After a dip in ad spend in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns, digital out-of-home is back in a big way, with programmatic DOOH (pDOOH) projected to be a billion dollar category by the end of next year.

In this episode, Ian Dallimore, VP of Digital Growth and GM of Programmatic at Lamar Advertising, joins host Noor Naseer to discuss what digital and programmatic buyers should know about this channel, from misconceptions to big opportunities.

Episode Transcript:

Noor Naseer: Digital out-of-home hit a rough patch with the start of the pandemic in 2020, with consumers’ usual outdoor habits pulling back dramatically. That same pullback in behavior resulted in slashed budgets, with reports of global out-of-home spending dropping by over 10% at the time. Now in 2023, out-of-home is back in full force with more ways to buy it than ever before. I spoke to Ian Dallimore, VP of Digital Growth at Lamar, about the renewed curiosity around how to incorporate the medium intermediate plans, and leverage innovations that these out-of-home placements uniquely offer. We also discussed opportunities and considerations for programmatic buyers, and how digital out-of-home is becoming an increasing priority for omnichannel planners and buyers. This episode on digital out-of-home with Ian Dallimore starts right now.

NN: Obviously, you're an expert in the digital out-of-home space and the out-of-home space, you've been working in it for a really long time, Ian. So I feel like there has been maybe an uprising of curiosity around digital out-of-home and other things that are emerging from that space. I figured we could start off this conversation by just asking you how people have been thinking about digital out-of-home now? What kind of perspectives have you been bringing to clients that are looking to get introduced, who otherwise haven’t had familiarity?

Ian Dallimore: Yeah, and that's a great question and I'm really excited to be on. The medium has evolved. Lamar specifically has been around, we're in our 121st year, and obviously out-of-home since the days of the caveman had been around. So for us seeing that evolution, and the very beginning, it was very much around, exit here or just very much branded as the evolution has evolved. What digital out-of-home has allowed us to bring to the table is really this new way of thinking. And when I talk about a new way that was 20 years ago, when we first launched our first roadside, digital billboard, Lamar was kind of the first in that space. But very quickly, we started to say, “Okay, well, this product is a bit different from the traditional direct product, you know, what can we do with it?” So we first ingested data.

So we worked with IBM Watson to trigger creativity. We then teetered around with streaming live tweets and Instagram posts. To fast forward to today Noor, over the last 10 years, Lamar has been playing in the programmatic space. It's really allowed us to not only continue to evolve with our agency out-of-home specialist partners, which is kind of our day to day, then our local advertisers to really kind of be flexible with creative and change it out. But now, in my universe there is the ability to have impression-based buys, or outcome-based buys. So I.e. here's 50 markets. I don't want to run any time, because the pollen level is at a certain threshold. I want to run until the pollen count drops, and then the markets that don't have high pollen, I don't want to run anything. And then obviously, you can play in all sorts of weather conditions.

Then as far as the impression base in the programmatic world, we can dive deeper into this. But the short answer is, is it now allows out-of-home to live in the same world as online, mobile, social, and CTV, and really be an impression based by across all media, because as much as you and I live in this universe, none of us, including myself, woke up and I was like, “Man, I can't wait to see that ad on Instagram” “I can't wait to see that B roll on YouTube or TikTok or see that billboard.” It's just not how we're built. It's just what's our journey throughout the day, and different variations of screens impact us. And we know that dead space used to be out-of-home wasn't involved in that impression-based journey across different digital screens. So now we are.

NN: A big piece of the conversation is that it is impression based and there are no data sources or data considerations we can bring to the table that historically have not been a part of the out-of-home conversation. From the perspective of also the buyer and challenges that the media buyer faces, are there any benefits associated with the buying process that people can take advantage of?

ID: Yeah, and I love that question because so often people treat the word programmatic, when that first came out and really introduced itself to the out-of-home space, we had to be very careful—actually the topic of my team's focus this year is protecting the true integrity of programmatic or RTB real time bidding. Because it’s so easy, you're right, Noor is, “Hey, it's Friday, or today, it's four o'clock. The client just hit me with this budget. I'm an out-of-home specialists-focus. I'm not an online media buyer. Let me just log in to this platform and push through a buy.” That's great. I think that that's what's made Lamar specifically and even our friends at Out Front begin to evolve and look at, “Okay, we've solved for programmatic, we're seeing significant growth there. But that same API that we've built out with real time availability, maybe we need to start to focus on the direct side of our business.” So if it's truly more about that out-of-home specialist is more about automation then let's do that. So we've since done that, we've rolled out that product. And we'll watch that evolution. What we don't want is cannibalization of existing buys from a certain subset of agencies within the larger hold co.’s to just move over to programmatic because it's easier to do. So it really helped our industry on the back end to begin to evolve. We're really in our infancy right now.

NN: It feels that way. I know that digital out-of-home/programmatic digital out-of-home have been around for a little bit. But I think in terms of true accessibility, that's really just starting to rise. So I think some of what you just said now Ian begs this question, what's the ratio look like? There's still a lot of traditional out-of-home billboards out in the world. Then there are these now rising digital out-of-home options. What does the split look like, if you can give us some background on that?

ID: It makes up around 10% of our overall inventory compensation. But it makes up revenue wise, almost 35% of our overall revenue comes from those 4500 screens, which from a revenue perspective, that's fascinating. Now, as the evolution evolves, we, as a publisher, need to make sure we're very careful because we look at cannibalization within the marketplace as well, because there is a time and a place where both digital and static play together. Where traditional static makes more sense, programmatic, obviously, digital only makes sense.

So even within the marketplace, I get asked this question on stage a lot. It's like, “Well, are you going to transition all 325,000 screens to digital?” And the answer is quickly “No”, because of the latter response I just gave you, but it does play a role. But we're really looking to evolve in markets that maybe don't have digital or the marketplace itself is a new community pops up, a new town center pops up and really kind of focusing on okay, that's a new location, that's where people move, let's roll out a new digital 2345, etc.

NN: Reasonable to not have the plan to do a mass conversion and turn everything into digital; it makes me also think of this, which is that of course, there are going to be buyers out there who have been waiting for transition or increase in digital boards, because they're focused on digital buying. If there isn't a digital component, maybe that's not in their wheelhouse based on politics or whatever the structure of labor is in relation to media buying. Then on the flip side, I wonder for traditional buyers, whether that be businesses that work directly with Lamar or other out-of-home companies, or its full-service agencies, holding companies, whoever it is that's doing a lot of out-of-home buying, where sometimes they see it as a negative in the sense of there being a proliferation and the growth of these digital boards.

I work for a digital company, so digital always sounds good to me. But one thing that comes to mind is I'm on the highway, and I'm looking at a screen, there's an impression, and then it flips to something else. Whereas the static board stays there, it's stagnant, I can look at it for a suspended period of time. That's just one example. But is that ever a question that comes up? Are there people who prefer to only be on static billboards versus those impression-based billboards or whatever that out-of-home structure is? I wanted to get some of your perspective on how people react to that.

ID: Yeah, so obviously, digital has attracted on the programmatic side, a lot of the omnichannel DSPs. So they live in that universe, all they care about is that impression. And what you're talking about is extremely important in the out-of-home space, and it's what the medium does really well. But I'll give you a real-life example, one of my favorite brands, Gooder Sunglasses, we'll give them a shout out. They're an absolutely amazing company, but they've never utilized out-of-home. They kind of shied away from it. They liked the idea of the traditional direct and maybe doing something fun. This past summer was the first time they ever utilized digital and traditional static. So I'll kind of quickly walk you through it. So like what you guys deal with on a day to day basis, they have their audience segmentations and they have their first party data and they basically said like, “Okay, programmatically, we can overlay that first party data, and you can insert any brand that has been doing this for quite some time with Lamar on the programmatic side”. Insert X, audience segmentation, first party data, pipe that in and then here's the DMA market list. “Oh, by the way, we're going to drop a pixel on our website. We're going to do device ID pass backs to then track the effectiveness of the digital campaign”. So you have that one campaign.

Simultaneously, they took a very important market to them, which I'm being very facetious here. Their CEO is a flamingo, obviously not in real life, but his name is Carl. So we collaborated with them. And we said, “Okay, we actually have a Carl, Georgia. And in Carl, Georgia, there's a mayor. And how much fun would it be, if we did this massive build out, we gain PR, you flew your entire social team down, you did TikToks of the billboard. You even got to go into City Hall and have the mayor and the whole city of 169 people, you hand out free glasses.

So really quickly, to kind of summarize that example, if you have first party data digital very impression based, and then you're utilizing the same category out-of-home on the traditional direct side. You build out this 3D Flamingo. You introduce them to the town you integrated now in social, you also integrated in obviously PR. Those are two drastically different mediums. But it's one cohesive campaign that has used both new age technology with digital, and data and measurement, and social, and then you utilize the traditional direct sides to really just capture your attention for a while. So a long-winded way of saying, if done correctly, we see brands utilizing both.

NN: So you really launched into a pretty sophisticated example of the way that people can really bring in a lot of different data sources to the table as Gooder particularly decided to, and also leveraging the wow factor of what out-of-home brings to the table. So maybe the best of both worlds. If someone is looking to understand what those opportunities could look like, maybe they're not looking to go as big as what you're describing. But they want to bring their data into the equation, and they haven't executed in the digital out-of-home space before. How do you set them up for success? What do you ask them to share with you so that they can build a pretty sophisticated digital out-of-home plan?

