From programmatic to personalization, marketing tech is redefining how brands target and speak to consumers and creating new opportunities to build relationships. “Personalization helps brands strengthen their relationships with consumers, who are more engaged when they feel messages being delivered are relevant to them,” says Andrea Van Dam, CEO of Women’s Marketing.
Over the course of her career, Sarah Fay, former CEO of Aegis Media North America, has become a well-known voice in the advertising industry on the topics of digital marketing and media integration. Andrea recently spoke with Sarah, who is also a member of the Women’s Marketing Board of Directors, about the future of marketing technology as we look ahead to 2017 and beyond.
Andrea Van Dam: Beyond Google search or programmatic, how do you predict marketers will be combining marketing with AI technologies in 2017?
Sarah Fay: As you mention, there are AI based solutions today that take programmatic audience targeting to the next level by using data to learn which audience segments are the most responsive, and then creating lookalike audiences that can be targeted at scale, all the time generating more information about the most profitable segments, and iterating on targeting and improving results. In general, the advertising industry has gotten very good at using data for better audience targeting.
But we have barely begun when it comes to creating a better, more engaging user experience by leveraging data to personalize messages and initiate more intuitive conversations with customers. Marketers will have the opportunity to completely change the kinds of interactions they have with customers by applying AI technology. Today, the best data management platforms (DMPs) allow marketers to create personalized experiences on their websites and “owned” digital spaces. As an example, if you searched “Flights to Hawaii,” the travel site you click through to should feature a backdrop of palm trees as well as flights from your current location to Hawaii. That is a relevant but pretty basic experience compared to other types of personalization that are starting to be implemented in advertising and will become prevalent over the coming months and years.
Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) is the next hot thing that marketers want. You can now serve a uniquely personalized advertising experience based on location, time of day, weather, device activity, social activity, and of course all of the usual targeting demographics: age, gender, household income, etc. In addition, you can employ newer AI-based technologies such as voice recognition and automated responses.
Imagine now, clicking through to that travel site on your hunt for flights to Hawaii and encountering a resort ad with lush tropical video images of the Hawaiian islands and a customer service-initiated conversation asking which island you plan to visit and what kind of room you are looking for. Imagine this imagery and question changing based on any destination in the world. Imagine receiving email and text confirmations including all these creative elements, and also receiving a welcome message as soon as you land. AI technology that delivers this advertising experience is here today, but the industry is still learning how to use data and technology to create and deliver. As marketers get better at using data to understand the customer wherever that may be, and in whichever channel or application, brand experiences will become more and more intuitive, and AI will play a critical role.
Andrea Van Dam: People may have concerns about privacy. How can marketers deliver targeted messaging to consumers, yet remain respectful of their need for privacy?
Sarah Fay: It is hard to say what level of concern consumers have about their privacy when they share information about themselves so readily through social media. Think about it—millions of people declare all their likes and interests on Facebook, they post their whereabouts on numerous social platforms, they broadcast their political affiliations, family and friend connections, love interests, home addresses—you name it! Marketers have an enormous amount of first party data (which is information consumers agree to share and allow companies to use) or public data (information that is shared openly on public platforms such as Twitter, Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes, Goodreads, etc). These data sources that come directly from consumers can be leveraged for efficient targeting and relevant messaging before tapping outside data sources or using behavioral targeting.
It will be interesting to see if people start to tune in to the fact that their data is being used to make companies rich and to start thinking perhaps there is a way to benefit from that. There are early stage technologies that promise to give consumers the ability to control how and when their data is used, and to earn money or points when they agree to share it for marketing purposes. Watch this space in the next few years!
Andrea Van Dam: Do you think there will be a time where AI powers or informs almost all marketing decisions?
Sarah Fay: I believe AI will become more and more prevalent and that many advertisers and marketers will use digital and data to execute most if not all of their marketing by the early 20’s. Because AI is generally smarter and more productive than rule-based algorithms, it will become a fundamental part of advertising.
Do I think marketers will be able to just press a button and magically produce all of their creative and media distribution? No. I still think humans will play an important role in ideation and in manning the controls of data and technology to reach and engage their customers.
Andrea Van Dam: Other than AI, what do you see as the two biggest trends in marketing or media?
Sarah Fay: The face of advertising continues to veer toward mobile marketing, social media, and video—which of course are all tied together. The latest information from Advertiser Perceptions (research that polls media buyers across the advertising industry) shows Mobile as the most favored medium for increased investment (51%) and least likely to decrease (6%). Within the digital spectrum, Social Media is the biggest category for increased spending (52%) and the least likely to decrease (6%). Video will continue to play an increasingly important role as digital platforms (such as Hulu and YouTube) become more like TV and are accessible through Smart TVs. Creative is also increasingly becoming more like content than advertising. Advertisers aspire to have this content shared in social spaces, and therefore need to create messaging that is less sales-y and more emotionally appealing. Naturally, there will be a fit for AI within these trends that brings new forms of real time engagement and two-way conversations into brand messaging.
Andrea Van Dam: What’s the gap between agencies and clients and how can agencies help to serve their clients better?
Sarah Fay: Clients are struggling with the complexity of marketing choices that are bombarding them, and they need agency partners that strategically understand and can recommend the right mix of marketing activities. Often, problems arise when a client engages with several specialist agencies, each offering a piece of the entire solution, but each oriented toward succeeding in a vacuum against only the goals they have been given individually. The client is then left playing an integration role among agency partners, deciding how to allocate the budget, and trying to foster cooperation and coordination. That can be confusing and frustrating for the client.
Agencies can always help clients by understanding how their own services fit into the bigger picture, and by working with adjacent agencies the client designates to co-develop marketing programs. As hard as it may be, agencies should come together to agree how budgets should be spent realistically instead of putting clients in a difficult position by trying to grab more budget.
I am sure that Women’s Marketing clients appreciate the fact that your agency is unbiased and therefore able to recommend and synchronize multiple media tactics to launch brands. It is important to understand the role that each medium can play to achieve a bigger effect when combined. I know Women’s Marketing is also a great partner with your clients’ creative agencies, and that is crucial when it comes to investing in activities that require a different creative approach—like influencer marketing. Media and creative services need to be attached at the hip, so these co-agency relationships are key to helping clients.
Andrea Van Dam: It’s 2020…how are brands marketing themselves differently than today?
Sarah Fay: Even more so than today, brands in 2020 will address consumers with knowledge about who they are and what motivates them (think Amazon book recommendations – but regarding everything!) And customers will talk back to brands, even more than today. Those conversations will be remembered and factored into long-term relationships, focused on loyalty and cross-selling of products to a brand’s best customers. Media platforms and devices have already splintered in a thousand directions and that trend will continue—but the difference between today and 2020 is that marketers will catch up to the reality of this media behavior and leverage advantages that are created by using data combined with personalized media and creative strategies.
Women’s Marketing is always driving the conversation forward. From the latest innovations in tech to analyzing consumer behavior, we look ahead so our clients never fall behind. Contact us today to learn how we can help your brand grow and thrive.