Zuckerberg Testimony Will Change Advertising

One of the most amusing aspects of watching Mark Zuckerberg testify before Congress was the wide-ranging knowledge or lack thereof about Facebook ads, and about digital advertising in general. While Zuckerberg sat there for almost two days trying to answer questions completely and explain complex subjects, such as artificial intelligence and the extent it can be useful in detecting fake accounts or fake news, many of the senators and representatives, playing for the galleries, kept asking “gotcha”-type questions that they wanted answered yes or no.

But the big issues, after the Congressional committees got off the initial subject of Facebook Analytica, revolved around selling and collecting data. Most of the questions revealed that Congress actually thought Facebook sold user data, when what it sells is really the ability to target ads narrowly using the data it possesses. Zuck tried to explain and define that several times. This sounds like a minor point, but it is a big distinction that differentiates Facebook from data brokers, and it seemed the one Congress was most focused on after it received assurances that  Cambridge Analytica can’t happen again because the platform is locked down for developers.

For our industry, the other big questions were about the gathering and retention of data. I lost track of how many times committee members asked how soon it would be possible to delete their data. In vain he told them over and over that the feature already existed.  Then, they asked him why the deletion couldn’t take place immediately. But when he began to explain backup servers and why data could be held for a week or two after the account was deleted, they lost interest in the details.

Legislators also asked Zuckerberg about new data protection regulations that are about to go into effect in Europe May 25, and whether Facebook would comply. He said they were already set up to comply. When asked whether American users would get the same protections, Zuckerberg said they would, because Facebook was rolling out GDPR protections globally. But then he was asked whether that would happen on May 25, and he said no.

This hearing opened a big can of worms for the digital advertising industry, or at least for companies that collect and handle user data to be used for advertising. Many larger companies have already begun to comply with GDPR and it would be very difficult  if the US Congress decides to adopt  different set of regulations. That doesn’t seem likely in the near term, as Congress can’t agree on how to regulate these companies, many whom have armies of lobbyists.

Zuckerberg said Facebook was open to regulation, but that the devil was in the details and he’d be glad to be involved in helping Congress regulate the use of personally identifiable information. Of course Facebook has the resources to devote to this.

Zuckerberg may be the visible whipping boy, but whatever is enacted will affect all internet companies that keep data. Look for the rebirth of advertising based on context and content, much like TV ads.






Brands Need Better Data for Attribution Models

Last year brands learned that taking programmatic in-house was more difficult than most of them realized. Many of them found out that they had to hire for skill sets they found unfamiliar. At the same time, they came to the conclusion that programmatic maybe wasn’t the end-all and be-all of media buying. Programmatic does provide efficiency; however, human interaction must still take place for the buys to be brand safe and effective. That’s the part agencies are still able to provide.

Agencies not only know the media better than brands do, but also ad operations and billing. Once you get into the media buying process, there’s a lot of complexity, from trafficking the ads to interacting with the publishers to make sure the ad is served, is viewable, and that the traffic reported is accurate and not fraudulent. Add in the new force in the market — ad blockers — and spending marketing dollars effectively becomes even more complex.

Thus it isn’t so simple to take it all in house, and many brands have decided to continue working with agencies, only with new, more transparent contracts.

One of the functions agencies and brands still debate about is how to get better data for attribution models. Retailers like Walmart are trying to figure out what data is most important to get from consumers and shoppers. Online retailers like Amazon have always collected everything they can, and with the trending popularity of Echo and Dash Amazon will likely be the winner in the consumer data wars. When you tell Echo, “Alexa, send me more Tide,” you are telling Alexa that you are buying on brand and not on price. But Oracle and Adobe also know how consumers buy, and there will be myriad data sets coming together to understand where and how to place brand and shopper dollars.

Another data supplier for brands is the third party measurement provider. Companies like ComScore and Nielsen measure audiences and advertising for both publishers and advertisers. And now relative newcomer MOAT, which got its start certifying viewability, will share the stage with the more entrenched measurement providers because it is an expert in measuring mobile video.

Advertisers are also demanding more data from walled gardens like Facebook. It’s really difficult to have a complete look at an ad buy that may include Facebook and Amazon without having insight into both of them. However, they have promised their customers that they won’t sell data, so they will have to make major changes to their terms and conditions if they begin to share in aggregated ways. It’s currently pretty impossible to develop an attribution model from Facebook ads if you advertise anywhere else.

The movement of dollars from TV to digital will also accelerate the demand for marketers for a unified view of their media buys.

We predict that the demand of brand marketers for a unified view across all their channels, coupled with an increased emphasis on privacy and security for consumers will continue to cause rapid change in the industry for a few more years.

What Makes a Great Media Plan?

Great media plans involve a combination of  strategy, creativity, and data support. First, the plan must deliver  a great brand experience. Then, it must be targeted contextually, and last, but most important, it must deliver against the brand’s objectives, which means those objectives should be clearly stated and presented to the media planner.

To deliver a great brand experience, we rely heavily on creative, which is lately overlooked in favor of data. Contemporary creative must  keep some core principles while trying to be brave,  not accepting what has happened in the past,  and being willing to try something new. A campaign that will engage a busy mobile consumer must have some flair and some newness — but not just for novelty’s sake. The consumer has to be able to recognize that this creative supports her actual desire for information about a product or service.

Read more