2016 has been alive with talk of complete consumer data sets. This is taking us to the advertising holy grail of delivering automated and optimised ads with dynamic creative for the perfect, personalised message. However, complete data sets are even more valuable than their ability to create fully integrated ad campaigns. There is a much bigger opportunity open to the creative industries if we think like a startup and behave as a service.
Smart entrepreneurs look beyond incremental improvement of a process to build bespoke solutions for the core needs of the consumer. Understanding, quantifying and tracking the customer journey is now the catalyst for marketing innovators to eliminate friction or re-invent the sector completely. Until now, advertising has played an intermediary role in the process rather than a solution in itself.
Media, as any touchpoint, now has the capability to address consumer challenges directly and not only optimise the ad message we can deliver. Very often this is simplifying the connection between brand and consumer or removing stages in the customer journey. Creating content and experience across the whole customer experience is at the forefront of this evolution but there is a lot more to come. Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) and AI will have an even more fundamental impact on our ability to directly meet consumer needs and so drive commercial performance. Tesco’s release of “If this, then that” frictionless shopping service is only the start. This evolution of the ad industry from an ad centric to service centric model has huge implications on how we operate.
We need a new way of thinking and behaving. We need to have a generalist commercial view for the whole customer journey and identify specialist contributions at each stage. We need to truly think, act and be trusted as business partners rather than advertising suppliers.
To deliver this new mindset we need a completely fresh view of organisation structures, leadership and new business skillsets in agencies and clients. This is something that business consultancies are leading a march on but they are less skilled in the detail of delivering marketing solutions. The ad industry needs to work out how to lead all of these disparate parts into one collective view centred on adding value and service along the customer journey.
Most importantly we need to consider our relationship with consumers and their data. The more closely we provide personalised services to consumer the more we have to be transparent and collaborative with the data we hold. Whether the ultimate outcome of this is to takes us to an evolution of Uber and Airbnb to a sharing economy of personal data is something we shall wait and see. However, an involved consumer has the potential to provide the most complete data and a relationship to work closely with brands for mutual benefit.
We’ll never go back to a full service agency model because that was based on solely on advertising. We are heading to a place of collective planning built around a more engaged, service orientated relationship with consumers. We need to learn new skills and techniques to be in the game or risk be superseded by those who have the skills to produce better commercial results across the whole consumer journey.
Steve Edwards is executive director, head of beyond, at Manning Gottlieb OMD