Data-driven marketing isn't just the strategy du jour, but the future of online advertising, and marketers need to get on board.
We've been hearing for years that digital advertising is headed toward a data-driven model. The term "banner blindness" is spoken in hushed tones as if it's a malediction that could instantly doom a campaign. Consumers, we're told, are over traditional online ads, more interested in brand stories than clicking a box on a screen. Brands must find a way to make their ads more relevant. More personal. More effective.
Paige O'Neill, chief marketing officer (CMO) of technology and optimization company SDL, recently wrote that traditional campaigns are "extinct." Millennials, she says, don't follow an established purchasing path. I'd venture to say the same is increasingly true of all consumers. We're using multiple screens and devices to access digital content, slipping in and out of different channels on a dime. Our attention is as fragmented as the media we consume. Campaigns that fold in usage and behavioral data to create and deliver more relevant ads can allay some of the challenges of connecting with customers online.
And marketers know it.
Last year, data activation system BlueKai tracked a 227 percent increase in companies spending more than one-fifth of their budget on data-driven marketing. Recently, the Direct Marketing Association reported 78 percent of brands using data-driven marketing are "confident in the practice and its prospects for future growth."
A new study from Adobe has also emerged in support of data-driven ads. Top-performing global companies, it seems, have something in common: they rely on marketing optimization.
In general, survey respondents - particularly those considered to be high performers -embrace testing and routinely target their content to optimize their campaigns. Adobe says that campaign personalization is important to ensuring potential customers are fully engaged with brands online. The one-size-fits-all ad strategy of the past is outdated. Internet users have become accustomed to a personalized experience, and expect brands to deliver it.
There are plenty of ways in which to do it. This week, rich media ad platform provider Jivox launched a new tool that allows brands to automate the production and delivery of their rich media ads. Jivox IQ Data Engine lets clients access data from data management platforms (DMPs) and merge it with user data of their own. The Data Engine can be used for retargeting as well as ad personalization, and allows brands to "crunch massive amounts" of demographic and behavioral data to create an optimized impression every time.
"To have a meaningful impact, brands need to serve ads that are as customized and engaging as possible, and the more data that's used, the better the results," says Diaz Nesamoney, founder and chief executive of Jivox. "If an advertisement is not relevant to the end user, then it is not far from being a lost impression." In other words, when a brand knows where a consumer sits within the purchase funnel, it's better equipped to be compelling and reduce the risk of irrelevant, wasted impressions.
What's interesting about the data craze is that it's seeping into every part of the online world. Take Mashable's Velocity platform, which taps user data to inform its editorial team about which stories stand to generate the most interest on its site. The Wall Street Journal reports digital agency 360i is slated to receive exclusive, though short-term, access to the tool, which it will use to attempt to gauge what makes content likely to go viral. Since Mashable started using Velocity in 2012 as a way to analyze the value and potential popularity of its stories, monthly visits to the site have increased by more than 50 percent.
It would be naïve of us to think that the digital world could evolve into what it is today without affecting the ad ecosystem in immeasurable ways. Sites have changed, channels have changed, and so too have consumers. Data-driven marketing isn't just the strategy du jour, but the future of online advertising.
And that future is looking bright.
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Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.
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