ID: Yeah, we get asked actually, we had a call earlier this morning with an actual regional local client. And the short answer is, if they're like, “Hey, we really just want to do an impression-based buy. We have our audience, and we use this third-party data company.” And it's fascinating because the conversation happens pretty quickly. It's like, “Well, it's a pharma company. You know what, we have cross x data as well.” So the first question is, like, okay, what are your KPIs for your campaign? So if you want to run digital, and we see it very much like, okay, that's this is an audience impression-based target campaign, then we quickly shift you over to programmatic? The first question is, do you have a seat? And do you have a seat on a platform? And very quickly, they kind of get confused. They're like, “Wait out-of-home, seat?” And we're like, “Yeah, do you have a seat on any of the omnichannel DSPs?” And most of them even at the local level, they're like, “Well, yeah, that's how I buy CTV and all other media”.

So quickly, what we do is we understand what the KPIs are for the campaign, we understand, in that format example, what data sets are they using across other media? So if online for pharma, they're using cross x, we say, Okay, perfect. We have cross x, we are then based on the DMAs, and the markets, which is a bit different for digital, obviously, because in the digital universe, traditional digital that you guys live in, it's the impressions, it's the audience. For us, we take it another step further, and we narrow it down to “Hey, what audience are you looking to target? Okay, here's the third-party data, we have access to that as well. What markets do you want to be in? And what's your flight?” And then just like any other traditional digital media, online, mobile, social, we just build that ideal idea, and we push it towards that seed, which that right there, that conversation wouldn't happen three years ago. And that's what got the industry to where it is today, in order for us to participate and get those massive digital budgets and be a part of the consumer journey, path to purchase. The only way that you can do that is if your inventory is accessible to DSPs, whether they're omni-channels or not.

NN: What does the matching process look like in the digital out-of-home space? So just to elaborate on that question, I've got a certain number of files. Let's say I have 500,000 files, like email files or other types of data that I'm looking to pass along. It's a more complicated matching process because we're looking to go up against billboards and bus shelters. And wherever Lamar potentially has these like digital out-of-home or out-of-home opportunities. It's going to be different than trying to reach people, match it back to like people's TV screens at home or their computers. So can you tell me a little bit about the variation and what that matching process looks like?

ID: Yeah, so we're talking about MAIDs and device IDs. I tell people this all the time, and it may ruffle some feathers with some other out-of-home companies. But we're a billboard company, our job is to make the product more sophisticated. And our connections are our sweet sauce that then connects to these elaborate platforms. So I say that because it's not our job in the out-of-home space, nor should it be because it'd be a little sketchy. But when we work programmatically with these SSPs, we're working with the same companies, whether it's LiveRamp and their robust matchup platforms, all we're doing is just passing off those timestamps on when that ad plays. And then in return, our job is to pass the timestamps along to the different third-party companies that we work with, they're capturing those MAIDs, they're automatically capturing those exposed files that were exposed to that digital out-of-home. The third-party platforms are the ones that are collecting that data, whether it's LiveRamp or others, and then if it's utilized correctly, in a third-party, omni channel DSP, those files are captured. And then they're able to take those captured files and then retarget them on mobile, social, online, CTV. Again, going back, it's not the responsibility of the publisher and the out-of-home space, because that starts to become a little iffy on, “Well, how'd you get all these device IDs? Did my ad actually play?” Our job is just to verify, and then the third-party data platforms, that's their responsibility to capture.

NN: From there, I wanted to also ask you about people coming back to the digital out-of-home space. So kind of a pivot in our conversation, knowing that we were just a little over two years ago, in a world where the vast majority of people were still working from home and a lot of out-of-home buying had taken a setback. People were saying, “People aren't on the road, people aren't out in public, people have to be at home. How can we continue to justify having this on plans?” Now it's two years later. Has it been a massive comeback? In what types of industries? Is there an even stronger initiative or push for out-of-home? And are there some industries where there's been a pullback or some sort of strategic reason for why buying is just continuing to lag?

ID: Yeah, great question. I loved the fact from the publisher's media side that we were early on in programmatic whenever the pandemic hit, immediately, our numbers on March 30, started to decline, March 15, is when it went to zero on programmatic as it relates to the other side of our business. I won't go deep into that. I was excited about that. I'm like, this proves that these are not just, “Hey, we're just lazy buyers. So we're just going to buy.” It also proved that we weren't talking to the motor home specialists, these were true omnichannel DSP buys, and they shut off everything. I'm sure you guys experienced that as well. Everything was cut off, it was like, “Okay, we're going to either cut it off, or we're going to slow it down a little to nothing.” We're going to take a step back and figure out what's happening, right? Obviously, the first easy one was rightfully so, okay, assumption, no one's on the road. Everyone stayed home for two weeks. So we saw that. But what was interesting, and I love this is so often in our space, out-of-home, not on the local side, obviously, but on the national side of brands, you know, the top 250 brands, oftentimes, they're very hesitant out-of-home anyway. Or if they do spin out-of-home, it's very much like, “I have to be in New York, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, those kind of tent poles”. I've always laughed, you know, obviously, being a Baton Rouge-based company and where I am in the south here and remind me? You're in Chicago?

NN: Chicago.

ID: Perfect example. Right. So for you what the pandemic meant and looked like was massively different from what it looked like here in Baton Rouge, Texas, Florida, Arizona, where I always like to play this game because it's not about a billboard. It's not about a mobile device or CTV. Going back to the multiple screens, it's really about like, “Okay, well, what does your journey look like?” And in the pandemic situation, “What are your life patterns?” Obviously in New York, you can't have millions of people jumping on the subway so immediately, there's nobody on the subway, which means nobody's advertising on the out-front network and this subway. But we started to see these buys that they started to uptick because again they're looking at real mobility data. And they started to see like “Wait, I can't spend my money in New York, LA, Chicago because obviously there are lockdowns.” But by June, July, we started to see those budgets that typically would go to New York, LA, Chicago, and other large markets began to say like “Okay, well there's still people moving out and about, we see this with the mobility data that we're utilizing on these third-party platforms. So we started to see a shift in budgets to where typical brands that would spend in New York and LA, were starting to spend in Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Florida, Atlanta. So as these markets came online, and some of them came online quicker than others, some of them came on, turned off, leveled out.

But to answer your question, now, we really focused in and programmatic allowed us to really hone in and say like, Okay, this really is about data, it really is about who is moving out and about. But that was a tough year for out-of-home, which was really tough. Because we came out of the previous year, we were scheduled to have an epic year, the next the following year, when the pandemic hit, and we were on the rise, January, February. And then when March hit, we dropped local, we did fine, it came back pretty quick. But roadside the next year, took over 60% of programmatic revenue, where in the past, we lived around 40% of the overall revenue on these SSPs. were capturing roadside billboards, at 30/40. It hits 60, the next year, because you still had significant lockdowns. So obviously elevator networks and gyms were still locked down. So you had those networks that were down to zero and making zero money. But that budget again had to go somewhere, because they saw the mobility of data. So it leveled out. We're beyond that next year, we jump back quickly.

Overall, as a company, we did significantly well the following year. So the growth and trajectory of out-of-home spin. I think what it's done overall is it's really changed out the perception, which again, being a southern boy, I love, I always used to have to mess with our friends out in LA on the movie house this like, “Hey, by the way, people in New York, don't go to the movies. You know where they go to the movies? They live in Baton Rouge, they live in Kansas City, they live in Birmingham.” We don't just need to buy the tentpoles, we need to be very strategic on when and where to buy. And oh, by the way out-of-home has shown its flexibility that we can turn it on and off, not just because of a pandemic or the previous year, this past year was, “Hey, if we have supply chain issues, we could turn it off, we can turn it back on we can level it out.” So I think it really allowed out-of-home to shine in so many ways.

NN: Are there any resettling things that have occurred? I know you mentioned just a little while ago that it's back and maybe better than ever before. But have there been any instances in which there's been a shift in the way that the market is approaching holistically digital out-of-home or out-of-home in general?

ID: Yeah, I think over the last couple of years D2C. Before the pandemic, we started to see a handful of the Caspers of the world, the Ro, those types of companies, DSC would purchase in these larger markets and they were utilized out-of-home. I think now that they've experienced what they have in the out-of-home space, they begin to look at it out-of-home, completely different than they would have before. Before it was very much branded. So if I'm in a brand I'd rather brand where the bulk of people are aware I can get the most impressions. Also, Lamar has been doing programmatic for 10 years, but most everyone else came on board about three years ago, and really significantly with a lot of the play space screens has been the last two and a half years.

So it's interesting to watch how they can now buy traditional direct, whether they're buying digital static transit airports, or they can also buy that same exact media programmatically. So I think it's now allowed them to live in that space.

I also think that people are very particular about what type of media and what type of products in the out-of-home space that they purchase. Or in the past, they may have just been freely Licious, by all screens in the New York DMA. Now they look at it a little bit differently and kind of focus on “Okay, well, what does that product mean? How does the data now play a role?”

So we have had our moments like all media right now and all publishers, it's, are we going to be in a recession? Are we not? So we still see these like little teeters. Are we approaching a significant war that may impact? So I think now we're beginning to be treated the same way that all other media where in the past, it's just been like, well cut out-of-home because we can't measure it and we don't know its effectiveness.

NN: You just brought up measurement. And admittedly, I have a couple other questions that have come to mind given some of what you just said. But I think it's important to pivot in that direction, especially knowing that our audience is focused on the ad tech space and programmatic buying. There's a lot of energy around performance.

