Though its overall influence has waned over the years, SXSW still spotlights some of the biggest trends and challenges in digital advertising and media. 2018 was no different. From brand safety and transparency to Facebook and mobile video, Austin was a hotbed for discussing problems and predicting how we can fix them. But what I found interesting was how central data was in each conversation.
With that in mind, here are three data-driven takeaways out of SXSW, based on what I saw and heard.
The Surge in Mobile Video Means More Cross-Device Targeting
Mobile video was a big focus on marketers and platforms. From Cheetos to HBO, there were tons of mobile-enabled VR and AR experiences at the show. Facebook even announced that they’ll launch a news video section this summer. Brands and vendors are simply adapting to consumer preferences and demand. It’s expected that three-quarters of all mobile traffic will be through video in the next five years.
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For marketers, this underscores the need for more cross-device targeting. With cross-device targeting and device ID targeting, marketers can identify a single user and match up their interests no matter where they’re browsing from. This helps cut down on that fragmentation and lets brands direct their marketing at users whether they’re online, offline, mobile, or somewhere else. Unfortunately, this has been a problem area for most advertisers. Today, only 20% are confident in their own cross-device strategy. As mobile video explodes, marketers will need to build a smarter and comprehensive cross-device approach.
YouTube’s Brand Safety Issues Are Impacting Data Transparency
At SXSW, YouTube announced it’d be leaning on Wikipedia to help them fight back against certain brand safety threats. Over the last year, brand safety has really stepped into the forefront as the central issue in advertising. YouTube’s challenges have enabled that, but other players in media and technology, from Facebook to certain publishers, have also contributed to concerns. Advertisers want brand-safe inventory, period. They also want greater transparency on their buys. They’re forcing change. This is good for the category.
We’re seeing this impact the data industry, as well. Marketers are shining a brighter light on the overall ad supply chain. They want greater transparency, not just about their inventory, but also the data they buy and feed into their DSPs. More advertisers are asking how accurate the data they’re being sold is and how partners can validate quality continuously. The higher standards are good for advertising, in general, and will cause all boats to rise. Advertisers see better ROI and spend more money. This is good for sellers and vendors.
After News Feed Tweaks, Publishers Need to Be Data Scientists
Publishers at SXSW had a lot to say about Facebook – and I can’t blame them. After Facebook tweaked their News Feed to prioritize content from friends and family, deprioritizing publishers and brands, many notable publishers saw their traffic nosedive. To that point, Facebook had been a valuable channel for third-party distribution. That’s largely gone. So, publishers are angry and wondering what will happen next. As I see it, this will create an opportunity for them to re-focus their efforts on on-site audience engagement and personalization.
This means more innovation in the way publishers use data. Audience enrichment is a good example. This is when publishers mix website data they already have with data gathered on those same users while they roam the internet. This combination creates a fuller view of an audience. Then publishers can create content tailored to the audience’s interests, behavior, and demographics. This means a better on-site experience. It also lessens the reliance on third-party distribution, which Facebook shows us can be unreliable. In addition, more data on a publisher’s audience means a more valuable audience, increasing inventory’s cost (even if traffic sees a downturn). Data is the key here.
For me, data was the common theme at SXSW. And these three areas, specifically, will remain top-of-mind long after Austin. Come Cannes Lions, we’ll probably be discussing the same topics. But in the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how things evolve.