There is no doubt the performance marketing industry has changed dramatically over the last few years. We’re in the middle of a revolutionary wave - one that is having a profound impact on marketing professionals as well as the people that help get their campaigns off the ground.
Two recent and personal experiences of this shift spring to mind. The first was seeing Adobe TV adverts during the Ryder Cup on Sky Sports. These types of spots are not all that new but until now had been confined to online-only, B2B environments. When you see B2B technology for marketers specifically, promoted in mainstream TV, you know the market is moving.
The second is the recent change within the IAB to recognise that rather than having separate councils for affiliate, lead generation and email, there should be an all-encompassing group for performance marketing. This is important because it signifies the changing dynamics in our industry. Performance marketing is no longer a disparate band of channels completely separate from each other.
Marketers cannot afford to look at the elements of their activity as unrelated silos and therefore as an industry we cannot either. There is debate within the IAB on what constitutes ‘performance marketing’. The fact this is both occurring and, at present, ill-defined says a lot about the changes we’ve experienced in the last few years. The programmatic landscape is bringing fast and ever increasing developments to all in our industry, the task of customer acquisition encompasses so much more today than it ever has before, and the channels that serve it now are diverse and hard to define.
We are engulfed in a sea of change and these are the three big issues:
First and foremost, we have to accept that the days of easy delineation between marketing channels have been and gone. Customer acquisition is not the preserve of one or two main channels of activity. Customers are using ever increasing means to source information on their purchases and the range of effective acquisition routes reflects this. Not one channel or route has the answer; it is a collective solution and quite often enhanced by a collaborative approach, with channels working in tandem to drive a prospect to the point of acquisition. Marketers cannot afford to look at one segment to solve all their acquisition needs; they need the full customer view and they need a collective solution to deliver this.
The marketing world we live in now is where everything is being joined together. While this may not be possible in some areas (live event ROI being linked to PR activity, for example), there is certainly a desire to make it happen. This means that if you’re not integrating with other parts of the performance marketing mix, you’re probably going to struggle.
The modern marketers’ tech stack is linking all facets of customer and prospect communication. CRM, DMPs, DSPs, analytics, lead management platforms, call centre platforms, email platforms - they are are all set to connect in an attempt to understand the relationship between each other and to optimise budgets. Whether we’re publishers, data owners, affiliates, agencies or technology providers, we must innovate and find ways to understand the relationship and role we play in helping marketers achieve acquisition success. If we don’t, these professionals will simply find someone else who can.
There has been a vast amount of hype and more recently a fair amount of negativity about the way in which programmatic in particular has tried to become the answer to all of our problems.
There is no doubt that some players in the real-time bidding space have overplayed their abilities and used a few ‘smoke and mirrors’ tactics to get in on the action. RTB is not going to solve every issue. This however should not detract from the big picture. Real-time processes are here and here to stay. Marketers that are seeing the benefits will only seek to increase their breadth and use this across the board.
One of the main drivers in this real-time change is the use of APIs. The API is becoming the standard transfer mechanism for marketing data. It is the quiet master of the marketing revolution, working away in the background without people paying too much attention. However, APIs are enabling unbelievable change in the way we process, integrate and analyse marketing data instantly. Data sources that had to be looked at in separation can now be accessed and viewed in real time, enabling platforms to talk to each other and marketers to get insight they never thought possible. Information can be viewed all in one place and routed to wherever it is needed and in the structure and format it is needed in.
The critical part, though, is that real time isn’t a current fad or fashion - it is simply a new standard in how marketing works. The need is clear. If you’re not working in real-time now, you need to plan on how you will.