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Future of advertising: Is it time brands started aspiring beyond the tech giants?

CES 2017: Building the future of advertising

Whether it is Star Wars drones or augmented reality (AR) headsets with floating holograms – the annual Consumer Electronics show (CES) has something for every appetite and this month an estimated 200,000 people were expected to have attended (last year’s was 177,393) to get a glimpse of technologies that have the potential to drastically alter our lives.

But for leading programmatic player WPP’s Xaxis, looking beyond all the technology to make sense of it all has never been more crucial at a time when marketers and brands are struggling to keep up with these rapid advancements and what they mean for their business models. Xaxis uses its technology platform to help advertisers with precise audience targeting and to make better media buying decisions in real-time.

But challenges in the industry remain. The issue of walled gardens continues to be a thorn preventing full leverage of audience data as does making sense of programmatic and leveraging the right technology to personalize customer experiences.

So how can brands do this? Following Xaxis’s acquiring of digital retail advertiser Triad Retail Media, the duo invited top thinkers and leaders in the industry to its special CES event for a series of discussions to address some of these concerns and then to tackle the challenge of building the future of advertising.

Located inside Costa di Mare restaurant in Wynn hotel with a golden fish chandelier and funky decor, attendees had a chance to visit a special exhibition area where they could see holograms of animals and floating planets with augmented reality headset HoloLens. Sponsors Jivox and Videology were also showcasing their latest technologies designed to improve the consumer experience.

But the fun interactivity soon turned serious when it came to speaking about technology’s practical application in advertising. It is easy to look at Google and Facebook as the shiny leaders in this space but how can brands can look beyond them to build their own unique identities and leverage data in the right way to engage consumers like they want to be engaged?

Brands need to return customer loyalty

Apple users are known to be some of the most loyal in the world but does Apple feel the same way? Referring to insights derived from Wunderman’s “Wantedness” study analysing consumer attitudes across all ages towards brands, Seth Solomons, chief executive officer of North America at Wunderman says some of the leading brands that customers typically look up to are not perfect from a marketing standpoint.

“Apple as a marketer really needs to reorient itself to what consumers want from them as opposed to just outsourcing the service and support of that brand and I think they could be more loyal to their customers.

“If you look at Nike, they certainly understand the fabric of an athlete and are tapped into the passions of athletes and make unbelievably powerful products. But from a marketing standpoint, I would argue they are pretty antiquated in their approach,” says Solomons.

Marketplaces offer powerful incentives to utilise customer data

For Bridget Davies, vice president of advertising at eBay, brands need to tap into marketplaces as consumers often begin their shopping journey there: “[The benefits of marketplaces like eBay] is that consumers can find the products that truly inspire them. It’s a much more engaged experience.”

Speaking to the audience, Davies says 20-year-old eBay has a “very open-minded transparent philosophy” and is open to partnering and “sharing data to help brands grow their businesses” with the company.

And what of Xaxis’s new budding relationship with Triad? On the panel discussion with WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell discussing data and the shopper journey, Sherry Smith, global chief customer officer at Triad is confident about what Triad brings to the table as “advertisers trust [Triad] to be their advocate with retailers to ensure that brand messages come across”. At the same time, Smith says Xaxis is the “missing piece” Triad has been looking for.

“Where we have been lacking has been on the technology and the platform side and that’s where we see so much potential with Xaxis. We are incredibly excited about that and I see so much potential ahead,” Smith says.

It’s all about partnership not barriers

Sorrell has been quite outspoken about breaking down closed ecosystems by tech giants Facebook and Google. During the panel discussion, he refers to the announcement of store closures by Sears and Macy’s while Amazon is busy opening a new bookstore. With some brands clearly struggling to adapt while others like Amazon are speeding ahead, legacy business Walmart is one of the few that has managed to adapt – but will need to continually evolve if it wants to remain successful.

“If we don’t change and evolve in the next 50 years, we’re going to go the same way as Kmart,” says Neil Murphy, senior director of marketing at Walmart. “You can see things changing and customers are choosing where they want to shop.”

Does Murphy think the walls will ever come down?

“I believe the walls will be taken down. I think that's the only way forward. It's about true partnership because we need to figure out what the consumer is looking for and together come to them with a solution,” concludes Murphy.

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