Consumers and marketers alike are demanding increased transparency from digital media, so news brands - like other media owners - are pooling resources to create a new kind of digital advertising platform.
Despite traditional media owners having a wealth of high-quality, trusted content, newer digital companies have built a dominant slice of the online ad market. However the advent of ‘fake news’ has raised questions over what types of content can truly be trusted as well as being a reputable environment for brands to advertise in.
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The disconnect comes, Trowell suggested, from the fact that the data sets are siloed – some set aside for retention activities, some for acquisition. But customers don’t behave in the same manner.
Companies need to be taking all the information they have about customers and understanding the whole of their journey, not just whether they might be a new customer or not. Data and channels need to work together holistically to deliver messaging to customers in the right context.
“Cross-channel solutions deliver their maximum value when they merge. If you are not pulling in information about where people are on the journey, which channel or on how they're interacting with it, then you may miss a moment,” Trowell warned.
Systems that share data and build an understanding of where the customer is on that journey means companies can start running triggered, moment-based marketing across multiple channels. But this involves more than just managing large volumes of data at speed. This is the realm of intelligent machines.
“It’s interesting what you can do with artificial intelligence once it has access to the data. [AI and machine learning can] pull in not only structured but also unstructured data about media, and learns from behavioural moments from across channels.” Trowell believes that this approach has saved clients around a 35% reduction in cost per acquisition and a 46% increase in conversions.
The idea of AI rather than marketers being behind all of that growth could be a worrying prospect for human employees, which is something IBM’s strategy lead in support of Acoustic, Nick Noble, acknowledged in a separate Festival of Marketing presentation.
He spoke about a colleague who optimised an email marketing campaign in minutes, to which a senior client had remarked: “What you did in 17 minutes takes my agency people three weeks.” Bye-bye jobs? Happily, Noble added: “AI is not going to destroy jobs. It’s going to change jobs.”
What this means for managing the customer journey - such as discovering those contextual moments Trowell mentioned - is applying human and technological skills in a different, less siloed way.
“If you think you’ve got big data issues, what happens when you’re harvesting data from every single [channel], getting the insight out of it instantly and returning it to the world? That’s a big data problem and humans can’t do that, AI can,” said Noble. But he added: “In combination with us is where the magic happens.”
He urged marketers not to confuse the data journey with the customer journey. Collecting all the data points is the data journey. “You can do customer-centric marketing and be more human when people call up after they’ve had an email. That’s where we think about conversation, not correspondence. It’s all in the timing.”
By using AI to stitch the information together so customers receive contextual messaging, not just a single ad triggered by a single action, companies can use AI to track, understand and service customers intelligently. Layering the human component on top adds creativity and customer understanding. Noble concluded: “Every time, no matter what technology comes along, human and machine wins.”
Fortunately, Reeve pointed out that a shift is happening in terms of digital measurement, towards the “media effectiveness measures” marketers use to evaluate other channels, as opposed to the ad tech metrics that have dominated digital advertising in the past.
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The Telegraph's Chris Forrester on the metrics that matter
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On top of that, recent headlines about viewability, brand safety and ad fraud across a large proportion of digital advertising inventory have raised challenging questions for the industry.
Damon Reeve, CEO of The Ozone Project - a premium publisher collaboration set up to address these challenges in digital advertising - told the Festival of Marketing that the “integrity” of content is more in the spotlight today, as is the appropriate use of data for advertising purposes.
As professional, trusted content creators face up to the market dominance of Google and Facebook, The Ozone Project is building the digital advertising environment of the future, with a focus on “real people and greater attention”. By using news brands’ ad inventory on a ‘platform’ scale, they can compete more effectively, in a transparent and easily accessible way.
Publishers are on a mission to close the gap between advertisers and their businesses, creating a more direct, trusted and valuable relationship within the digital advertising space. But first they have to change perceptions.
Jo Bacon, CMO of Reach - the owner of the Mirror, Express and Star to name a few titles - warned that industry terminology does not help publishers. “There’s a perception gap that it is only the social media brands who have platform ability. Actually news brands, particularly collectively, have a platform ability. We just don’t refer to ourselves using the same language,” she argued.
She added: “One of the things we can do to help ourselves is to think of ourselves as digital platforms with greater power and better control than most social media brands. We operate relevant, credible spaces.”
The panel agreed that thinking creatively about the environments in which ads exist in is critical to their success. As such, they emphasised the need for marketers to work closer with media owners and to design digital experiences which are truly “immersive”, as opposed to aiming to be “disruptive”.
“Audiences don’t want multiple pop-ups,” warned Bacon. “They want your brands to sit seamlessly within the context of an editorially curated experience.”
“Whether in print or online, it is still all about relevant storytelling and getting people to share and discuss our editorial, as well as using the comments pages for valuable user generated content,” he said.
Metro.co.uk assistant editor Claire Eaton-Rutter said the main difference between the print and online worlds is that the online editorial team must ensure a story is up-to-date.
“You need great contacts and must not fall into the trap of just taking stuff off social media,” she said. “We have people working around the world and around the clock keeping the home page refreshed and ensuing Metro is on top of the news.”
The subject of commercialising the data news brands collect was raised, with the panel quick to stress that the editorial product must retain its integrity with readers despite commercial pressures.
The Evening Standard’s Tomchak said every journalist must understand how to use data but not obsess over it or copy will simply become clickbait. “Data must not become the tail wagging the dog because the audience will not understand what you stand for anymore,” he said.
Hough agreed that an over-reliance on data can be dangerous and he disliked any reference to readers as customers. “The reality is we are trying to get money from them, but we have to do that by being true and honest to our editorial roots.”
De Groose added towards the end of the session: “We have two million more readers every day, who are highly engaged in our content. We are innovating in how we deliver the news and it’s working. We are growing multiplatform demand.”
With trust in online media suffering setbacks in recent years, traditional media owners are now setting up platforms to compete with the digital giants
“We’ve started to look at things like scroll speed,” agreed Forrester. “So we are asking ‘Have readers hovered over an advert?’ and ‘How long was the article itself?’ It’s early days for all of us and we’ll probably all start working together on it. We’re getting better at doing that, as an industry.”
Bacon also stressed the benefit of those “direct conversations” between marketers and professional content publishers in order to devise targeted brand strategies. “Build longer-term relationships, rather than coming in and doing one-off campaigns.”
According to Reeve, The Ozone Project will continue to grow in scale and it is currently in talks with other creators of content, such as broadcasters and magazine publishers, in order to provide marketers an opportunity to reach highly attentive audiences in quality environments that will deliver real business results. ■
In the digital era, the right questions are not being asked, with the focus instead tending to be on how cheaply audiences can be delivered, claimed Chris Forrester, The Telegraph’s chief revenue officer.
“[Marketers] often forget to ask questions like ‘Where will it be seen? What frame of mind will the audience be in and on what type of device?’,” he said. “Just because an ad looks the same as it would on a news site - the same shape, the same size - doesn’t mean it’s consumed in the same way.”
Jo Bacon, Reach
There’s a perception gap that only social media brands have platform ability
Reach CMO Jo Bacon on news brands as ad platforms
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Looking to the future of the digital ad market
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