To integrate or not to integrate – that was the question raised by a recent ClickZ article examining the reluctance and confusion brands and ad agencies have over publishing to multiple devices. While the piece contained some interesting insights from those struggling with this question, it didn’t really dig into the core reason of why this reluctance and confusion exists.
From my perspective, there are three underlying problems that need addressing before cross-device integration becomes a mainstream trend.
Brands and agencies need one dashboard to compare all their activity across devices and platforms. Today, they buy iPad ads from one agency, online ads from another, and mobile from a third. And all report results differently enough to make it very difficult to compare the results of each channel against each other. That’s a nightmare for anyone trying to apply an ROI to their strategy. So providing unified metrics that illustrate the reach of an ad buy across platforms is a must.
Given the relative nascent stage of ad creation and distribution on devices like mobile and, even more so, tablets, brands tend to deal with different groups of people with “expertise” in each vertical. Even those fortunate enough to employ one agency for all needs still deal with different people at that agency for each different channel. Couple that with the tendency for brands themselves to have people internally with a similar dispersed focus on one area or the other. This makes for a significant barrier to entry, as people familiar with mobile gravitate to mobile solutions, while those focused on tablet will gravitate to tablet strategies.
Today, there are different standards for different devices. For instance, Apple’s iOS platform has a cookies policy that states one can’t track a user across platforms, like you can online. That inhibits behavioral targeting. It’s just one of many technical restrictions that serve more to fragment than unify the market that we hope one day will be resolved.
The common thread among all these issues is fragmentation, which creates silos of familiarity. Brands and agencies familiar with one silo will remain in their comfort zone until they can better understand both how other channels work and how they relate to their area of focus. Until these issues are fixed, brands and agencies will continue to spend their time on money primarily on the formats they understand – those familiar with TV will continue to make TV buys; those into mobile will keep on making mobile buys; and so on. People are afraid of what they don’t understand. Once mobile, tablet, online, and traditional media can be accessed, measured, and deployed on a cross-platform basis, each channel will be easier to understand, and this fear will go away.
The good news is that we can expect to see dramatically greater interest in all three areas this year. I believe 2013 will be the year of cross-platform integration. Or at least the start of it (hey, each of the last 10 years was dubbed the “year of mobile” until it finally happened last year). Google’s TrueView platform is a start. And I’m sure others will soon follow.
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