistently low ratings across a range of capabilities, but said they ranked worst in providing a “unified customer view” and “social listening for content and influencers.”

Publishers also gave themselves the lowest scores on those subjects, followed closely by how well they deliver a “paid, owned and earned” media framework, and “seamlessly execute across programs.”

Agencies ranked themselves lowest at delivery and execution, followed by social listening and providing a unified customer view. Agencies felt more confident about their ability to measure campaign performance, optimize within channels and offer their customers consistent branding across channels.

All three groups seem to be saying that they’re better at the mechanics of dynamic content and ad serving than they are at knowing how effective their efforts are with consumers generally.

The bottom line: across the ecosystem, brands, agencies and publishers are struggling to execute real-time, interactive marketing programs that target consumers where they spend their time. Overwhelming complexity and lack of unified measurement both conspire to rob marketers of the consumer-centric intelligence they need to evaluate their campaigns.

Mind you, nobody’s giving up. Asked what their top priorities are over the next 12 months: Marketers overwhelmingly cited “Measuring campaign performance,” followed by “optimizing within channels.” Publishers continue the push into newer channels and work to offer customers the chance to buy and target segments at scale. Agencies will focus on measurement and using newer channels, but they also work on attributing results across channels.

But none of the three groups ranked achieving a unified customer view as among their top four priorities in the coming year. Reaching target audiences via real-time bidding didn’t receive a single nod among marketers.

The Marketing Mismatch
Everyone knows they need technically proficient partners to succeed in today’s more technically complex and diverse media landscape, but there are some obvious ways in which these three disciplines are failing to meet each other’s needs. For example, brands seem to realize that their digital creative is lacking, but publishers and agencies are more focused on pushing toward every new platform than in mastering engagement as they go.

As our report puts it, “A minority of marketers … report being effective in employing newer channels and formats.” Yet “employing newer channels is among the top priorities for publishers and agencies.”

Knowing they need help, “the majority of marketers, agencies and publishers expect an increase in the number of direct relationships with digital partners over the next 12 months. This is true regardless of having generally low assessments of the effectiveness of these partners.”

Agencies, who rate technology marketing and service providers higher than any other group, likely will continue to pave the way for more relationships in an effort to simplify digital advertising. But partners they pick will have to prove that that they truly matter.

Compensating partners on the basis of the “last click” won’t cut it anymore. Some 48 percent of marketers expect to compensate their marketing partners based on sales revenue, with another 40 percent saying they’ll pay via marketing metrics. Both fee-based and media commission dropped to low single digits as compensation methods.


In Part Two tomorrow, we will provide advice on how to overcome these challenges.

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