It’s Time to Pull Back the Curtain on Black Box Solutions

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A common theme throughout this year’s programming at Advertising Week in New York has been the importance of trust and transparency in our business. We all know that something is missing, so coming out of the week, let’s stop making excuses.

Digital marketing companies boast their ability to reach individuals with personalized messages that move the needle for brands. Why then is it so difficult to give those brands greater visibility into the delivery and performance of digital marketing programs? Persistent lack of transparency in this area has eroded trust between clients and their digital partners over time. Remedying that trust should be at the top of every marketers’ to-do list heading into 2019.

Restoring trust starts by acknowledging a few pain points.

I hear a common theme from consumer brands: They feel trapped. Brands feel that part of their digital ad spend must be allocated to the walled-garden platforms. Ad spend on the platforms seems to support this, with more than 60 percent of digital ad spend going to the two platforms in 2017 according to eMarketer. At the same time, brands struggle with the fact that these companies forcibly couple media delivery and measurement. Not only that, they’re limited in what data they can see and unable to validate the results their partners are sharing with them.

Now, there are platforms in the market that provide clients with some transparency. These platforms sound great on the surface, offering brands channels outside of the walled gardens to message their customers. They also provide clients with a look under the hood to see the performance of their campaigns. Here’s the catch: these platforms struggle with accurate identity and scalable cross-device identity.

And that’s the problem: clients lack control. They are forced to choose between non-transparent, people-based platforms or transparent platforms with little scale or accuracy.

Brands are fighting for people-based platforms that are transparent, scalable and accurate. All three pieces are important.

People-based platforms assure brands that the individuals they believe they are reaching and measuring are accurate. It’s not good enough to rely on probabilistic models that join cookies and device IDs together. Identification at scale enables brands to recognize and reach their customers across all channels and devices. This is more important than ever as people’s browsing habits takes them from one device to the next. And direct access to a platform offers full transparency to consumer insights at an individual level. It also allows brands to understand and validate attribution, understand path to purchase, and measure performance across all media partners, including social platforms.

In short, brands want the ability to decouple media delivery from measurement, so they have control over strategic decisions based on what the data is telling them—not their partners.

It’s within our power to give brands the tools they need. During my own “Back to Basics” session, Epsilon SVP of Database Solutions Carl Madaffari and I focused on giving attendees some of the tools needed to hold their digital media partners accountable. That included references to a recent blog post I authored on questions to ask when you’re evaluating your DMP as well as Conversant’s new self-serve analytic platform, Mesobase. In lifting the curtain on black box solutions—whether it’s giving clients access to their data or arming them with knowledge–not only will the industry begin to restore the trust that has diminished in recent years, but it will drive new opportunities for innovation in the years to come.

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