Real Time Advertising Landscape: Changing the game

This was a sponsored post by DigitasLBI under the Master Report series. 

Success in real-time advertising, given all the challenges affecting how consumers interact with digital media, necessitates that marketers step away from the media planning status quo and adopt a customer-centric, or dare I say it, CRM operating model.

The foundation of real-time advertising is fresh data. The best source of that data is your customers. By placing data at the heart of the process, and investing in technologies that connect advertising with customer engagement, businesses have a genuine opportunity to deliver marketing continuity, encompassing all media. This requires a fundamentally different outlook for marketers in terms of how they organise, plan and execute.

The marketing industry has always been obsessed with the now. Millennials apparently demand instant gratification, which has come to mean chasing users around the internet using retargeted banners or other viral marketing gimmicks, often ignoring older generations that are wealthier, and in Singapore, growing proportionally.

Let’s face it, consumers are not clamouring for real-time advertising. They are receptive to advertising that is relevant and contextual at the right moment. “Now” has come to represent more of a panic than a process and that is compromising our connection with consumers.

In the movie Speed, a transit bus is rigged with explosives that will detonate if the bus drops below 50 mph. Jack Traven must use his bomb squad methods, skills and teamwork to devise how to defuse the bomb, without hitting the brakes. For real-time to work, today’s marketers must be able to operate at speed by modernising methods, skills and teamwork.

There is no accepted industry definition of real-time marketing. Adobe research in the US in 2013 revealed widely varying interpretations of the term “real time”. Contrary to the article title, I posit that real-time advertising shouldn’t even be a thing in its own right.

Real-time marketing is a capability that utilises multiple data points to drive customer impact by reacting to events and choices made by an individual, virtually immediately. Real-time marketing wraps inbound and outbound channels around a single voice of the customer by connecting in-house marketing technologies with external advertising platforms, including DSPs, SSPs and ad exchanges.

Automation, machine learning and AI will undoubtedly transform our industry. Using technology to increase the velocity of marketing overall, without further compromising on quality, means acknowledging larger forces are at play.

1. Information density – there are more than 2.5 billion pages online. In 2015, it was estimated that 211 million pieces of content were produced every minute. TNS research highlighted that Singaporeans are shifting consumption away from core social to visual platforms such as Instagram (22% to 39% in 2016) and discrete chat apps such as Snapchat (7% to 15% in 2016). Meanwhile, 87% of mobile sharing in Southeast Asia is happening on chat apps according to RadiumOne. As consumers go dark, creativity is more powerful than ever. Most marketers are missing the opportunity of programmatic to be more relevant in more places, instead of just buying a precise target audience.

2. Consumer trust – according to Edelman’s trust barometer, it’s been a few roller-coaster years for Singapore. After a wholesale drop in 2016, trust has rebounded in 2017. In particular, 56% of Singaporeans trust in media. At the same time, 29% of Singaporeans use ad blockers (versus 16% APAC average) as tracked by Page Fair. Since consumers want almost everything online for free, digital media has got caught up in very a murky catch 22; ads appearing in places with unsavoury content, which Google’s new Chrome ad blocker is trying to address. The advertising media has an important role to rebuild consumer trust over reach and the voice of loyal customers speak volumes.

These forces create a fraught environment for marketers to decide how to break through.

At the risk of sounding terribly old fashioned, the solution lies in respecting how we build relationships as the foundation – the book Getting to We provides an excellent reference for principles and behaviours that all marketers can work with across all disciplines.

  • Reciprocity
  • Autonomy
  • Honesty
  • Loyalty
  • Equity
  • Integrity

I won’t labour the role of next generation CRM. The opportunity is to break CRM thinking out of the ghetto it is often stuck within, which Mayur Gupta at Spotify wrote about brilliantly.

Looking at Gartner forecasts, I estimate that CRM annual software spending in Singapore could reach $400-500 million by 2019. In IDC’s 2016 “Salesforce Economic Impact Model”, fully operational CRM creates $1.78 billion of revenue for Singapore businesses. At DigitasLBi we help businesses to translate the sales and service application of CRM into marketing excellence.

The development and accessibility of real-time data: This is likely the biggest undertaking and investment for a business. Every organisation needs a big data strategy – unpacking the data supply chain and federating actionable insights to relevant teams, so that they can use it fast.

Capturing lots of data is not enough; without a framework all that potentially targetable insight will rapidly go cold. This leads to addressing the “analysis gap” – marketers didn’t become data scientists overnight, their analytical skills need to be modernised, helping them to work in partnership with the data team.

Adopt design thinking at an organisational level as an iterative strategic framework: Design thinking is being adopted by more businesses across a multitude of applications to better empathise with customers, elevate the experience and orchestrate communications.

Set and stick with meaningful metrics. Focusing on media efficiency in CPM and CPC is no longer enough. Marketers must represent customer impact, for example, branded search, view-through, bounce-rates and loyalty metrics.

Expand the role for marketing technologists, programmatic experts, campaign and community managers. Moving fast means having more people at the sharp end of marketing operations. Like analysis, everyone in the marketing team needs to have hands-on technical knowledge. It’s no longer feasible to farm this out to technology or IT people.

With all this in place, dynamic and personalised creatives are achievable. That means the creative brief also needs to change. It means that less can still mean more. Consumers would be more open to a few variations that offer contextual value rather than an avalanche of messaging variations or salutations.

You need gimmicks to market biscuits, but that doesn’t mean everyone follows suit. If a user visits a product on your website, why not serve them an advocacy message? If they don’t respond try to build brand aspiration or encourage a trial. In other words, experiment!

Like the term “digital”, eventually “real-time” will be redundant. Until that time, businesses that invest in having capability to utilise real-time data, federating it access across stakeholders, means that marketing will to operate 360° virtually immediately - when it is mutually valuable and competitively advantageous to do so, built on the principles of a trust-based customer relationship.

This is a sponsored post in the Master Report series written by Oliver Spalding, head of CRM, APAC from DigitasLBi