Now to go back to some of what you've said: There's the presumption that if we're talking about out-of-home and anybody that's working with Lamar or anybody else in the out-of-home space that people understand strategically, what is the value of this medium relative to other media types, but there are people who have been sitting on the fence. Some of those people who sit on the fence, it's because they're so accustomed to digital buying where there's this one-to-one attribution process. You see, you click, there's a lookback window. And now I can say, X volume of people has made this purchase relative to this amount of media investment. What type of conversation do you have with them if there are performance-oriented expectations?

ID: Measurement is a big component, right? So we talked about the device ID pass backs, anonymous device IDs, that allows us to be the medium that helps generate more of the campaign and have a more impactful, “Oh, wow, I saw that Travel Texas ad, people kayaking down the Red River. I want to go there.” “Oh, wow, I just got on my Instagram ad, Travel Texas, same exact creative but smaller. Click here. Wow now I got a banner ad. Now I'm on their website.” Now, what I just explained to you not only was the device ID passed back, but also, as I mentioned, we can drop in pixels.

The other way that we can measure is through exposure. And then where did that anonymous device ID end. So I was exposed to that target ad, whether I realize that or not on a roadside billboard, that device ID over the next 10 days then ended up at a target. Those are attributable to the out-of-home space. And then the last thing that we do is we work with a handful of brand lift study companies like M4 or Mira, just like in the online world where you can do brand lift studies; exposed, unexposed.

So we've really gone the extra mile to make sure like, “Okay, we understood what our limitations were in the past”. It was like, “Okay, I know, I'm buying 1.8 billion impressions over a six-week period across 25 markets.” We recognize that we said, “Okay, well, what does measurement look like in the online world? What does it look like in the mobile world? How can we help complement? How can we help amplify a campaign? But most importantly, how can we utilize that same data, the same measurement.” So that way, we become a part of the campaign because we're not blind to the fact that we're not a one-to-one medium, I believe if we wouldn't be a one-to-one medium, it'd be very awkward, right? Because if you walked past a billboard, and we were able to tap into your search, browser history, or Instagram history, envision yourself walking down Las Vegas Boulevard, and having our digital bus shelters change based on what you've searched in the last 20 minutes. That would be a very bad experience. Maybe comical to some of us. But we do understand now with data, we can be one to target, hey, I want to target a mom with two plus kids that has an affinity towards discount big box retailers and visited an MLB stadium within the last 60 days.

NN: So I was going to say I do envision that because in a lot of my presentations, if I'm just talking about innovation, the future of innovation, whether it's related to out-of-home, or maybe I'm referring to the metaverse, I'll use the Tom Cruise Minority Report example and I'm sure you bring it up in the out-of-home space all the time. Where it says like, “Do you need a new pair of pants,” whatever his name is in Minority Report. It's using presumed technology that's aligned with something that you're referring to, which is one to one. They're doing some sort of retina scan. We're presuming it's a world that we don't want to live in. Again, I assume that in the instance of someone who is approaching the out-of-home space, that there is a reasonable understanding of what out-of-home can bring to the table. You're probably doing a lot of educating too. Sometimes people are so deeply in the weeds with performance, they just figure if there's now the letter D added onto out-of-home, or now there's a programmatic opportunity. That means it must be much more precise. I think you can bring people back down to earth in understanding that maybe even if you could have that you wouldn't want to give the user experience and also privacy regulation, which is going to increasingly make that challenging, maybe more challenging than it even is today.

ID: Yeah, and I think we've all probably in the ad world have heard the story of even, you know, somewhere to out-of-home direct mail. We've all heard the story out of Target where there was a 15- or 16-year-old that was pregnant, became pregnant their parents didn't know. And obviously over the next three weeks the target was sending direct mail for Pampers diapers and formula, and it was kind of like “What the hell are we getting this for?” We're whatever, 55 plus, we're not pregnant. So even the static traditional direct mail piece was being too hyper-targeted, and that created all sorts of laws etc.

So we have to be careful because we're in people's space. So when we go to audience segmentation, the one that I just described, that happens a good bit, and we look at it as this way is yes, it's more precise towards the audience segmentation. We would rather hit “Hey, this panel during this time of day, highest indexes towards the audience that you're looking to hit Brand X, therefore we're going to bid and buy”. Obviously, it's not a one-to-one experience, but we know we want to help amplify that conversation.

The other benefit that out-of-home does to where you may get served a one-to-one ad on mobile or social is that experience in that brand interaction is only between the two of you. If I display something, programmatically, or just traditional direct digital, you may now be targeting a certain audience segmentation. But you have I guess, in the online space, it's called “Spillage” or “Overage”. You're now hitting people that maybe you thought wasn't your brand segmentation, and they see it. And that's not at all who you were targeting. But with great creativity, and great use of retargeting you were then able to pick up another consumer. That's the way that we kind of look at that space.

We have a lot of regulations, we have a lot of privacy, especially with our airport inventory. Could we use facial recognition? 100%. Have we tested it? Yes, we've tested cameras within our shelters within our airport inventory. Or it could take at, at minimum, your emotion, your ethnicity, and how your facial expressions are. But for us, there's a significant amount of privacy and impacts that we stay away from. So when we talk about brand safety, we are brand safe in the sense that even down to we have a restriction code. So if we have digital or static and other mediums that's in and around schools, churches, graveyards, we don't allow for alcohol, we don't allow for that medium. So even in the programmatic side of out-of-home, those restriction codes are built in to where you're not even able to run your ads based on those restriction codes.

So we're very much at the forefront of technology. And could the day exist when Mr. Yakamoto needs to buy a new pair of khakis? Maybe. But it definitely won't be on a roadside billboard. And it would be in a very much closed one-to-one scenario.

NN: I did want to also ask you about thinking about the funnel, if you're going after a buyer who's not digital out-of-home or out-of-home exclusive, and they're putting together a strategy and they want to figure out what my expectations should be for whatever the yield is from out-of-home or traditional programmatic or digital out-of-home, what reasonable KPIs related to the out-of-home space.

ID: Yeah, and that's the beauty of it, it varies, right? Your KPIs may be, hey, I want to hit more people that download Spotify, I think if we're the only medium that's involved; and I'm talking more on the national brand side, not local advertisers. But if I'm utilizing the only vehicle that I'm using is billboards, or airports, or transit. And that's the only medium, I think you're not going to find your outcome to be as great as it could be, it's going to do its job, it's going to drive brand awareness. Statistically, it's people that are exposed to at home.

Most recently, and the Nielsen report that we had with the AAA was 48% of consumers that are exposed to an out-of-home ad, then go onto social to check out their social page, the other stats 56% of consumers that are exposed to out-of-home, then go on to search that product on Google or make some sort of search about that product. So Noor what that does is really validates the fact that like, “Hey, if you're going to do a billboard campaign, you need to make sure that your search engine optimization is up to par.” Like we do this test. I did one last night. And I was like, well, that's a cool campaign. I went to search it on Google, literally wasn't even on the first three pages.

We do the same thing with social if you're going to push a specific brand or product, understand, and our local clients do this really well because we really advise them. Understand that over half of the people that are exposed to those billboards are then going to go to your social sites, whether it's TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever it may be, you need to make sure there's some posting or some stories or reels that are relevant to what you have currently running out-of-home. As far as KPIs, every category is different. And every strategy is different. And I think that that's what really differentiates out-of-home is creativity drives the conversation, the call to action. So you may just want to have the most beautiful portrait again, going back to travel and tourism. You may want to have the most beautiful, picturesque while you're in Chicago and we do this a lot with cruises. And it's a beautiful cruise and you're getting off the island of St. Lucia. And there's the beautiful Carnival cruise ship. And you're sitting there in the middle of a blizzard in March, that has a different impact than a mobile ad while you're sitting at home or watching a CTV ad while you're stuck at home.

So the KPIs vary but understanding that we now have the ability to measure that impact is something that in the past, we just haven't, we're just kind of like, well, we know it worked, because you have a beautiful brand. And the creative looks great. And it's hitting hundreds of thousands of people a day. I guess it's working. Those days are gone. The measurement’s there.

NN: Something else I wanted to ask you about Ian was you just mentioned making sure that there's somewhere for people to go to after they've experienced your out-of-home activation? And that may require that there is some sort of call to action. So are there recommended CTAs? People oftentimes will joke about “Make sure that people aren't trying to scan a QR code as they're driving down the highway because they'll hurt somebody, or they'll get in an accident.” But are there some best practices that you suggest in a series of different instances where someone will want to make that fast connection? Because they're not going to put in some long URL? Because they'll never remember that?

ID: Yeah, so if you asked me that question, when I first started, it would probably be even before that, but the big thing that people used to do and out-of-home, and then the general was like, “Oh, we got to put a phone number on there”. Noor we still deal with that at the local level, or like, “Well, I want to put my phone number on there.” It's like, nobody calls you anymore. So my point is, I'm glad you said no QR codes on roadside billboards. Because first off, they don't work. You know, we have clients that are like, Yeah, but I still want to do it. And I'm like, “Well, A, we restrict those because again, we want to not only be brand safe, but we also want to have a safe experience. But more importantly, go try it for yourself, just run down the street and have your daughter hold up a QR code and tell me how that works out for you just doesn't work.” But it does work on other mediums. So we do see a good bit of on transit or ports, other walkable out-of-home experiences where we encourage QR codes. So yeah, so we encourage people on the transit pedestrian stuff. If a movie has blitzes, a bus, shelter market and a certain city, then yes, we encourage QR we actually play and RFID tags, we play with the push notification abilities.

