What Is Your Programmatic Agency Not Telling You?
Marketers are becoming increasingly frustrated with ad agencies’ lack of transparency when it comes to programmatic marketing, and AI marketing tools like Albert™ offer a clear alternative.
A study conducted by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) revealed that 40% of the world’s biggest brands conduct programmatic ad buying through an agency trading desk (ATD). And that figure that is likely much higher among smaller companies that don’t have the resources to handle ad buying in-house.
The study found that an overwhelming 90% of the big brands that rely on ATDs for programmatic ad buying were dissatisfied with their agency partner and in the process of reviewing and resetting their contracts. This dissatisfaction seems to stem largely from the opaque, convoluted business practices that are common among programmatic agencies. When asked if they felt that ATDs are more or less transparent than traditional methods of media buying, 76% of companies responded “less.”
This would be problematic enough if companies generally had a sense of what was going on “behind the scenes” of their ad campaigns. But data from Circle Research indicates that 44% of companies currently buying ad space on mobile have either “little” or “no” understanding of how programmatic advertising on mobile devices works. In other words, many companies rely on agency partners to manage their programmatic ad buying without having the background knowledge necessary to keep their agencies honest.
Suspect Incentive Structures
For instance, even experienced marketers are often shocked to find that the organization that actually supplies the ad space for their campaigns only receives a typical 20 cents of the $5 CPM rate they pay to their agency. To be fair, this discrepancy is just as much a result of an overly complex ad network infrastructure as it is of programmatic agency greed, but regardless of who’s to blame, the end result is clear: companies are forking over sums far larger than the true value of the ad space they receive.
Unfortunately, this is actually a best-case scenario for many companies dealing with an ATD. As the ANA’s explosive 2016 Media Transparency Report highlighted, it is troublingly common for ad space providers to give cash rebates to programmatic agencies based on the amount of business the agencies funnel their way.
As a result, the ANA report explained, “[Companies] were sometimes pressured or incentivized by their agency to direct ad spend to [specific] media, regardless of whether such purchases were in the [company’s] best interests.” When ATDs are allowed to conduct programmatic ad buying according to this incentive structure, the likelihood of bad outcomes related to brand safety, ad viewability, and bot fraud skyrockets.
Moving Beyond ATDs
Fortunately, it appears as though ATDs and the media providers that abet them are finally starting to face a serious backlash for failing to increase the transparency of their operations.
According to a recent Metamarkets study, 41% of marketers claim that they won’t significantly increase their programmatic ad spend until transparency within the industry improves. This is not to suggest that programmatic ad buying itself is on its way out: 74% of marketers also claim that if programmatic buying becomes more transparent, they will expand their programmatic budgets by somewhere between 11% and 50%. That means that ATDs now have a very real incentive to clean up their act.
This pressure will only increase as more and more marketers begin to realize that artificial intelligence (AI) tools like Albert™, the world’s first fully autonomous marketing platform, enable them to bring ad buying and ad placement operations in-house.
Albert is an end-to-end “glassbox” tool, and his latest upgrade — Inside Albert — lets marketers take a peek behind the scenes of each and every campaign that he is running at any time. With Albert, marketers enjoy all of the benefits of working with an ATD without the all of the hassle and lack of transparency.
Unless programmatic agencies make a concerted effort to improve the transparency of how they go about their business, platforms like Albert will increasingly become the go-to option for small startups and multinational enterprises alike.
Eliminating Gender-Based Biases Through Artificial Intelligence
AI will come to influence our work culture in innumerable ways in the coming decades. If it’s programmed correctly, that influence could be a positive one for gender equity.
Newly released Census Bureau data indicates that encouraging progress has been made in the fight to close the gender pay gap in the United States. On average, women earned 80.5% as much as their male counterparts in 2016 — a figure that, while equally outrageous on its face, is the highest female-to-male earnings ratio ever reported.
Unfortunately, this incremental bump applied only to white and Asian women; since the 2008 recession, wages for Hispanic women have remained stagnant, and wages for black women have declined.
The question for business leaders, then, is how to accelerate this slow progress so that every woman is fairly compensated for the work that she does. As the technology rapidly advances, experts are positing artificial intelligence as a potential tool for achieving this goal.
Overcoming Ingrained Biases
Sexist assumptions are at play in every task that involves subjective decision-making, even if one has been extensively trained in making unprejudiced choices. For instance, according to the World Health Organization, doctors are more likely to diagnose depression in women than in men, and women are 48% more likely than men to be prescribed psychotropic drugs.
The medical profession is just one example of a workplace negatively impacted by sexist assumptions. In order to counteract those assumptions, we need to minimize their role in the diagnostic process.
