by Charlie Stewart (@CStewart_ZA) The marketing industry’s got itself into a tech-induced fankle* of late.
Like all industries, ours has embraced technology. It makes our campaigns more efficient; it helps us improve targeting; and it sheds light on what works and what doesn’t. Yet it feels that here in South Africa we’re late to the party and, as a consequence, are buying solutions that aren’t entirely fit for purpose.
Seductive promises from vendors have seen us lap up technology. A Gartner study of 600 marketing leaders in the US and UK found that, in 2018. CMOs spent 29% of their budgets on martech. That’s a staggering 6% more than was allocated to media spend. Unsurprisingly, the money pouring into the sector has led to a mushrooming in the number of available martech products. The latest iteration of Scott Brinker’s marketing technology supergraphic lists over 7 000 solutions and systems — up from 150 in his inaugural 2011 chart.
While much of the tech works and really does help brands become more competitive, a substantial chunk doesn’t. Worse, it can blind us to our purpose as marketers.
Technology has a terrible tendency of encouraging us to focus on the machine and its output to the detriment of strategy and common sense gut-feel. We become dazzled by features we never knew existed (and probably never needed) and follow data down rabbit holes to the point that we lose sight of our purpose. Technology also becomes obsolete — sometimes very, very quickly.
Much of the recent spend on martech has gone to platforms that aid programmatic advertising.
Media buying has always been a challenge and lots has been said about digital ad fraud. Looping back to the Gartner statistic, this may explain why marketers are willing to spend more money on data management platforms (DMPs) and demand side platforms (DSPs) — the systems that enable ads to be flighted — than with the publishers themselves.
They’ve been pulled in by vendor sales pitches: target people at the exact time they’re thinking of buying a product/service like yours; spread your ad spend across multiple platforms without needing to negotiate placements with each media owner; and, most compellingly of all, use cookie-matching capabilities to build lists of people who are just like your current customers and therefore have a strong propensity to buy from you.
Now, I’m no Luddite intent on taking a sledgehammer to today’s textile contrivances but the data landscape is evolving rapidly and current changes are likely to have a significant impact on the ability of DMPs to live up to their promise.
Legislators unite against GAFA
The threat of punitive legal censure from legislators is making Facebook and Google think twice about sharing the kind of data that enables DMPs to deliver lookalike audiences from third-party information. Apple’s spotted an opportunity to position itself as the consumers’ friend by driving the adoption of Intelligent Tracking Protocol (ITP), which limits the use of cookie tracking, and all the signs are that Google’s about to apply ITP to its Chrome browser. Indeed, these changes saw Scott Hagedorn, Omnicom Media Group CEO, tell DigiDay that DMPs are virtually useless.
So, if you’re a South African brand thinking of spending a big chunk of change on a DMP in the hope that it’ll help you reach a third-party audience, I’d think twice. If, like me, you believe that tech can make you more competitive, you might be better off getting to know your current customers and investing your money in a customer data platform (CDP) — more on that in a future column.
*A fankle is a wonderful Scottish word that could be likened to ‘a mess’ but just seems so much more descriptive of the confusing world of martech.
Charlie Stewart (@CStewart_ZA) is CEO of Rogerwilco, a multi-award-winning independent digital agency best known for its expertise with Drupal, SEO and content marketing. A Scot by birth, he moved to South Africa in the early 2000s in his quest to support a winning rugby team — a search he’s reluctantly forsaken. Together with Mark Eardley, he co-authored Business to Business Marketing: A Step by Step Guide, (Penguin Random House, 2016) and may be found on LinkedIn. Charlie contributes the monthly “Clicks ‘n Tricks” column, which looks at how brands are using digital channels to engage their customers, to MarkLives.