The advertising landscape has evolved dramatically since Google launched its first ad in 2000. Today advertisers, agencies and publishers operate in an ecosystem that is very heavily driven by technology, and, nominally at least, data.
Speaking at Google Ads event in Johannesburg today, Hitch Digital Group GM Nicky van der Meulen said that what makes digital marketing and programmatic powerful is data. “For example, you can take an advertisers information on who bought which of its products in the past month and use that to overlay it in your ad targeting to give different content to different users to make it more relevant,” she says, “rather than sending a blanket message to everyone.”
The challenge the industry faces, she says, is that advertisers either don’t know what data they have, they don’t use it properly, and/or they don’t want to sell their audience data (with personal identifiers redacted) because they don’t want the competition to access the insights it provides.
“Agencies and brands,” Van der Meulen says, “are the reason for ad blockers because they serve the wrong content. We are our own worst enemy. It is up to the publishers, agencies, and Google’s of the ecosystem to educate brands and clients about giving consumers the right content at the right time on the right platform.
“Consumers see content because someone loaded it into the system – if the people seeing it shouldn’t be seeing it we need to address that. We need to use the technology properly to give a useful and relevant ad experience to users.”
Relevance, she says, is critical. And the technology enables brands to target their advertising in very granular fashion, whether by keyword, location, device, apps, time of day.
“You can target based on whether the user is on wifi or in a carrier area. This is very important in Africa where network quality is bad and data is expensive. People in many areas cannot afford to watch your video. Advertisers need to be cognisant of that. Using the targeting tools you can select to only show a video ad if the user is in a wifi area, and show different content if they’re in a carrier area. Deploying those smart, strategic tools allows us to get better results. We need to understand our countries and our markets, and our content needs to talk to that.”
Content creation, however, is expensive. Granular targeting needs content to support it, as each variable may require a different content element. Additionally, targeting based on more and more variables increases the time taken to get that content to market, something brands don’t always have or want to take.
“As an industry,” she comments, “we need to address these challenges. If advertising become more relevant, people use ad blockers less. Better targeting, better content, higher levels of personalisation all help. If it speaks to me in that moment I will click on it. People get irritated when brands throw generic content at us.”
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