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Digital Ad Sophistication Coming to a Platform Near You

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 23/03/2016 Advertising Week

By Sarah O'Donnell, Sr. Product Manager, Grapeshot

The digital advertising industry is at a crucial juncture.  This year, the collective industry has the opportunity to move beyond vulnerabilities like bot-fraud, viewability challenges and frustrated consumers resorting to ad blockers.   It won’t be easy but all signs point to the fix as greater focus on sophistication.  Increased sophistication should be the mantra and should drive industrywide attempts at better consumer engagement and digital ad measurement. Trillions of daily ad impressions and content views available to drive attention to a brand’s message will necessitate sophisticated techniques for success.

It should be simple, right?  Create exciting marketing that reaches the people who want your message.  But let’s face it, without the right tools and diligence, that’s really really hard.  The good news is, new industry partners, technologies and practices are making it possible. 

The Time for Relevance

Evidenced by the onslaught of ad blocking adoption, consumers are revolting against irrelevant, ill-timed or misdirected advertising.  Brands not communicating to the audience by creating compelling moments will instead become marginalized.   The key is to use the highest-quality data available—based on real-time consumer signals or “live audiences” (not data that is 30 days old)— to publish messages for the right person at the right time.  Live audience data identifies both the right person and the right moment, but signaling the users activity at the time of display.  Demographic or “look-a-like” data does not compare to live audience data, missing contextual timing.  Using disruptive technologies to anticipate the activities of the audience will place ads in the right place at the right time.   Always-fresh live audience messages will compel and engage brand constituents and deliver improved results.

Creative Matters

Creative quality is just as important as context.  Sophisticated brands will be doubling down on design to message with beautiful ads and content that resonate visually and thoughtfully.  The most compelling programmatic creative iterations will combine remarketing elements, geographical specificity and time-based content in smarter ways than traditional retargeting.

Using contextual live audience information, marketers can now create messages with visual impact using seasonal or regional products and language, events, cultural imagery and tone that personalize ads as opposed to the indiscriminate, generic misses of traditional retargeting or “cyber-stalking.”  

Better The Measurement, More The Value

A shift in the industry to higher responsibility, improved quality and precision comes hand in hand with greater scrutiny on value.   Advertisers should reach (and pay for) people they want to reach. Targeting weeks-old audience activity or, worse, broad demographic segments is not effective.  Brands are aware of this and the days of untraceable budget-spending are increasingly becoming unacceptable.

Advertising campaigns have simple objectives:

• Effectiveness: Are ads impacting constituents’ behaviors and attitudes?

• Distribution: Are ads being delivered to intended target audiences?

Whether measuring retail visits, purchases, political votes, topic awareness, clicks, social media likes, app engagement, or other brand goals, sophisticated advertisers should relentlessly strive to be able to track engagement following an ad impression, providing more accurate attribution of performance in a cross-channel, cross-device context.

It is not about impressions and reach any longer.  “Standard” 0.06% engagement metrics just won’t hold up with brands conscious of value.  And, it’s also not just purchases or transactions that matter either.  Campaigns will be judged on both --their relevance, and --how constituents interacted with the content.  Both direct and indirect attribution will be increasingly applied and successful brands will measure ad favorability and message recall in addition to purchase intent.

As stated at the top of this piece, the digital advertising market is at a critical inflection point.  The winners will be the more sophisticated players.  Consumers are demanding it.  Disruptive technologies are making live audience, live messaging a reality.  Digital advertisers are becoming more responsible in the delivery of their messages and improving quality to engage constituents.  The value of these investments will play a key role in the maturation and sophistication of digital advertising.

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