But as it relates to best practices for call to actions outside of those mediums, we live in a world today where curiosity is the most important thing. So if you have defender, and have fantastic, beautiful creative, and maybe it is contextually relevant, because you utilize data, and you have baseball bags on the back of it, and you show the rough ruggedness of the product, we're very curious humans, and we know that we have the vehicle, we have the ability to say, “Alright, perfect, that's a defender, I'm going to go search it, and I'm going to learn more about it. It's almost like you don't need a call to action, because the call to action was creative and it was that beautiful experience that you had.” So very rarely do we see certain call-to-actions.

Now we may have something simple like Travel Texas, which I love their campaign that's running, it just says “” very subtly, just to remind me, that's what it is. But for the most part, the brands tell the story themselves and out-of-home allows the experience, but it is why I go back to my point, you have to be buttoned up. You have to make sure that if you're going to have the defender creative, that when I go to that website, that giant experience may be the same creative or some variation of it. And then that's when I'm going to go do my research. I don't need you to give me the website, the handle the backslash etc. You may just have that Instagram logo with the ad handle on it just to tell me where to go.

NN: In those instances, I imagine that brands like, for example, Land Rover or Travel Texas or whatever the particular big out-of-home buyer is. They don't have an attribution expectation; meaning that they're not trying to necessarily connect back directly to that campaign, but rather, maybe they're looking for lift, like lift in website visitation, but it can't be directly connected back to that campaign, or that media type. So long as that's not a priority for them, are there, in the event that an advertiser is really concerned and they're not going to use a QR code or they want an alternative, are there ever things that are suggested that people can remember so it doesn't just boil down to them having to Google something else?

ID: Yeah, I think it depends on the notoriety of the brand itself. You know, obviously if I see the Land Rover logo, I can quickly figure it out even if I didn't know that that was a Defender. If you want to go more at the local level, yeah, that's important. But that's where the creative really shines. So simplicity of, you know, hey, if my KPI is I want to drive more people to download a certain app, then on top of the fact that I should be retargeting those consumers with an experience on the mobile device that are exposed to out-of-home, but it may simply be the Apple logo, and the Android logo, you know, download today, again, we're very savvy consumers, we've especially, during the pandemic, we've really seen this heightened attitude of like, hey, I can go out and find whatever I want, you know, the web is, is a beautiful place, social has now blown and blossomed into this organic creativity experience, I just need to have some sort of guidance, like, here's the Instagram logo, very subtle. And here's the handle to learn more.

So just start me down the path to make sure that I didn't think that that was, my wife thinks that the Ford Broncos look exactly like the Defenders. And I'm like, “They're completely different vehicles.” But what you don't want to experience is you didn't have that Land Rover logo on there, maybe you put the local Peretti, who's the Land Rover dealer if you're at the local level, to where you at least guide them. My overall point is that you don't have to have that call to action, whether you're a local, national brand. We're very intuitive, and we're very curious people. But again, it's why I'm so infatuated with the omnichannel approach is out-of-home could be that initial driver, that where you then hit them with that Spotify, push notification of like, here's the most recent country album that just dropped by music singer X.

NN: For a lot of folks that are going to be listening to this particular podcast, there is going to be curiosity around that. Attribution is so central to a lot of the ways that they're trying to prove out the value of any medium. So it's good to hear that I know, this has already been a long conversation. But I think I've been thinking about a lot of different things and have curiosity to ask about them. So to bring it back to programmatic buying or programmatic digital out-of-home. I know much earlier on in our conversation, you mentioned that, ultimately, digital is a smaller component of the much larger out-of-home footprint and that I imagined programmatic as a smaller segment of that, since then, some of that digital is going to be exclusively bought site direct through individual sales points of contact.

So in terms of what you can uniquely do programmatically, are there any things for programmatic buyers to learn about from you, that they may otherwise not know because they're not exposed to this style of buying? The simplicity of targeting the speed with which they can find markets, or any other details like that from a strategic planning and targeting perspective?

ID: Yeah, and look, we've built out a team here that, I have zero sales reps, because education is the most important thing. So the team and I spend most of our time educating the omnichannel DSPs, educating the brands directly. So we get this question a lot. And it's very much what you're doing today. For your brand, whether it's online, mobile, social, what you're doing today, we have that same ability. And not only do we have that ability, but you can do it in the same exact platform. And whoever you have your seat on.

As it relates to ability, that's something different, going back to creativity, creative is the most important thing. So we've already touched on the fact that it's massive and scale itself, you have this blank canvas that you can do so many beautiful things. Well, one of the things that we've also brought into the programmatic space that we've been doing for quite some time in the out-of-home digital side was dynamic content. So we have Bally's for the Atlanta Braves programmatically that runs live scores, so their games only begin, they only buy whenever their games begin. So obviously they're doing an impression-based audience targeting baseball enthusiasts, blah, blah, blah. But the coolest part for them is the ability to have real live scores. We touched on the weather, for example the NBA. Depending on when this launches during the playoffs, we're going to be streaming live tweets from the NBA, as well as live scores all the way down to, and this is the most basic thing that out-of-home does, because location and proximity are the most important thing.

I'm making an assumption here: a good friend of mine played for the Cubs forever. I'm a Cubs fan myself. And we have a digital network that downtown, near Wrigleyville, our creative can play content based off of real time outcomes. So Noor, you're in Chicago as you're walking around Wrigleyville, and you may be having lunch and next thing you know it's not necessarily the Cubs that are promoting or the MLB. But you may be a closet gambler and you have a certain app on your phone, and you love to bet on baseball, which I highly recommend don't ever bet on baseball. But based on your app, and based on those consumers that are walking by, you may have DraftKings. It shows you the real timelines, the betting lines during that game that's about to happen in three hours. So again, context and location are key. The last point of going to location is from a creative perspective, one of the benefits of out-of-home is what's in proximity, what's in the area. We've had campaigns such as New Balance, and others, where they're targeting over 75 to 100, different New Balance stores across so many cities, as opposed to that they're able to provide one piece of creative and dynamically based on when and where that buyer is happening. And the location of that board, when you're bidding and buying, we're passing that information back. And dynamically, the location of the store in the correct font that that creative team uses is displayed. So you have the New Balance shoe. You have available now at and then dynamically that's dropping it in.

I would say that that's probably the biggest differentiator is creative, and then the dynamic side of it. And then obviously, the ease of buying. So the ability just for us to build out a deal. Whether that's a specific deal ID for a specific PMP for a specific campaign and KPIs or very simplistic just like they do in the online and mobile space, we can just build an evergreen deal for your brand and just push it over to you. When and wherever you want to buy, whether it's Open Exchange or PMP, you don't have to contact a sales rep. So the process doesn't slow down. It's very much I'm buying in real time. And based on the measurement across all other media I ad spend; I can remove spend just the way that you can do and all of the media.

NN: I’ll wrap this question up. You've mentioned to me earlier, we've talked about this in the past that you do a lot of speaking engagements, you know, you have your own podcast. So, a part of you continuing to tour the country and have those conversations is that you must be involved in a lot of dialogue about the future of digital out-of-home and maybe programmatic digital out-of-home as well. What are you excited about that people are having conversations about as far as innovation in this realm?

ID: You know, I think if you're going to the far future, I think being a part of the driverless car itself or even driverless car for where the Teslas are moving towards and a handful of others. How does that of home then drive to that car screen? Don't freak out everybody. This would be an opt-in thing and we would work with each different vehicle. Then wearables you know, we all live in this world now where we have an Apple Watch, or we have some sort of wearable. I wear Whoop, how great would it be if you're standing next to a digital bus shelter, and it shows it knows that you burn 700 calories this morning, and then it triggers a Smoothie King ad for one of their products. That's kind of future stuff.

What excites me today is the ability to continue to educate people on the medium. Because so often, we get the conversation where it's like, “I had no idea out-of-home could be a part of my conversation.” “I had no idea that you could do device ID pass back.” The evolution of e-commerce is going to be big in the out-of-home space, not just programmatic, but the traditional direct side, that excites me. And honestly, we didn't talk about this, but AI and ChatGPT from a creative perspective. And from a rate optimization perspective, I think that that's going to be super exciting. And it's something that we're focused on. And I know the industry, half of us in one camp, half of us and the other, but again, embracing technologies and better understanding how and what it does for us, I think is imperative.

NN: I had a lot of questions over this hour for you because my mind is spinning in so many directions. I imagine for folks who haven't bought in space or have thought about it and haven't quite made the jump yet, this is a good starting place to start thinking and brainstorming more deeply. So thanks for the conversation Ian.

ID: Yeah, I love it. This was so much fun. Again, for us, our biggest hurdle is like all other medium is just evolving and educating. I'm grateful for you and the platform to do this. But this has been a lot of fun.

NN: Thanks for the time.

While many players in the advertising industry have reprioritized diversity, equity, and inclusion in the past few years, underrepresentation of historically marginalized communities in programmatic media inventory is an ongoing problem. 

President of Advertising at Group Black, Kerel Cooper, is working to change that by building a publisher collective that aggregates programmatic inventory focused on reaching Black audiences. In this episode, Kerel discusses what advertisers and marketers can do to support the advancement of the Black media ecosystem.

