How soon will it be before I go online and every ad I see is targeted specifically for me? Are we close?
I think so.
With the amount of information available about my demographics, purchasing behavior, web activity, and even my exact location at any given time, brands have little excuse for not hitting me with the messages I want, when I want them — or at least close to it.
Where We Are
Programmatic advertising is attempting to do this, albeit with mixed results, but they are getting better. There’s much to be said about programmatic ads (a blog for another day), but we do have a couple of quick takeaways. For those who still find its definition murky, programmatic is essentially using software to buy and sell digital advertising — which includes both placing your ads on third-party sites and making your own website available for ad placement. You put X dollars toward your digital ads, and then a computer uses customer and conversion data to decide where to place those ads and for what cost.
Still, programmatic ads have their flaws; there are only so many boundaries you can set in terms of where the ad-bots decide to place your content. As a result:
- Your ad could pop up on a non-brand-friendly website
- There’s a lot of noise in the system, and as a result, sometimes programmatic ads misinterpret clicks.
Not to mention the potential negative effects from the opposite end. For example, your website could unknowingly host an ad from a competitor’s site. There’s room to grow — but like I said, we’re getting there.
What We’re Doing
Sooner or later, it’s not just going to be display ads. It’s going to be everything. AT&T is a good example: There’s speculation that, with the upcoming Time Warner merger, AT&T will soon revolutionize TV advertising by using customer data to start selling addressable ads at scale.
Advertisers have the tools to combine programmatic ads with multi-dimensional customer and prospect data. To be successful, what’s left for them to do comes down to possessing and combining two things:
- Software to harness, analyze, and guide ads, and
- Great content in the ads themselves.
Where We (Should Be) Going
Welcome to the media department of one. To me, the future is the all-telling and all-knowing software tool that tells me what content to create — and then, once it’s created, it gets that content in front of the right people at the right time.
This is the new marketing landscape: I come to work and ask my software tool what content I should create today. For example, it might tell me that my target audience is engaging with lifestyle content with a photo depicting my product in a home setting. It would also tell me what keyword to use, what my call to action should be, and where it should link.
With that information, I can start writing targeted content that I’m confident will reach and resonate with my audience. From there, I can head over to the media department, which is linked to my awesome software platform where I have already input key parameters — like sales goals and budget constraints — and essentially press “go.”
Here’s the kicker: Because the software has already made adjustments in real-time based on its ongoing analysis of all of the updated variables available to it, those are really the only two variables I have to adjust.
Why not take things even further and have the software also create the content? Good question. Google AdWords and artificial intelligence systems already do this to some degree, and I think it’s fine for quick hits. When someone needs an answer to a simple question, these programs, with the right programming, can just give it to them.
Beyond that, though, it doesn’t work; automated responses gone wrong can lead to frustrating results. Why? Because real humans need content from real humans. Insightful, funny, compelling content that educates and informs. And for the near future — let’s say the next 20 years — that will have to come from us.
To take all this even further, here’s a question I often ask: Why don’t advertisers just ask me for my interests and the brands from which I want to receive ads? I could simply create an advertising profile. “Hey, advertisers. I’m interested in these things this year. Take that information and serve me the ads that you see fit.” Is this the ultimate what’s next? And should it be?