Over the last 10 years, building an advertisers’ marketing tech stack has been quite a simple affair. The core components have for a long time been web analytics, an ad server, and options around a search platform, a social platform, a creative platform and a DMP.
In all, this often means that the ad server or analytics package doubled up as the glue and single source of truth.
Two vendors dominated this space; Google’s DoubleClick stack and Adobe led by Analytics and Audience Manager. However, much has changed in the last 12 months and continues to do so as we move on from the programmatic era into the Omnichannel era. Consequently, advertisers need to update their tech stack to completely understand their marketing performance.
Less of a monopoly
The first change is due to the growth in the number of platforms with which advertisers will want to engage. Google’s dominance of search over the last 10 years meant there has been little need to connect to multiple search engines in most markets.
Combined with the strength of Facebook and all its associated properties, advertisers only needed to manage three or four platforms including their DSP. Now, however, the number of walled gardens has grown dramatically, and continues to do so with Amazon, Snap, Twitter and Tik Tok becoming important in most plans.
Outside of the online world, emerging platforms in crucial growth areas such as in-app, connected TV and digital out of home mean platform usage is growing at an exponential rate.
Crucially, none of these walled gardens are well supported by the Google tech stack leading to a big gap in capability. So if you want to effectively manage five to 10 platforms, advertisers need to look to independent marketing and ad technology to do this. Companies like Kenshoo or Marin are able to manage multiple walled gardens, however a new breed of offering is emerging. Centro, CtrlShift and Albert AI already offer solutions that enable advertisers to manage all online platforms across search, social, display and walled gardens. Expect a new wave of competitors to follow early in this new decade.
Data, data, data
The next change is around data portability, privacy and global regulation. GDPR in Europe primed the pump for change, with California and New York delivering their own versions. But most importantly Safari’s Internet Tracking Prevention (ITP) and the similar approach from Firefox combined with Chrome - announcing they will implement similar methodologies - relying on third party cookies in the ‘20s is no longer an option.
This counts against DMPs that have become reliant on cookies and pressure is now on them to adapt to the new world. Customer Data Platforms are far more effective here because they tie their data back to a user (often an email address) and so they can better control customer consent and personalisation across a range of environments from websites through mobile apps, shopping engines, social sites, connected TV and more.
In the ‘20s, advertisers need an effective CDP (or upgraded DMP) at the heart of their tech stacks if they want to control their consumer's data and properties. mParticle, Segment and Reltio are all well positioned to capitalise this sector.
The final part of the tech stack of the ‘20s is around measurement. For too long, many advertisers have relied on web analytics for measurement. The greatest trick search engines ever pulled was in convincing advertisers that brand search (searches for an advertisers own brand name or names of their products) was a marketing demand channel.
Consider that when a user types in a brand term they already know where they want to go and are simply using the search engine to make the navigation easier.
Now brand search is valuable, but for the most part, it is not about generating demand and so the habit of too many advertisers to attribute to this channel has been an expensive mistake.
Web analytics is highly complicit here as a default attributing sales to the last visit which is most often brand search or direct to site. This massively inflates the value that paid search is adding to demand generation. Is it any wonder that the most used web analytics package is owned by the largest search engine (Google)?
Ad servers have their own issues here with the overvaluing of post impression sales and so attribution becomes vital. The detail here is part of a different post. However, the net result is that in the ‘20s, smart advertisers will either look to ad servers or analytics providers that have powerful attribution systems (Flashtalking for example has invested heavily in Encore attribution).
Alternatively, they will build their own attribution systems internally based on log level data or bring in specialist attribution companies like VisualQ (now part of the Nielsen stack). None of this points towards Google continuing to dominate the market for advanced advertisers as they struggle to attribute outside the Google marketing platform and have no integrations to the crucial walled gardens.
What does this mean?
All of this points to big disruption in the market. Ten years ago, Google looked to own the ad tech ecosystem with its DoubleClick suite. Now, perhaps because of anti-trust, or perhaps because of the growth of walled gardens, Google no longer seems to want to be a one-stop-shop across the whole ecosystem.
Therefore, for enterprise level clients, expect to see Google lose dominance as the Madtech platform of choice.
Surely this will be a great development for the industry to separate the biggest publisher from control of measurement and execution.
Adobe is, in many ways, well-positioned but it is having to plug in gaps due to the changes mentioned, notably around CDP and measurement. This opens the door to others, of the large software companies Salesforce with its acquisitions of Krux, Datorama and Tableau is developing a fine stack of capabilities; and Oracle is looking to bolster its BlueKai DMP with CX Unity as a CDP.
No one though has a complete end to end solution for the ‘20s... yet. Consequently, for technology companies, the start of the decade and a new era marks an exciting time full of opportunity.