2023 is the year everything becomes an ad network – here’s what it means for marketers
A new generation of ad networks – like retail media networks (RMNs) – is opening up huge opportunities for those with enough customer data to capitalize on the trend. But it is also adding significant complexity to the digital landscape. When everything is an ad network, how do brands navigate this new, potentially fragmented multi-publisher world? For The Drum's 2023 Predictions Deep Dive, Acxiom’s David Skinner, chief strategy officer, explores some answers.
The diversification of media is a major trend in digital marketing, and everyone seems to be getting in on the advertising action and setting up on the supply side, i.e. becoming a media network. And no industry is exempt — from mobility brand Uber and premium streaming service Disney+ to major hotel chains like Marriott.
The most notable rise is in retail media networks (RMNs), which remained a key topic at CES this year as yet more partnerships in the space were announced. RMNs allow brands to reach a retailers’ customers with relevant advertising across its digital channels, based on privacy-compliant, first-party customer data.
The success of RMNs is partly due to their ability to connect with potential customers when they are researching or considering a purchase, rather than when they are reading news articles or scrolling through social feeds. In fact, according to our recent report, which explores the top five CX trends for 2023, 55% of businesses believe RMNs will deliver higher conversion rates because adverts appear when consumers are actively shopping and willing to spend. And it’s part of the reason why RMNs aren’t just for retail anymore.
“Everything as an ad network” isn’t an altogether new trend, but it’s gaining momentum at a rapid clip and continually morphing. And, as the loss of third-party cookies and mobile advertising IDs makes the opportunity to leverage first-party data more attractive, we’re now hitting the wider part of the adoption curve. While the trend itself is often talked about, its impact on the brands running marketing campaigns across the ecosystem is less widely discussed. With 2023 well underway, this situation must change. It’s time to consider the new capabilities marketers will need to build to operate successfully in this new multi-publisher model.
Navigating a new world of complexity
If you’re a bigger brand that has the data and inventory to make it work, you might consider playing publisher and setting up your own ad network to take advantage of media diversification. But for the majority of brand marketers, the new era will mean navigating increasing complexity as you try to reach audiences across an ever more fragmented publisher landscape.
Reaching an audience is harder now than it was with the traditional walled gardens. When everyone could go through a few walled gardens, like Google, Meta, and Amazon, to reach customers or prospects it was like one country doing business with another through an international agreement – something like the European Union free trade agreements. But imagine what happens when such an agreement breaks up, and countries have to create individual agreements and relationships with each entity. That’s what this shift toward a more complex multi-publisher world feels like to me.
As marketers learn to operate planning, buying, and measurement with an increasing number of players, I see three key areas of complexity emerging:
You used to be able to rely on around five sets of “pipes” to reach your audience. This might have been a DSP such as The Trade Desk, a LiveRamp connection, and a handful of the larger walled gardens, perhaps Meta, TikTok, and YouTube. With the growth of RMNs and other proprietary ad networks you now have dozens of connections to handle, and this figure is only set to grow.
Audience modeling complexity
Until recently, the algorithms for targeting audiences largely sat within the walled gardens and DSPs, but as the landscape evolves these will need to be managed elsewhere. With media buys spread across more platforms, you need the ability to build audience response models for each individual network.
While the availability of measurement metrics has always varied significantly by platform, you could generally rely on the core metrics, of unique reach, frequency, and conversions. With a proliferation of publishers and their potentially overlapping audiences, established reach, frequency, and conversion measurement is being called into doubt. The need to “de-duplicate” and rationalize results from dozens of publishers will drive the need for new metrics. Regression models and other statistical approaches for working across large data sets will likely complement or potentially replace user-level metrics.
Brands are turning to emerging technologies
Navigating this new complexity, and operating effectively in a changed landscape, will be made easier this year by the emergence of a variety of technologies. There are three emerging and evolving technologies we believe marketers must consider:
1. Clean rooms
The clean room segment of the market is growing rapidly, driven by brands seeking a one stop shop (or at least a few one stop shops) to address connection complexity and collaboration opportunities.
2. Heterogenous IDs
Solutions are emerging that allow brands to work across multiple IDs and stitch them together into an owned first-party identity graph, enabling one to target and measure with consistency across disparate identity spaces.
3. Hyperscaled data science tools
Chief data officers are centralizing data and digital exhaust in large, licensed environments to support increasingly complex modeling and measurement needs in a do-it-yourself environment.
There’s little doubt diversification of media networks brings exceptional opportunities to reach engaged audiences with respectful, relevant, and timely messaging. But the trade-off will be an increasingly complex and fragmented ecosystem where you may have to take on the management of more capabilities.
Throughout 2023 and beyond, we’ll see the deployment of these newer technologies reach the broad part of the adoption curve. This will make the new multi-publisher world easier for marketers to navigate, enabling you to take better advantage of new networks to connect with audiences and deliver the customer growth and retention results you are counted on for.
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Acxiom is a customer intelligence company that provides data-driven solutions to enable the world’s best marketers to better understand their customers to create better experiences and business growth. A leader in customer data management, identity, and the ethical use of data for more than 50 years, Acxiom now helps thousands of clients and partners around the globe work together to create millions of better customer experiences, every day. Acxiom is a registered trademark of Acxiom LLC and is part of The Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (IPG). For more information, visit Acxiom.com.Find out more