Mapping the Future of Media Buying

I had the opportunity to sit down with Ben Fox, EVP of Adconion Media Group’s Magnify Platform, a few weeks back and we shared a long discussion on the future of many things digital. For the past year, Fox has been on the road sharing his thoughts on how digital media buying and selling infrastructure is evolving, not only in how money is being earmarked, but the impact of digital advertising on consumers and brands.

While there were a number of great takeaways from our conversation, Fox’s overall perspective on the digital media buying process is invaluable. At the center of media buying today is that most advertisers need a combination of unique ad types, analytics, and targeting tools to get the job done. In short, it’s nearly impossible to create a digital media buying “recipe” because each advertiser has different ingredients.

During the past decade the process used to get digital ads in front of target audiences has gone through a phenomenal evolution. The process of buying media directly from publishers has given way to automated systems that tie advertisers together with available inventory. Not only are today’s ad ops faster, but generally more efficient, measurable, and effective.

However, at the core of everything that is advertising is the fundamental need to get the right message in front of the right consumers. Without that necessary first step, nothing else marketers do matters.

While audience targeting is the doorway into reaching the right consumers, it is the responsibility of today’s media buying teams to make sure that the message being put forth by the creative teams is the message that the audience will be most interested in.

The main challenge here is that there is often a disconnect between what the creative team comes up with, what the media buying or automatic ad distribution systems are targeting against, and the real needs of the consumers who see the ads. If any particular link in the chain is too weak, the marketing just doesn’t work.

Here are a few takeaways from my conversation with Fox that may help to strengthen the existing models over the next few years to assure that better targeting takes place automatically:

  • None of this is magic. Just because you have a budget and can set up an automatic media buying system doesn’t mean that the job is being done right. You still need to closely monitor what’s happening. You still need to know who is seeing your message and, perhaps most importantly, what is taking place after the message is seen?
  • We’re entering an age where trying to define different media types is getting more complicated. The boundaries surrounding traditional media and those of digital will continue to blend. The concepts of media channels like “newspaper” or “radio” will fragment even further and may start to include generalized concepts such as newspapers representing not only traditional print-based media but also digital channels like Boston.com or even blogs that have achieved “journalistic” stature like HuffingtonPost.com. Radio is starting to fragment to include traditional terrestrial radio channels and also new venues like Spotify and Pandora. Furthermore, how we define these channels is also going to depend on the continuing rise of mobile devices and channels. For media buyers, this fragmentation represents a number of new considerations and tools.
  • Where we are today in regard to automated media buying and the whole media data interchange is nowhere near maturity. Fox estimates that we still have at least another 20 years to go before everything lines up and the systems we are building today are able to consistently give marketers a clear value exchange.

The networks, channels, value-added resellers, and demand-side platforms are going to change and the famous “LumaScapes” will continue to evolve as well. We’re getting ever closer to automated systems that can get the right message to the right consumer every time but for now we still have a lot of planning to do.

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