Episode Transcript:

Noor Naseer: 2020 was a year of colossal change for brands and advertisers, as many were finding their footing around sustainability, equity, social justice, and other topics they historically had taken less of a stance on. This social awakening impacted the digital media world by changing how brands plan their media investments, the variety of suppliers or publishers they work with, and the types of initiatives they support.

Our guest for this episode is Kerel Cooper, president of advertising at Group Black, a Black-owned media collective focused on creating a more sustainable and equitable media landscape. Kerel talks to me about what's been going on in the past few years since 2020, how brands and media buyers should be thinking about DEI when it comes to programmatic media buying, and how marketers and digital media professionals can do better as they plan to execute campaigns more inclusively. This episode with Kerel on programmatic buying with diversity and inclusion in mind starts right now.

NN: First things first Kerel: Thanks for joining me to chat today.

Kerel Cooper: Absolutely, super excited about this conversation. I'm thrilled that we got a chance to meet in person for the first time a few months back at Ad Color. You were on my podcast two years ago, but we had actually never met in person until very recently. So that was awesome.

NN: It is very strange since I guess I met you amidst the pandemic and maybe I already knew you before. I think there is this shift in what it means to know somebody because I felt like I already knew you like I had already met you. I think that's just what living in this kind of post-pandemic world is like.

KC: Absolutely. I agree. There are so many people that I met, virtually, that I got a chance to know over the last two and a half years that meeting them for the first time in person was exciting. But it was also like we were just picking up conversations like old friends, because we've known each other for so long.

NN: I’m excited to do more of that and have some more of those conversations via the podcast as well. So I'm going to kick things off and ask you a little bit about where you work. You come from the legacy digital media and adtech space. And since then, you've moved over relatively recently to Group Black. So I'm going to frame my question specifically, because I know Group Black does a lot of different things. But can you spell out the offerings that are digital in nature, and the vital purposes they serve for brands and advertisers?

KC: Yeah, sure. So first, for those of you listening who don't know me, my name is Kerel Cooper, I'm President of Advertising at Group Black. If you're unfamiliar with Group Black, we are essentially a collective and accelerator focused on the advancement of the Black media ecosystem. And I know we'll sort of get more into what that means in this conversation. 

In terms of our specific offerings, we're in the market today with three main opportunities. First, as a media opportunity. Today we work with, like I said, a collective of about 200 Black-owned media publishers, and are representing their inventory and market. So we've essentially consolidated their inventory and offer it as a scalable media solution and market. The specific products within that include standard display, video, audio, CTV, and digital out of home. So that all sort of encompasses our media offering.

We also have a content and creators offering as well. So really working with creators and content creators who are authentically telling great stories in the marketplace, we work with them on sort of amplification of their content and connecting them with the right agencies and brands who have a strategy around content or social offering as well. The third offering is focused on events. So in 2022, we worked very closely with Essence, partnering with them on sponsorships and activations at Essence Fest and Afropunk. But as we look at 2023, Group Black will be standing up for our own events in the market. And a couple of notable events are, we'll be doing something soon around web3 and NFT's and the sort of the education around that market, as well as programming around hip hop's 50th anniversary, which happens to be this year. And again, working with brands on sponsorships and activations at those events.

NN: You might have touched on some things I am probably going to ask you about, but we'll reframe them a little bit. I also want to just clarify what is the nature of the conversation that I'm looking to have today with Kerel and there is just this inclination and just this uprising of advertisers and marketers and brands out there that are looking to put together strategies to reach Black and Brown audiences and other types of marginalized audiences. And oftentimes, they're looking to do that in programmatic adtech oriented spaces. Everyone doesn't have a full-blown strategic team or AOR in place to make those strategies come into existence, but they've been tasked with making those buys come together and come together successfully. So we'll talk more about that. But I'm going to connect back again to Kerel’s history in the adtech and digital media space. How is your background distinguishing you for the purposes of Group Black?

KC: Yeah, it's a great question. I don't know if anyone's ever asked me that question before, you made me sort of think about my career, my career journey. I've been in the adtech and martech space for over 23 years now. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work at some great companies, some really great organizations, and have had the opportunity to do a lot of different things within my career, right, you know, I would say the first 14 years of my career were mainly spent in ad operations. And coming up through sort of the ad operations funnel and running teams there and building out adtech stacks, so on and so forth. I then moved over to LiveIntent in 2014. So moving from the publisher side of the space to the adtech platform side of the space. And from there, I made a career switch to move into account management and ran the account management organization for a couple of years before again, pivoting into leading product marketing, and then ultimately all of marketing. 

So my career in a snapshot has been across ad operations, account management, product marketing, and marketing. I think from the role that I'm in now, which consists of heading up an organization that consists of the sales team, account management and operations and insights and analytics, all of my previous experience, put me in a really good position to sort of lead an organization that covers so many different areas of revenue and operations. 

Second to that I'm super passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, as we've talked about, you know, I run my own podcast with my cohost, Erik Requidan, that we started in 2018, which focuses on diverse individuals within media, business and technology. And I've always been involved in my company and my organization's diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and social outreach initiatives. So if you combine my experience plus my passion around diversity, equity and inclusion and marry that with our mission and vision at Group Black, it's a really good fit for me. And I think for the company as well.

NN: To expand on that, I know you've given a little bit of background on Group Black and some of the activations or opportunities that they've stepped into some of the new things that we're anticipating for 2023. But I think a lot of people out there, who maybe they've worked in the adtech space, or programmatic media space, or just advertising in general, they're not as close as either you or I when it comes down to thinking about why it's so important to craft these more specialized organizations that are focusing on unique populations. So can you share some background to highlight why scaling Black media ownership is critical for programmatic and the digital media industry?

KC: Yeah, I mean, I think historically, Black-owned media and other diverse-owned media companies have not had the investment in them that other companies have had, or maybe that they should have had. So from that perspective, they haven't been able to have the financial resources to have the right technologies in place, or to maybe have the right media expertise on staff. And because their staffing is small, maybe they don't have the right connections at the agencies and brands to unlock more revenue. When you think of it from that perspective, that is one of the values that Group Black is providing to our collective. How do we make buying Black-owned media easier to do at scale? How do we create opportunities for our collective but also, how do we bring to them these additional areas of expertise, whether that be on the media side, the technology side, so on and so forth. 

I think when you look at the Black-media ecosystem landscape, I still feel that there's a lot of untapped sources of inventory from a programmatic perspective, because there are hundreds of local Black news organizations across the country today. But because of the lack of investment, as we just talked about, and their localized nature, a lot of them are very small. So a lot of them get overlooked by bigger brands and agencies when they're spending dollars and if we from a Group Black perspective can pull together those inventory sources, those unique small inventory sources that are untapped to create a more scalable offering, I think that that is something that a lot of agencies and brands would be willing to tap into.

NN: Absolutely. I mean, that's where there's this incredible loss on both sides, right that, like you mentioned earlier, it's that the technology hasn't been tapped into, people don't have the awareness that the opportunities exist. And even when the opportunities exist, they really need, especially if we're talking about some of the bigger brands out there, they need to be glued together with a lot of the other inventory sources that are available. 

KC: So right.

NN: Technology is key to that. So if you can also share how Group Black is helping to make Black-owned digital media companies more accessible, maybe in ways that go beyond some of what you already described in terms of like gluing some of the inventory sources together? Are there other things that are happening from a digital media perspective that you all are supporting?

KC: Yeah, I think in terms of making it more accessible, so I think it goes back to the technology piece. You know, from being in the adtech and programmatic space, connecting the pipes is so important. We love to say that in our space: “Are the pipes connected? Are we ready to do buying?” And so we've had to look at that as part of our solution for making inventory accessible, making it available, creating opportunities for maybe some of the smaller publishers who wouldn't normally have that opportunity. So opening the pipes and connecting programmatically is one thing. 

The flip side of that is marketing. I think our marketing team, our brand team has done a fantastic job in the year and a half that Group Black has been around in sort of promoting who we are, what we're doing and making sure that the marketplace knows that we exist. And within that it's not just about the Group Black brand. It's about the 200-plus publishers that are part of our collective that we are helping promote. So part of it is technology, in terms of making sure pipes are connected. The other part of it is brand marketing.

NN: Why is the adtech industry so behind when it comes to having solid sources of inventory related to Black-owned real time biddable inventory?

KC: There's a couple of reasons for that. If you think about the black media ecosystem, landscape, and Black-owned media inventory, there isn't a lot out there, there aren't a lot of Black-owned media companies. Our mission at Group Black is to dramatically transform the face of media ownership and investment. As part of who we are and what we're trying to do we are trying to address that. So the first part is there isn't a lot of Black-owned media that exists. And there's a number of reasons for that. Investment is at the top of the list, so we need to address that. 

The other side of it, I think, is the inherent way that buying has been done for so long creates some biases when it comes to Black-owned media and diverse-owned media as well. I'll give you an example. From a buying perspective there are companies that when they buy programmatically, they do keyword blocking for brand safety reasons. We've seen some examples where companies will block terms like “Black Lives Matter.” If you say you want to spend money with Black-owned media and you block a term like “Black Lives Matter,” you're automatically going to negate spending going to a lot of local news organizations, so on and so forth. “Obama” is another term that seems to get blocked as well, too. I think that that's more from a political perspective. Companies sometimes will block politics. How many years has it been since Obama's been in the White House? Most of the news today about him and about his wife and about his kids is more sort of lifestyle and educational type news. So I think going back and looking at how we buy today and making sure that the way we buy from a programmatic perspective in terms of keyword blocking, brand safety, the entire RFP process, I think is an exercise worthwhile for companies who are really serious about spending money with diverse-owned media companies.