Encouragingly, advances in healthcare-oriented AI have the potential to remove much of the subjective bias from the diagnostic process. Nvidia’s DGX-1 deep learning system, for example, can compare a single patient’s medical history to data drawn from the medical records of thousands of similar patients, making it easier to identify and understand critical risk factors and, ultimately, offer better, more accurate diagnoses.
If properly developed and deployed, AI can be remarkably effective at guiding critical decision-making processes in such a way that largely neutralizes human biases, and healthcare is but one example among many. Any process that pivots on subjective judgment calls — from hiring and promoting, to criminal sentencing, to college admissions — stands to benefit from the integration of AI technology.
The Importance of Conscious Programming
It is critical, however, to highlight the importance of responsible, attentive AI development. Even the most advanced AI system is grounded in code written by human programmers who, like all of us, are affected by a variety of learned biases. When these biases find their way into an AI’s underlying code, the AI tends to amplify them instead of counteract them, often with deeply troubling results.
As such, the development community has a responsibility to incorporate as many diverse backgrounds and perspectives into the programming process as possible. When it comes to eliminating gender biases, that starts with involving more women and people of color in the programming of AI systems. If systems designed by a diverse programming industry are deployed across all sectors of the economy in the coming years, we can fairly expect to push our society towards a more equitable future.
But while this AI-enabled future is still at least a few years beyond our reach, machine learning is already proving its considerable value in the workplace. For instance, Albert™, the world’s first fully-autonomous AI marketing platform, has helped marketers in a wide variety of organizations better their experiences in the workplace by eliminating much of the data-heavy grunt work associated with modern marketing. That ultimately enables marketers to focus on the things to which the creative human mind is uniquely suited — like generating content and directing strategy.
In the end, the human-machine collaboration facilitated by a tool like Albert should serve as a prime example of the tremendous power of artificial intelligence, and the nearly limitless potential of properly-configured AI technology.
Merging of Martech and Adtech a Boon for Marketers, Says Forrester
The average marketing tech stack has grown exceedingly complex, but new tools offer marketers a way to simplify their operations and gain more control.
Marketing has become increasingly difficult since the digital revolution transformed the industry. The internet has provided companies with numerous new ways to reach and engage customers, along with a tremendous volume of useful consumer data. But converting all of this information into really effective, personalized campaigns, in real-time, has proven remarkably difficult.
In recent years, however, the convergence of marketing technology (martech) and advertising technology (adtech) into marketing clouds has begun to eliminate some of the complexities that marketers have encountered in acquiring and retaining customers.
As a recent webinar by Forrester argues, “Marketers, vendors, and agencies will all contribute to and benefit from [this] convergence.” And reducing the number of marketing and advertising tools companies have to use in their day-to-day operations will fundamentally alter the way that companies — and their marketing teams — do business.
Tech Stack Overload
The desire for more consolidated martech and adtech has been a major talking point amongst industry insiders for some time. In a 2015 episode of The Digiday Podcast, Luma CEO Terry Kawaja outlined the problem as follows: “Ask anyone in ad ops or at the agency level and they’ll tell you it’s just too complicated… A more mature industry would like to see these [technologies] as solution sets that are brought together rather than stitched together.”
Kawaja’s point remains as relevant as ever — according to the Forrester webinar, 58% of B2C marketers want to reduce the number of tech vendors they use, but fewer than 20% believe they can actually get what they need from a single vendor.
Merging the functionalities of adtech, which facilitates the buying and selling of ad space, with those of martech, which manages customers, analytics, and content, is the ultimate goal. But until recently, the bevy of tools needed to perform these functions across a wide range of channels hadn’t always integrated with each other so well. The promise of a converged world is that it will allow marketers and ad-side professionals to use the same tools to manage the customer journey from first contact all the way through conversion.
The Value of Consolidated Technology
This seamless, end-to-end approach to marketing and sales has become even more important as consumer expectations have shifted. Even the most loyal consumer has come to expect a highly personalized, nearly one-to-one brand experience. With the incredible amount of data available to the modern marketer, this is an expectation that can be met, but not without a mastery of the consumer journey that is only made possible by incorporating insights from the advertising side of the equation.
This is where a converged toolset becomes tremendously valuable. By breaking down the informational silos in which marketing teams and ad/media teams traditionally operate, it enables marketers to make decisions based on ad performance data they otherwise couldn’t access.
A lack of transparency has long plagued the marketer-media buyer relationship, making it difficult for marketers to understand how effective their campaigns are across different target audiences and channels. With a good converged tool, this information is automatically collected and documented right alongside the consumer persona data that marketers use to craft cohesive cross-channel, cross-device experiences.
