Digital yet to realise true potential

2 October 2014

LONDON: A significant amount of the time and money being spent on digital advertising is wasted because of marketers' incorrect assumptions and inadequate execution, a leading industry figure has said.

Writing in the 50th anniversary issue of Admap, which looks ahead to the future of brand communications, Ben Wood, global president of iProspect, the digital performance arm of the Dentsu Aegis Network, argued that digital's potential would only be fully realised by combining the science of programmatic with the art that people can bring.

The current state of play, however, was far removed from that possible future. In an article titled The end of dumb digital marketing, Wood highlighted the shortcomings of digital advertising, from clumsy retargeting of ads that displayed products he'd already bought, to irrelevant social media ads based on his social graph.

"Our assumptions about [digital marketing] are wrong, and its implementation is poor at best," he said.

People do not remember online ads, he continued, so the quality of creative needs to be improved. And repeated exposure to the same ad simply annoys consumers so frequency of exposure has to be addressed.

At the heart of the problem Wood identified with programmatic trading was "data synchronicity" and the habit of storing consumer information in silos – online behaviour being aggregated in one vertical, mobile in another, and offline in a third.

That simply fails to take account of a typical consumer journey, which might involve online research and offline purchase. But the online data calls for that consumer to continue to be targeted with advertising.

"The loop hasn't been closed," said Wood. This means that money is wasted and consumers wonder why they're being shown now irrelevant ads and brand equity may even be eroded as a result.

Combining data sets and moving from a cookie-based approach to universal IDs would, he suggested, greatly improve targeting and optimisation for individual consumer journeys.

Similarly, the metrics marketers rely on had to change from the blunt instruments of cost-per-acquisition or cost-per-sale. "We need to optimise to the lifetime value of individual customers, to the margin of individual sales, to the depth of engagement," Wood added.

And he cautioned against over-relying on technology, important and vital as it was. "It is always, always, people that make the difference," he asserted, it's they who bring "that intangible magic".

Data sourced from Admap