Facebook and Google have dominated the advertising ecosystem for many reasons in recent years, one of which has been beneficial to marketers: they make it extremely easy to run campaigns. From ad buying to targeting and campaign measurement, they give marketers everything they need all in one place. But this simplicity comes at a price. Facebook and Google only account for 34% of time spent online, meaning campaigns on these platforms only reach a fraction of your audience.
What makes this realization hard to grapple with is that the second you step outside the walled gardens, you get dropped into a raging sea of martech vendors—some touting excellence in measurement or brand safety, others in multi-touch attribution or location-based, omnichannel targeting. If your head is spinning at the thought of it, you’re not alone.
Each of these vendors provides specific services with “advanced” technology, but many of them have a lot of overlap and the majority don’t work together. This reality forces marketers to decipher the hundreds of mixed messages they’re getting from possible vendors—a critical task that can feel extremely daunting. Here are four steps for staying on course:
Organize your team for success
The foundation of any successful marketing strategy is the team behind it. When navigating the martech Lumascape, this reality holds true.
When faced with the challenge of identifying the most strategic technology partners to orchestrate your marketing campaigns, you need everyone engaged and in sync. Internally, you can’t have your planning team separate from your buying team, or your social buyers separate from search and display.
Physically sitting, or in today’s world, holding regular Zoom meetings, with folks across function areas will ensure teams work together to strategize and activate campaigns. That way, whichever partners you decide to bring on board will be able to contribute holistically to your team’s goals—an approach that will prove a lot more efficient than working independently before throwing ideas over the wall.
Recognize technology that’s worth the cost
Once everyone’s perspective is accounted for, it’ll become clear that not every “solution” in the martech Lumascape is going to solve your problems. But what you can count on is that each vendor will quickly chip away at your marketing budget—consuming valuable dollars better spent on the campaign itself.
Don’t be distracted by flashy labels like “AI”; AI can mean many different things—from simple automation to more nuanced pattern recognition. The important thing to remember though, is that no one type of technology will guarantee strong results. Before going all-in-one technology that might sound and look good, make an effort to understand the algorithms at play and how they provide tangible, incremental value to the marketing process.
While machine learning algorithms are understandably complex, there are certain tasks machine learning should and shouldn’t be automating. For instance, an algorithm that suggests the best price for buying an ad makes a lot of sense. No human being should be thinking “how much should I bid for this?” That’s a waste of time. Algorithms that can effectively automate auctions and bidding are typically worth the investment, especially when there are thousands of bid factors that need to be seen, processed, understood and reacted to in seconds.
On the other hand, there are a variety of instances where humans are simply better than machines. For example, understanding why creative is resonating with an audience—or if it’s not—will benefit from critical thinking and human decision making. In scenarios like these, technology can just get in the way and you should think twice about whether it’s worth it.
At the end of the day, the only tried and true way to ensure a new type of technology is worth the money is to give it a shot. Just remember to set the appropriate expectations internally and go in knowing that trial and error is part of the process. Be open to new ways of doing things instead of applying the same old band aid solutions with flashier names.
Know the data you’re using
Data is a key piece of the Martech puzzle. If the data a vendor is using is flawed, audience fidelity can be lost and the upfront work you put in could be sacrificed.
Here’s a common scenario: A marketer says “I need to reach women ages 25 – 30, who like volleyball”; they then buy data from a third party vendor and give it to a DSP to target that specific group. The problem here is that when you buy third party data, you don’t know where it’s coming from. That’s the first layer of degradation.
From planning through measurement, you need to close the loop on audience fidelity from a clear understanding of your data source all the way through measuring the effectiveness of reaching that audience.
To avoid the pitfalls associated with third party data, use your own data as much as possible. If you absolutely need to buy it, look for a reputable vendor that uses first-party data, and ensure that it’s clean, meets privacy standards, isn’t modeled from a seed set, and can be utilized in every element of your campaign.
Reduce the partners on plan
If your source of truth for attribution is your ad server, because you’ve got multiple partners on plan for display for different tactics, you’re missing most of the picture. Ad servers can tell you how many impressions and clicks across partners are on plan in one place, but they can’t really tell you who the ad reached or connect a view to conversion.
And, even in answering the question of “how many”, are they counting correctly?
How do you know?
Walled gardens don’t suffer from this problem, because everything is in one vertically integrated stack—audience data, inventory, ad serving and measurement. The open web falls apart when inventory comes from thousands of places through twenty exchanges, funneled through a single ad server and you’ve got 3-4 DSPs on plan. You can’t connect the dots without a convoluted attribution scheme.
It’s important to understand the outcomes you’re trying to achieve, and then choose the right partner for those outcomes. You need someone who can deliver on the various tactics needed to achieve your goals, and can do so without math that involves windows and ratios. The 200-pound gorilla is not your only option. Choose wisely.
As you approach the challenge of navigating the chaotic Martech ecosystem, recognize the fundamental flaws with your various options: they each come at a cost and often can’t work together. But with a clear understanding of what’s going on under the hood of your various options, and eliminating silos within your team, you’ll set yourself up on a path to success.