Leading the Way in the Convergence Revolution
At the end of the webinar, Forrester predicts that the near future will see “tech silos break down, and we’ll continue to see martech vendors lead the convergence by buying and consolidating with some adtech capabilities to give clients access to everything they need.” In many ways, Albert™, the world’s first fully-autonomous marketing platform, represents the first product of this convergence.
Yet Albert is also more than just a product of the martech-adtech merger — he was built from the ground up to provide marketers with a comprehensive, end-to-end view of their customers’ journeys through the purchasing funnel. By leveraging powerful AI capabilities like machine learning and predictive analytics, Albert is able to draw correlations between a company’s consumer profiles and the performance of its ad campaigns.
Insofar as Albert empowers marketers to handle everything at once — from first contact to final touchpoint — he perfectly embodies the spirit of this convergence revolution. Marketers are tired of having to stitch together complex stacks and a tool like Albert offers a way to simultaneously consolidate one’s toolset and gain greater end-to-end control of the process.
How Can You Engage Customers Through Powerful Digital Experiences?
Each of your customers is unique, and each has different expectations and needs when it comes to experiencing your brand. Here’s how you can offer every one of them a unique digital experience.
“Customer experience” is a term that practically everyone in the business world is using, but is frustratingly difficult to define. Some might think of a seamless smartphone interface when asked to explain what a positive customer experience is, for instance — others might focus on the customer service side of a brick and mortar retail space.
But the fact of the matter is that defining customer experience by a singular interface ignores a fundamental truth about today’s omnichannel market. A customer’s experience isn’t just defined by how much they like your store, or how easily they can access your website. Rather, it’s a grand total of all their interactions with your brand, whether they’re visiting you in person, on your website, or via social media, or reviewing their invoice, or chatting with a customer service representative. As HBR contributor Adam Richardson points out, customer experience isn’t just a snapshot in time: it describes the entire arc of that customer’s engagement.
That being said, digital media is constantly giving us new ways of understanding and engaging with customers, raising their standards for experiences of your brand every day. Even if you already have the in-person experience down to a science, without the proper digital tools, customers will come away feeling that they haven’t received the best possible service. Here are a few suggestions from Lithium Technologies VP Dayle Hall that can help your company deliver the kind of high-quality digital experience your customers are looking for:
1) Be An Active Listener
One of the first things Hall notes in his article is that simply listening to what your customers say isn’t enough — it’s only by engaging in social listening that brands can set themselves apart from the competition. When customers take to social media to voice their feelings or ask a question, writing back goes a long way towards making customers feel like they’re really being heard, even if it’s just to say “thanks!”
2) Create a Conversation
If you’re really looking to curate an impactful online experience, it’s critical that you do the proactive work of creating a conversation with your consumers rather than passively waiting for them to interact with you.
Remember, though, that a monologue is not a conversation. Just posting articles or writing tweets won’t do you any good if there’s no one on the other end who wants to respond to them. This is where the listening can help you: if you’ve been paying attention to the kinds of content your customers want to see, it’ll be much easier for you to encourage debate, prompt questions, and provide them with valuable, personalized insights.
3) Keep Customers on Their Toes
In a seemingly-endless digital sphere, consumers are constantly deluged with new content. That means they’re much harder to surprise and delight, as Hall puts it. In order to create a positive experience, you’ll first have to create a memorable one. Before engaging in any digital action with consumers, Hall recommends asking yourself “will this digital moment make a customer smile?” The key, as with most marketing, is generally to stick to your guns: curate a unique voice and perspective for your brand, and if it’s original and endearing, everything else should follow.
4) Always Have a Plan B
In a perfect world, you’d never have to turn the tide of consumer opinion — in the real world, it’s critical to have a backup plan in case your PR strategy goes awry. The amazing thing about the internet is that you can respond in real-time to consumers, so the minute things get hairy, your first line of defense will always be the digital sphere. Always be ready to turn a not-so-great news story into a positive customer experience.
Powerful Platforms for Powerful Digital Experiences
Of course, when you’re looking to conquer the digital space, it’s helpful to have a high-tech digital solution in place. For the best results, AI-powered marketing platforms like Albert™ create powerful digital experiences by hyper-targeting user segments and catering content based on their specific needs and behavior. By leveraging the use of autonomous digital tools with the ability to detect trends and insights that are all but invisible to the human eye, you can much more efficiently and seamlessly create a positive customer experience, even in today’s crowded media landscape.
Learn more about AI and the Customer Experience in our recent white paper here.