NN: Kerel, I want to take our conversation back to what happened across the course of the pandemic, especially surrounding mid-2020. When there wasn't just an upheaval from a political standpoint, and from a social justice perspective, it definitely bled right into agency life and advertising and adtech culture of there being these proclamations of dedicating dollars and media investment to Black-owned businesses and Black-owned causes and things that we should be seeing the impact of. I wanted to ask you more about that. I imagine Group Black has a lot of visibility into whether or not that investment is actually occurring. So I just wanted to ask you a little bit about how those pledges and that commitment are coming along for advertisers and brands.

KC: Yeah, I think if you look at it on a case-by-case basis, some companies are doing better than others with their commitments, right. To your point, we speak to a lot of brands and agencies that have pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars supporting Black-owned media companies, supporting diverse-owned media companies, right. Obviously, I'm not going to get into the point of naming names or anything like that. But some are doing better than others. From a sales perspective it's our job at Group Black to continue to educate the market. From a sales perspective, it's our job to continue to show the power of running with diverse-owned media, Black-owned media. And that's the job that we're doing. We're making some headway there. But to answer your question, some are doing better than others. 

NN: To the extent that you want to comment on this, I know, it's kind of a tricky question, what do you think is holding some of those organizations back? Are there legitimate reasons? Do they not understand the complexities, or is putting together the plans more challenging than they were anticipating? Can you share a little bit about what some of the general rationale might be?

KC: Yeah, I think you named some of the reasoning behind that. I think that there, maybe there were a little bit more complexities than some had anticipated. Some folks put out headlines a couple years ago, but they didn't really have any real intention of doing anything there. Right. And again, I think that's a small part. I want to make sure I'm not generalizing because I think a lot of, pretty much all, of the partners that we work with today are serious about their commitments. But it's more about making sure that they understand the complexities, we help them navigate some of that. And then also on our side, and I think we've done a good job of this over the last year or so is making sure that we've got the right product offering for the brands that want to spend dollars. At the end of the day, we're still running a business. So brands and agencies need to hit specific KPIs. So we need to make sure that we're delivering the right products and services, which I believe we are today.

NN: You mentioned that there are a lot of advertisers out there that are standing firm with their commitment. And those are the types of folks that you are looking to partner with, to elaborate on the types of clients that seek to partner with your organization.

KC: Over the course of the year and a half we've been in business, we've seen all different types of partners come our way, large publishers, mid publishers, and very small publishers. I think a couple of things stand out that are consistent across the board. One, publishers have inventory that they want to offer up and be a part of what we're doing. Two, they share very similar beliefs and values that we share at Group Black and want to be a part of this sort of movement that we've created. I think all of those exist with that sort of common thread across a lot of the collective members that we work with today.

NN: Where is the typical brand or agency behind when it comes to developing a thoughtful programmatic strategy to reach Black audiences?

KC: That's an interesting question in terms of behind, I think it goes back to what I was saying earlier about really looking at your buying tactics. Obviously, you're going to come up with the goals of your campaigns, you're going to come up with your KPIs for what you want to do. But do your buying tactics negate you from getting there and create more challenges and hurdles for you getting there? Right, like looking at your keyword list, looking at the domains that you're running on? I think that is an area where I still think from a programmatic perspective, there needs to be a reset and a little bit more sort of digging into and investigating.

NN: Yeah, I think I also asked the question because I think from the perspective of a buyer and I know you haven't been in a media planner, per se, role for a minute now, Kerel. When I think about the question, I think about somebody, in the event that you are just not knowledgeable about the type of inventory sources that you're looking to ideally source from, what are you turning to? You’re trying to turn to Comscore? Are you trying to turn to your neighbor in the workplace to ask you what types of suppliers or sources you should be turning to? Maybe everybody's turning to the one singular supplier, and I feel like that's definitely a hang up to saying, like, “We're not pulling from a diversified enough source.” Then also to your earlier point, there's only so much you can source from to begin with, and that's a part of what you guys are focusing on too. It's the short-term, but it's also the long-term strategy.

KC: Exactly, yeah, there's only so many places you can source from. And I think that if we don't operate the largest programmatic offering of Black-owned media, we are certainly towards the top of the list there. So from that perspective, I think we've done a good job of pulling together as much inventory out there as we can. We're always looking for more, we have a team that is dedicated to finding more sources of inventory that fit into what we're doing and trying to accomplish as Group Black.

NN: If there are brands or media buyers out there listening now, and they're thinking about their strategies and that they want to be doing better, what type of advice would you offer to them as far as embarking on a more thoughtful strategy to reach Black audiences across digital media platforms in 2023?

KC: Yeah, whenever anyone asked me about the question around advice for how people can do better, I think the first thing is figuring out where you're at in the process today, and why you actually haven't done better up until this point, looking internally and understanding what's held you back or stopped you from doing better up until this point, I think, is super important. That's the first thing.

Two, I think reaching out to suppliers, like Group Black, we're happy to chat with anyone out there that wants to talk about best practices for targeting Black-owned media, the best practices around targeting African American audiences as well. We can guide you and help you from that perspective, to accomplish your goals. Again, from our perspective, yes, programmatic and the digital media offering is important to what we do, but it's not the only thing we do. So if you want to spend dollars with Black-owned media, if you want to reach diverse audiences, we can help you really with an integrated approach, reaching your audience at scale.

NN: What are big goals you have your sights set on when it comes to reaching Black consumers and leveraging Black-owned programmatic sources?

KC: Yeah, I think first and foremost is continuing to drive scale. You know this just as well as I do. What marketers are always looking for is scale and performance. So continuing to drive that I think is super important for us to share. Continuing to educate the market, on who we are, what we do, best practices for buying Black-owned media, diverse owned media through us is important. And really looking at sort of larger, more integrated campaigns, as I mentioned a moment ago, I think is important for us as well, too. We feel like we have really an offer for any marketer that's out there that wants to work with diverse-owned media.

NN: I am feeling optimistic about the future, you know, just even seeing Group Black at Ad Color and so many of the initiatives that you're supporting and having this conversation now, it makes me feel good about what's to come because it is also a long journey. 

KC: It is.

NN: You’ve made the serious commitment of leaving a former organization to become the president of a new one and keep things moving forward. So excited about the things that are coming next at Group Black and what you have coming next personally Kerel.

KC: Thanks, I appreciate it. We are excited about the year ahead we're going to continue to keep pushing our message in the market and doing the right things because if we succeed at what we're trying to do, which we will, it will have an impact from a social perspective for generations to come. 

NN: Great. Looking forward to it. Thanks for the time, Kerel.

KC: Thank you. Appreciate it.

NN: Thanks to Kerel Cooper, President of Advertising at Group Black, for discussing the cross section between digital media buying and executing campaigns that better represent the diverse world we live in. There's going to be some uphill climbing required to see the type of change that organizations like Group Black are working towards. But the adtech industry is better off when we can all more effectively reach the audiences we seek to engage with. Kerel also has a great podcast where he features interviews with leaders of diverse backgrounds across the business, media and tech landscape called Minority Report. Find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. And while you're doing that, give more episodes of this podcast to listen and feel free to subscribe. I'm Noor Naseer, more AdTech Unfiltered coming up real soon.

For nearly two decades, brands and businesses across industries have relied on third-party cookies to generate billions of dollars of ad revenue. From selling products to driving college enrollment to collecting political donations, this small but mighty identifier made tracking and identifying specific audiences pretty easy. With cookies now expected to expire in 2024 and with 80% of advertisers still dependent on them, today’s marketer faces an identity crisis and is desperately trying to figure out what to do next.

At SXSW 2023, Basis Technologies' VP of Media Innovations + Technology, Noor Naseer, broke down everything we need to know—and what we need to do now—about an evolved web ecosystem that is increasingly privacy-centric while also expecting brands to reaching audiences with precision.

Not able to make it to make it to Austin this year? Never fear! We're here. Click below to watch a recording of Noor's presentation:

Want to dive further into the presentation and gain in-depth analysis of digital advertising's cookieless future? Click here to download slides from Noor’s talk, full of takeaways you can apply to your campaigns, plus a free copy of our guide “Beyond Third-Party Cookies: Your Guide to Overcoming the Identity Crisis.”

Noor Naseer is VP of Media Innovations & Technology at Basis Technologies. Her presentation earlier this month at SXSW 2023 explored a question at the forefront of many advertisers’ minds: Will data privacy kill advertising?

Here, Noor offers a framework for what advertising teams can do today to set themselves up for success in a privacy-focused future.

The State of Data Privacy Today

Scroll through any major news site, and it’s clear that data privacy in advertising is a burning topic. The last few years have ushered in a staggering amount of privacy-focused regulation and legislation, and regulators are cracking down on holding companies accountable to these new standards. At the same time, more and more consumers are concerned about data privacy—86% of US consumers, to be precise—and people today have greater control over how companies use and share their personal information. Couple these factors with the impending deprecation of third-party cookies in Google Chrome, and it’s no surprise that advertisers are concerned about the future.

The question on everyone’s mind is this: How can marketers connect with consumers in a way that’s scalable, personalized, and privacy-friendly?

