While Marshall McLuhan’s “medium is the message” still holds true in the modern world, how companies deliver and interact with customers has changed drastically over the past decade with the proliferation of social media, mobile devices, emerging commercial technologies, and multi-channel accessibility. To succeed in this ever-changing market, it’s mission critical for businesses to transform, adapt, and innovate their marketing operation models and digital infrastructure.
When changes come fast and furious, the stakes are too high to sit still and ignore. As marketing professionals, being nimble and mastering both the art and the science of marketing has become essential and more important than ever before. The good old days of mass marketing that reaches millions of audience members once with the same messaging like we saw in “Mad Men” are long gone. With the advancement in technology and prevalence of the usage of data in marketing and advertising, brands and agencies have profoundly changed the way they approach media strategy and execution, audience insights, and even creative development over the past decade.
Algorithms and machine learning propel the changes and create the environment that marketing professionals live and breathe every day. From programmatic buying and real-time bidding to marketing attribution and ad fraud detection, it’s arguably the most significant driving force in modern advertising. Similar to the way Wall Street trades stocks, media and inventory have become commodities and the best decisions are often (if not always) driven by data and technology. We live in an era where billions of signals about customers are being collected and analyzed in seconds. Machines and data will tell you to which channels they have been exposed, what messages have the most impact on them, and who is more likely to react to your ads. Instead of the silo approach of media planning by media channel, DMPs (Data Management Platforms) provide marketers a singular view of the customer and enable seamless audience insights and cross-channel experience creation.
In the past, we thought machines were all about automation and efficiency while humans dictated the creative side of advertising. Now that’s changing, too. My wife usually did most of the baby shopping online before my son was born. One day, she sent me a product page link from Pottery Barn Kids to get my opinion. For a week after clicking through that link, I was retargeted by several Pottery Barn Kids ads, with the exact crib we looked at in the picture. Our clicks, views, email messages, and online streaming history all become the bread crumbs we leave behind for marketers to find us and serve us with the most relevant message.
Another example is the usage of DCO (Dynamic Creative Optimization), or programmatic creative. This tool is able to assemble and deliver the most relevant creative message to individual audiences based on their behavior and preferences in real time. This could be each marketer’s dream or nightmare; nonetheless, these types of changes and technologies are being used as norms and emerging at a faster pace than most people can imagine.
While data scientists who can leverage these machine learning technologies for advertising purposes are high in demand in recent years, this doesn’t mean you can outsource your job to software. Hybrid models that leverage both technology and the human touch will free up “Mad Men” to produce more innovative yet data driven work. The key here is for marketers to integrate and use the left and right brain to succeed.
As we learn more about data, consumer insights, and storytelling, integrated marketing does not only increase marketing efficiency, but also fuels growth in all disciplines – and in business in general. The firms that stand long and strong are usually the ones that have well-honed approaches and established organizational structures to adapt to and lead the innovations and changes.
When the only constant is change and the change is accelerating, to not be left behind, the question we should ask ourselves is “Are you ready?”
Written by Zheng (Matty) Lin, Director Marketing Science at OMD
Edited by Alaina McEachin, Medill IMC Class Of 2017