Is Asia Ready for the Coming Data Revolution?

Revolutions, by their very nature come quickly and boldly. Whether revolutions fail, or lead to a coup d’etat, they are a sign that all is not well within the regime. In online display advertising, we are facing a revolution. The revolution is audience, and data is the key underlying factor.

It has been said, ‘data is the new oil’. This line of thought speaks of a coming age of business that will be led by better client understanding (and possibly empathy) springing from data collected or purchased about the client or the prospect. It seems that online display advertising might be the beachhead in this assault.

We can see from international markets that new types of companies are emerging. Data optimizers, DMPs (data management platforms), and data aggregators. Direct marketing is truly beginning to impose itself on display ads in ways we have only dreamed of.

The method behind this is not a new trick. It’s hugely underutilised but far from new. The trick is retargeting. We know we should do it, but rarely seem to build it into our campaigns. Now there are companies that make this easy: data optimizers. These companies work with your data. They help you collect it. They help you use it for insights and retargeting.

If your own data does not have sufficient scale, then you can utilise third-party data. The companies in this space have leveraged either traditional direct marketing databases or online behavioural data to build targets for online display advertising. These companies are the data aggregators. Leaders in this space like Bluekai and Exelate help advertisers find demographic or behavioural groups to target on the ad exchanges or DSPs.

These new forms of media buying, offered by the exchanges and DSPs, are where the rubber really meets the road. An exchange offers wide reach in virtually any market. The DSPs offer access to multiple exchanges and multiply this advantage. Where pin-point targeting and massive reach (matched with high frequency) come together is the marketer’s dream. This can reduce the waste in advertising campaigns, improve the ROI, and put the messages on target. This is done smarter and with cross-campaign frequency control. The benefits are obvious.

What about ad placement? What about environment? I hear you ask. These are good questions and are being addressed in a number of ways. Ad placement can be a very good tool in branding campaigns. Specific placement may not be able to offer a comparable ROI to data-targeted display ads, so a choice needs to be made by the marketer on this. Environment is much easier controlled with contextual targeting tools and enhanced content classification.

In the U.S. and U.K., they have taken different paths on the quality control issue. This is a matter that is yet to be resolved in Asia. We all want to be sure that we are getting what we pay for from an exchange or network without any nasty surprises.

In the U.K., they have IASH, an independent party to oversee the operation of networks. In the U.S., marketers use third-party verification companies like The Media Trust and DoubleVerify. Both approaches seem to yield results. To me, this indicates a point in online display advertising’s history where we are ready to abandon the home page ad and concentrate on a more systematic approach using all of the resources we have on hand.

So where are we in Asia?

I am not yet aware of any companies selling third-party targeting data in Asia yet. I am sure that the traditional data companies (active in Asia) like Acxiom and Experian are looking into it. The Asian direct marketing data companies may also spring up with product quickly.

What is most likely is that we will begin to look first to our own data and begin to retarget the ways we probably should have been doing already.

The revolution that is coming is something we can use to bring us closer to our customers. Closer than we could have imagined a few years back. Taking our resources and putting them to use in our marketing is not just sensible, it’s kind of obvious in hindsight. Data is already reshaping online marketing. Asia is ready to join this revolution.

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.