The most important thing to know is that the right approach will look different for everyone. Even more, it will involve a massive investigative undertaking to figure out what solution (or combination of solutions) works best for your target audiences and your marketing team. As of yet, there’s no one-size-fits-all replacement that advertisers can employ in place of third-party cookies. And, though it might be tempting to wait around for someone to come up with such a solution, those who choose progress over procrastination when exploring privacy-friendly solutions will come out on top.    

Reaching Consumers in a Privacy-Friendly Way

As I explored earlier, consumers are demanding increased privacy when it comes to their data. But, they still want personalized experiences with the brands they’re interacting with. One recent report found that 73% of all consumers say they expect companies to understand their unique needs, and more than half say they expect all offers to be personalized.

Without third-party cookies, what’s a marketing team to do?

First, teams should develop a healthy appreciation that this is a complex shift and there will likely be a margin of difference between the third-party cookie targeting of the past and the cookieless solutions of the present.    

Then, teams should embrace this opportunity to experiment and test available alternative solutions. The reality is that not every solution is right for every brand or company. Without testing what’s available, it will be difficult to determine what will work best for your unique team and audience.

Here are some of the solutions that digital advertisers can explore and test—whether alone or in concert with one another—as they adapt to the data privacy demands of today:  

First-Party Data

As advertisers move beyond third-party cookies, first-party data will become increasingly important. Since this is data that consumers willingly give to brands, it is inherently privacy-friendly. And, because it comes directly from users, it is both high-quality and accurate.  

For advertisers looking to make the most of their first-party data, here are a few questions to consider:

Contextual Targeting

There’s a reason that contextual targeting is having a moment in digital advertising: It’s a privacy-friendly solution that’s both time-tested and cost-efficient. Contextual advertising works by allowing advertisers to place their ads in contextually relevant environments. For example, a bakeware brand could use contextual targeting to place display ads alongside recipes on a website, or a snack food company could target their ads to digital out-of-home (DOOH) screens at gas station pumps to entice hungry travelers.


Though it still relies on some user data for personalization, geotargeting is an accessible targeting solution that is more privacy-friendly than cookie-based IDs. Advertisers can harness the power of geotargeting and location targeting to reach audiences at the right time, in the right way, and with the right message. And via targeting by country, city, or even zip code, advertisers can utilize available information about specific locations—such as language, food, weather, and local landmarks—to create personalized ads for users in those areas.

Artificial Intelligence

Recent advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) present additional opportunities for privacy-friendly targeting. Take, for instance, Basis’ integration with TransUnion Audience Platform (TAP). TAP’s technology allows advertisers to pair their first-party data with TAP’s audience pool (which covers 99% of the US population). Through machine learning, that first-party data can then be enhanced with more data points across a variety of categories to create holistic consumer profiles for more personalized messaging and targeting. Similar to geotargeting, AI does rely upon some personal user data and, as such, will be worth examining and evaluating as it continues to develop.

Next Steps: The Privacy-Friendly Present

It’s clear that the digital advertising landscape is undergoing a significant shift, with the push for increased data privacy at its center. And while it’s true that we have a little time before the loss of third-party cookies in Chrome, it’s imperative that marketing teams use that time wisely.

How? My recommendation is to start testing some of the privacy-friendly options discussed above as soon as possible. In doing so, you’ll be on your way to determining the unique combination of cookie alternatives that works best for your brand(s) and your audiences.


Want to learn more about how your team can overcome the challenges posed by data privacy? Check out our guide, Beyond Third-Party Cookies, where we do a deeper dive on how advertisers can overcome the identity crisis.   

To navigate the growing complexity of digital marketing and the rising importance of first-party data, marketers are deepening their tech stacks. In particular, more brands are considering investing in a customer data platform, or CDP.

In this month's episode, Cory Munchbach, CEO of CDP company BlueConic, breaks down the use cases for a CDP, how to identify if you're well-positioned to leverage one, and best practices to help marketers reap the rewards of this popular but complex tool.

Episode Transcript:

Noor Naseer: Hey listeners. Right before we get into this episode, a quick mention. I've referred to our guest Cory Munchbach as the president and COO of her company, but she has since been promoted to CEO. Even if you don't know Cory, when you listen to our conversation, you will immediately get a sense of why this promotion is so well deserved. A big congrats to her from AdTech Unfiltered. And with that, let's get into the intro.


Noor Naseer: More brands and agencies are doing exploration into how they can be consumer privacy-centric while simultaneously collecting and segmenting first-party data sets. Even though we've somehow escaped the sunsetting of third-party cookies yet another year, the well of precise advertising and marketing data is expected to dry up very soon. 

Hey everyone, I'm Noor Naseer, host of AdTech Unfiltered, and today we'll be looking at a tech stack opportunity that more brands are turning towards: CDPs, or customer data platforms. To get a breakdown on what a CDP is, what it's for, how it's being used, and who's in the best position to use one, we speak with Cory Munchbach, President and Chief Operating Officer at CDP company BlueConic. While CDPs are not a turnkey solution, like so many other ad solutions that advertisers are familiar with, they do offer a strategic opportunity to hone in on first-party data collection that goes well beyond the cookie-focused options of today. And time is of the essence for advertisers to explore new avenues. This episode on CDPs with guest Cory Munchbach starts right now.

We're moving into this cookieless future, and supposedly one of these future opportunities that advertisers can embark on is a CDP. So, there's a lot of curiosity. There's also a lot of confusion. Let me ask you a baseline question. What is a CDP?

Cory Munchbach: Great, let's start. I love that intro. Curiosity and confusion are probably the best two descriptors of this category. Interestingly enough, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this lately, too, which is that, in some ways, there's never been more need for what a CDP does. And I'll answer that question in just a second. But at the same time, the category continues to be noisy, and it's sort of confusing for everybody, and they're trying to figure out how things fit. And that's always been a little bit of a tension with this particular category. 

What a CDP does, at its most fundamental level, is give largely non-technical users, I should say, people in the business, a database of first-party, individual customer-level data that is designed to be used in the context of customer experience, of marketing, of digital product; essentially, in a broader base activation set, lots of words in there that you could sort of unpack. I think part of the challenge is that a lot of the things that I just mentioned mean something a little bit different to each company—how it's structured, how they think about activation and customer experience. But all of it just to say that before CDPs, you had a lot of channel-specific systems, or you had a lot of back-end IT data systems. But there wasn't something that served as the natural translation between the richness of the first-party data that you need to drive your business, and the places where that data would inform consumer interaction. CDP exists to be that sort of point in the middle of unification and activation for the customer, again, largely focused on those business sort of non-technical types of users in an organization.

NN: So it sounds like there's this very exciting opportunity that CDP's can bring to the table. But along with that excitement comes more labor and complexity, to actually operate all the opportunities that could be born from a CDP. So you also mentioned first-party data, which is really at the center of the utilization of many data platforms, including a CDP. 

I think many of the clients that I have been entertaining conversations with and maybe just general marketers at large, will think about first-party data in relation to a CRM system or doing a CRM upload so that you can do some sort of matching and find people online. That might be the kind of more foundational exposure that they have to what first-party data can bring to the table. I'm curious, as far as from your perspective, Cory, how have you started to help clients who are curious about the CDP space to understand what some of the prerequisites they need to bring as far as types of data so that they can take advantage of what a CDP can offer.

CM: Yeah, this is a great question. And I'm going to unpack a couple pieces of it because I think this is also again, where some of the difficulty navigating this space comes into play. I've been, as have you, an observer of marketing technology for a long time outside of my sort of current context. And one of the areas where I continually find buyers or users, however you want to think about it, sort of underprepared, is being specific about the use cases that they are bringing to a given technology. And that could be a CDP. But it could be any number of other tools as well. 

What I mean by that is segmentation or personalization isn't a use case—it’s a capability. It can take a nearly infinite number of forms, depending on who your customer is, what your business does, who owns that initiative, what other technology you have. So, admittedly, part of the confusion comes from the fact that there's a lot of variables involved in a technology-enabled kind of conversation; again, not just CDPs. 

The first part of where you start from is really nothing to do with technology. What are some of the issues or opportunities that you see in your organization that you have today? And sort of divorce that entirely from the tech. So that can be things like we'd love to be more individualized in our marketing, but we don't have the data, or we don't have access to the data, or we don't have access to the data at the sort of velocity that we need to have it in order to use it. Or it could be that we don't have access to the data in a way that's scalable, because it costs too much every time, and we need to pull the data. 

I just gave you in a couple of seconds, a number of examples that would largely be bucketed into a data access issue. But of course, which one or combination is going to mean something quite different for what might be the right solution to that problem. And so again, being really religious about how you are defining your problems and opportunities that you're trying to solve for has to be the place that folks start, rather than from the technology that you think is going to solve it.

That's my first call to action. I beat the use case drum a lot. And it also directly relates to the question you asked around preparedness. You are going to be frustrated if you select a technology and then start to retrofit use cases to it. Because even among the CDP category, they're not all identical. We all do different things and have maybe places that we over index or under index in terms of strengths. So if you try to figure out after the fact, the way that the technology is going to bring value to the business, it's going to be really frustrating. Then it also starts to answer the second part of that question, which is around data readiness.

