Tech for Technophobes II: The Evolution of Ad Tech

Written on
Feb 20, 2013 
Richard L. Tso  |

EDITOR’S NOTE: As science and technology play an increasingly important role in brand marketing, those who fear technology run the risk of falling behind. Recognizing this dilemma, a growing number of entrepreneurs are developing products and platforms designed to simplify many of the required processes, enabling those who aren’t technically inclined to stay in the game. In this two-part article, we look at what we consider to be among the best recent examples of that trend.

The first part of this series examined the rise of new trends towards automation through programmatic advertising, RTB and social monitoring technologies. This second part will dive a bit deeper into helping all you non-techie advertisers out there to better understand the advantages of differing technologies, when to incorporate them in your business and how to best go about learning how they work.

Taking a look at the advertising industry Luma Chart, you can see that the landscape is filled with a plethora of companies, specialized in bringing the field of advertising into the next century through technology. While this categorization helps brands and agencies understand both industry organization and competitive landscape, there are limitations to viewing companies in this way.

According to Terence Kawaja of LUMA Partners, “This chart is far from perfect. Organization of such a fragmented and dynamic industry is flawed by its very nature. Many companies operate across several categories and there are distinctions within categories. This chart does not include many of the search players which are increasingly overlapping with display nor does it reflect whole categories such as lead generation and ecommerce which likewise utilize display advertising in their funnel, not to mention international companies which are barely reflected.”

A Social Network for Marketers

Automation is also making its way to the social realm, providing social marketers a way to effectively monitor conversations that are happening about their brand online in real-time. A company called Rallyverse brings enterprise-class software to the social marketer in a visually elegant and easy-to-use interface.

Rallyverse currently offers three products: Rallydeck, which discovers, curates and recommends great content for marketers to share in social media; Rallynet, which gives organizations power to centrally curate and distribute ready-to-publish content to different departments, satellite offices, or teams working in the field; and Rallyads, which amplifies owned social media with paid placements in social ads across multiple social networks.

“Our customers find our solution very easy to use since it looks and behaves like most consumer social network applications – no or little training for the end user,” said Rallyverse CEO & Co-Founder Joe Doran. “Most software tools for the social marketer have focused on high density work-flow and a suite of problems that have created more work for the social media manager, not less. Causing the marketing leaders to have to invest more in technology and people to get a return on the their social marketing efforts, Rallyverse is focused on a very clear and large problem all social marketers face every day, up to 20 times a day: ‘What do I say right now?’ More technologies that help solve very focused problems for the clients are the ones that will win the day.”

Display Ads That Don’t Suck

Online advertising presents a number of challenges, not the least of which is adapting a brand’s existing creative for tablets and smartphones with varying screen sizes. Last fall, SteelHouse launched A2 (pronounced a-squared), a platform designed to bring the high quality that brands expect from other mediums, like TV and print, into online ads that serve on any device, including Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

SteelHouse President and CEO Mark Douglas explained how it can take an ad agency two weeks, from casting to broadcast, to create a TV commercial. But to make that same creative work online, the agency would often have to hire a web developer, at a cost of 6 to 8 weeks and tens of thousands of dollars. A2 enables the agency to adapt that TV spot in-house in a fraction of the time and money, he said.

“For years, marketers have been living under the pretense that they’ve needed vast reserves of money and scientists to do data-driven marketing.  SteelHouse has managed to innovate three major components that help marketers cross that chasm,” said Douglas.  “We provide a fast and flexible cloud-based marketing data warehouse, a multi-channel marketing platform that allows for sequencing tactical offers and A², a platform that delivers beautiful, app-like engagement across any device in the form of ads. It signifies to us a whole new era in data-driven marketing for the masses (and not just the scientists) that finally delivers a promise previously delivered only by financial investors . . . turning data into revenue.”

A2 makes ads interactive by weaving together high engagement features that brands want and consumers respond to, including video, images, product carousels, counters, and social sharing. The platform also targets location and leverages1st party consumer behavioral data into the content of any ad.

Douglas said A2 ads are automatically IAB compliant and work on any device. A2 is available as a stand-alone display ad solution for brands and agencies or as part of SteelHouse’s other products. Last month, SteelHouse issued data from Q4 indicating brands that utilized its Real Time Offers™ product combined with the A2 ad format drove 21% click-through rates and quadrupled conversion. Among its clients are Rosetta Stone, Figi’s, Creative Labs and Monoprice.

“With our platform, marketers can visualize all their marketing data and build segments against it, execute tried-and-tested campaigns with app-like engagement – using features like branded video, scene transitions, dynamic product carousels, countdown timers and more – through one easy-to-use campaign management interface,” added Douglas.  “The platform also includes the strategic guidance of a campaign specialist and 24/7 support to do the heavy lifting.”

Where Things Are Headed

Advertising technology is at a point of unprecedented change. The last decade we have been building the initial platforms and the basic infrastructure to support a broad array of digital marketing activities. The next decade we will see significant scale of dollars and digital marketing investment which will stress the current platforms to take on the scale. Some platforms will bend, some will break.

“It all comes down to smart marketing, dynamic and visual content, and data intelligence to match offers and messaging with the right customer,” said Douglas. “Most customers are already sitting on a gold mine: their data. Mining that data and knowing how to convert it into revenue is our specialty. This will be a big trend in 2013: marketers finding their goldmine and building campaigns (retargeting, onsite ads, email, etc.) that integrate rich media using their existing content, and launching them into the right sequence of channels at the right time and using one channel to reinforce the other. The brands that know how to incorporate each of these pieces into their integrated marketing approach will see the highest return in sales.”

“People talk about over-investment,” said Doran, “but I see great opportunity for disruption as the scale of digital marketing brings new problems and showcases significant shortcomings.”

Adotas Editor Mike Daly also contributed to this story.

Richard L. Tso is a reporter for Adotas and an avid writer covering the intersection of technology and advertising, fashion and music. With over 12 years of experience in the Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations industries, Richard has held executive positions at global agencies and technology companies and is founder of the interactive communications firm Pseudosound Consulting LLC. A classical cellist and painter, he believes that sometimes sound carries more weight than words. He is a graduate of Stanford University.

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