2018 was a hard year for tech giants, and the beginning of 2019 has not been much kinder to the likes of Google and Facebook. The days of marketers placidly placing their ad spend with the two platforms have certainly come to an end, with more and more chief marketing officers and marketing teams questioning the best way to reach their customers and deliver ads to the masses.

While some in the industry have come out strong and suggested marketers should pull their spend from the platforms altogether, the fact remains that they will, and should, form part of a balanced marketing strategy. Many marketers are clearly following this path; the numbers point to the fact that Facebook’s share of the almost $280 billion worldwide digital ad market will have grown to 19.5% as of the end of 2018, trailing Google at 31.5%.

The analogy “you need to fish where the fish are” rings true to an extent – if your customers are using Google, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, then it makes sense that this is where you’ll direct your ad spend. But as anyone who has actually gone fishing will understand, it takes more than just knowing where there is a massive school of fish to actually catch one. You need to recognise what kind of fish they are, and what kind of bait will work.

Back on the solid land of advertising and marketing, that means you need to have access to robust, insightful first-party data that allows you to shape a campaign around your audiences’ behaviour, likes, dislikes and preferences. This is currently the biggest hurdle at which the likes of Facebook and Google fall.

Marketers want more from walled gardens

Sizmek’s survey of more than 500 marketers across the UK and US showed that two-thirds believe that walled gardens are a major block to improving first-party data. That’s a significant chunk of advertisers who think they’re not getting bang for their buck. Without access to this data, how are brands meant to effectively analyse and measure campaigns?

It’s a big question and one that needs to be asked. If a staggering 88% of marketers say they want to own the data created from their own campaigns, clearly there is a reason for brands to start looking elsewhere in the digital landscape for platforms that will deliver better data ownership.

After all, consumers don’t browse the internet with blinkers on; there is an enormous opportunity for advertisers that are willing to follow the gaze of consumers and look outside of the walled gardens.

What marketers really want

Clearly, brands are clamouring for more and better insight into their data. They need to compete for the attention of consumers, and data is the biggest and best way to ensure they are creating the content that counts; and that they are delivering it in the right place at the right time. In fact, the same study showed that 83% said having improved insight into data was a critical or high priority in 2019.

So, what kind of data are people are looking for? Well, when asked which insights they found the most valuable, “understanding audience behaviour” came out on top (92%), followed by “informing overall strategy” (88%) and “viewability” (87%). It’s this information that makes all the difference to whether a campaign is seen by more consumers.

It’s time to take stock of your surroundings

It may be increasingly hard for marketers to navigate today’s complex digital ecosystem, particularly when it comes to improving their campaign effectiveness or increasing the efficiency of their media spend. But it’s high time to start asking the questions of the walled gardens and taking advantage of the plethora of adtech solutions that offer simple, transparent control over the first-party data generated as part of ad campaigns.

Marketers must put themselves firmly in the driving seat and ensure their campaigns are being executed effectively and are delivering meaningful returns on their ad spend. Put simply, if you own your data, you’ll own your future.