Winter conference season is in full swing and with all the travel we missed out on the unofficial kickoff of the ad tech (sorry, I mean MAR tech) year, AdExchanger’s Industry Preview. Enter guest blogger Carolyn Inniman, who fills us in on what to watch in 2019.
If there is one trend to characterize the current state of our industry, it’s “customer first.” Every company, from the B2C to the B2B to the B2B2C must focus on this, as BlackRock CMO Frank Cooper put it. No matter who is your direct customer, every marketing action should consider the end customer, the individuals who are putting down their hard-earned money and without which your direct client doesn’t have a business. And neither do you.
You can’t think of customers only as a means to a bottom line, as doing so will… hurt your bottom line. This was the main thrust of Publicis Groupe’s Rishad Tobaccowala’s message in his insightful keynote. When companies focus on a person as just a consumer (or click, or purchase), they miss the chance to connect on a human level and build a real connection with their audience. And the platforms we try to connect on could be causing even more damage. He did not shrink away from calling out Facebook after its 2018 tribulations, suggesting that today’s more cause-focused consumer is beginning to connect the dots between negative effects of social media and the platform behind them.
He wasn’t the only one taking jabs at Facebook. Jon Steinberg of Cheddar called the company indifferent to partners’ needs and deliberately misleading, while praising healthy partnerships with Twitter and LinkedIn. Speakers repeatedly reminded us that our audience may not even be on Facebook anymore. OpenX CEO Tim Cadogan sang music to our ears when explaining how programmatic is catching up with Facebook’s USP. Ad tech is supposed to help the advertiser reach a person, and programmatic has long made the infrastructure possible, he said. The walled gardens have traditionally done a better job of executing, but this level of customization is finally here in the open web.
Social’s impact isn’t all negative. I for one credit Facebook and its ease of use for getting in house teams comfortable with doing their own media buying, AB testing creatives and general ‘what if’ experimentation that few brands would try in years past. DTC brands have been built on the laser targeting and personal feel of social, and they are one of the hottest sectors for investment this year.
Speaking of investment, VC interest in ad tech has famously and undeniably subsided. Unless, of course, you don’t call it ad tech. Martech, SaaS and CDP companies are still seen as high-growth areas. Connected TV has huge potential as the duopoly only control 10 percent of the segment, and there is plenty of room for new players to take off.