The way I think about it is, particularly EP buyers, what's the data that is closest to your customer, and to the way that your organization drives revenue. So, that can be transactional data. If you're a retailer, that's really important. If you're a publisher, it's subscription-based data; where that lives already. Your “how you get it” is going to vary. But you want to try to get to that highest value data upfront, and prioritize it around what do we know about you and how it potentially impacts the way we drive revenue for the business. That's also at least somewhat of a guard against the fact that a lot of companies have the tendency to just say, well, let's bring all the data in and figure out what we're going to do with it later. Not only is that operationally inefficient, it's also really increasingly problematic when you think about privacy concerns and wanting to move to a better data set that is actually usable, but without kind of needing to boil the ocean. 

So that's where the biggest bottlenecks are. Most companies are far less ready to embark on these initiatives as they think they are. And it's largely because of the lack of time spent thinking specifically about the use cases and how that relates to the data they should prioritize and what that roadmap looks like. So it's an awesome question, and one that really, I think, shapes a lot of the success or frustration that can come with some of these implementations and getting value over time.

NN: I think there's a lot of legs to that question. It can just basically vein-off in many directions. And it has to be answered in that way. Right? It's not one question. It's kind of 10 questions baked into one as far as all the unpacking that needs to occur. This data readiness piece is something that requires a lot of planning and preparation on the part of the brand in order to figure out how they want to take advantage of a solution like a CDP. I would say that we as an industry in the adtech or martech space have become really acclimated to not always doing that pre-work. Instead, we'd like a solution to show up. And then we want to backpedal our way into that solution working for us so we can quickly propose that to higher-ups who want to make sure that we're hitting some sort of marketing or advertising business goals, and you want it to be turnkey, too. 

I think that's another thing about CDP's. It's not turnkey. It's this massive cruise ship or something of substantial size, that's going to take a lot of time and energy to figure out how to make it work for the custom needs of your business and your marketing goals. With that, I wanted to ask you another question that was correlated with your past answer, which is doing the shepherding of the data, doing the wrangling of the data. You said that, probably you don't want to have a big mess of information, and then just say, “Let's move on and figure it out after the fact”. If I need to do that, as part of my preparation to get ready, and I approach you and say, “Look, I'd like to get into a relationship with a CDP. But my data is very messy right now, I don't have a clear vision on what to do next.” How would you direct me so I can get myself into a place where my ducks are in a row, as far as getting that data ready to be entered into a CDP?

CM: Yeah, I mean, first of all, I would love more people to start from that place, the problem is often that the assumption that the data is all set. And so just sort of taking that for granted and not actually realizing that it's quite messy, and then having to sort of fold that into the process. Because to be clear, that is a big part of the journey right out of the gate with CDP expectation. In fact, the data is going to need some normalization, some cleansing, what have you, it's when we don't have enough understanding of how messy it is or what the state of it is in advance, nor does the potential customer, that it ends up being really, really sloppy. 

We have many examples where we've gotten the data, often from old ERP-type of systems, like things that nobody's really kept a good eye on, or certainly not the teams that we're working with, when the data comes in. And they'll say, “Well, there's something wrong with the data”. And it's like, “Yes, because the source system is wrong.” And now for the first time, potentially, in years, you have visibility into the fact that that data has been being managed poorly, or what have you. And on the one hand, there are some customers who are psyched because they have visibility, and now they can fix it. For others, it's actually really frustrating, like the “Ostrich Effect,” right? Where it's like, well, we didn't know it was a problem. Therefore, it wasn't a problem. But now that we've seen it and realize it, we actually have to do something about it. 

So you know, you have kind of mixed reactions, it can be sort of emotional, in terms of how to get started. Again, we expect that there's going to need to be data that gets normalized or cleansed or tidied up, what have you. What is necessary to get that right. Technically speaking, that's not necessarily a huge issue. It's more about the level of effort. Certain data is more complex. If it needs to be cleansed in a source system that is owned by it, you need to get on that queue, like there might be some operational considerations. And that's when we just have the conversation about what is, from a business perspective, the top priority here. Is the top priority to show that you can have value out of a CDP in about three months or so, where you're stuck with a couple of use cases? Cool, then maybe we should focus on something that's perhaps a little bit smaller. While we wait for some of the other data situations, we can run these things in parallel, other customers, the priority, and there's total recognition that it's maybe going to take a little bit longer. For other customers, the priority is that they want to get the data first. And it's okay to not have some of those like quicker activation wins.

NN: One of many things you just mentioned was that sometimes the data, maybe it's a little dusty, it needs to be cleaned up, and that there could be multiple sources from which it's coming. And maybe there are some antiquated systems in which that data is being stored currently. And that there's going to be this evaluation process. What does that evaluation process look like for you? When somebody who is showing up two weeks before it's Tax Day, and they have just like a mess of papers flying around? They're like, “Listen, I don't know how to do this. You're the expert who can help me figure this out.” I feel like that's where a CDP like BlueConic might step in and would need to really consult an organization that's in a messy place. And you mentioned, ERPs as an example of a potentially antiquated system. What do you want an advertiser or marketer to bring to you as part of that consultation process to make sure that you are in fact uncovering all the data sources that could be valuable to bring into a CDP?

CM: It's a fabulous question and quite frankly, it's pretty simple. On the one hand, we need the list of use cases and the way they're thinking about how you're going to use the data. And then on the other hand, any sort of sample data file that we can look at. So we have our amazing team who's been doing this for a long time working with hundreds of customers. They know exactly what they're looking for when they look at a 100-row sample that you pull from your CRM or what have you. And they will ask questions about the data structure, where it's coming from, the type of integration that we're going to use to bring the data in, how we want to think about storing it. All these kinds of questions are totally standard, every customer's answer to them is going to vary. That's where the sort of the bespoke aspect of it comes into play. But again, it's not really rocket science.

Typically, data can take a fairly finite number of forms. And it's just a question of being able to see it. So if we can see even a couple rows, a couple examples, coming from different systems and have that to look at and then ask questions about, like, let's make some choices about what that should look like and, again, why you're going to use it in certain ways. One of the gaps is that I think a lot more education can be done, and we can play a role in that. But the format and structure of data is directly related to the ways that it can be used. There's a reason you can't do anything with data and Google Analytics. It's how it's structured. It's how it's collected. Right? That is an architectural question, as much as it is an interface one. 

So there are choices to be made about how you're going to use the data that needs to be answered upfront. And so it is just a lot of questions. But if we understand how you want to use the data, those use-cases, and then we have some sample files from the places that are going to be coming in, it's really not overly complex after that, to get to a sort of a place where okay, this is what we're going to need, this is the kind of path forward and how that will look to make sure we can get the data into the system.

NN: So you also mentioned use-cases and that's part of the expectation as far as understanding like, what does a client want? And I think that's a perpetual question that solution providers are going to ask of brands that they're working with. What's your expectation in association with like taking advantage of this relationship? But I think there's a little bit of the chicken and the egg scenario with CDPs, where sometimes the advertiser or the marketer just doesn't know exactly what the opportunities could be. So how might you, as a CDP solution provider, help a client understand or prospective client understand what use cases might be on the table for them to take advantage of?

CM: Totally. Okay, so a couple of things here. One is that, generally speaking, there's at least sort of a high enough level of common use cases by industry, for example. We have an opportunity to work with hundreds of customers. There are some common themes and types of use cases that our customers are using. We do webinars every year on last year's top 10 use cases for CDPs and the year before. So we're putting that together in a library and documenting that. 

There's a lot of material out there. I mean, maybe there's a little bit of a point where like, if you have no idea how or why you use a CDP, you're not ready to make the investment in one because it’s not just the technology partner you're choosing, but you might not be staffed, you need to think about measurement. So it's incredibly important to us that our buyers are informed and ready so that when they choose us, we know that they've made the right choice, because again, maybe we're not the best fit for you, because you've got some funky edge use cases that another CDP is better designed for something like that. 

So there is a ton of material out there. And then practically speaking, assuming you at least have a general sense of what you're trying to accomplish, our core methodology starts with a use-case discovery workshop really getting in there and asking questions. When you say this, tell us more about that. What does that mean? What other systems do you have in place? It's really a question of getting familiar with how do you maximize value. What will that look like for us? What are common use cases for my vertical or companies of a similar size? We have tons and tons of material about that, case studies, etc. And then once we get started, it's a core component of implementation to be asking these questions and understanding your priorities, making these recommendations and kind of guiding you along the way. 

We talk a lot about our customer experience. It has three core pillars; expertise, partnership, and empathy. Expertise is, we can bring you tons of information for you to choose from, and help you make the right choices. But partnership is also being right there with you and trying to help you navigate that not just with the information, but the pros and cons and understanding your business so that we can make sure that you're successful. But a lot of that is a lot of non-technical work, actually to make the technology maximally successful.

NN: I wanted to also ask you about something else that is really key for why somebody would want to embark on a CDP relationship or meet the threshold to make a CDP relationship valuable, and that is the volume of data that you need to bring to the table. So, Cory, if you could tell me a little bit more about how much data is expected for a potential marketer or prospective marketer to bring to the table in order for a CDP relationship to be valuable. Love to learn a little bit more about that.

CM: Yeah, A great question. But it's a hard one to sort of triangulate because again, there's so many different types of data, you could have a business where, I think actually this is a good way to illustrate this, is that our publishing customers, for example, have hundreds of millions of profiles in the platform; largely anonymous. It’s web traffic, people coming back to read, but not necessarily authenticated, or logged in. And of course, a big part of what publishers use BlueConic for is to increase the number of what we would kind of call recognized or addressable profiles, they have an email address or something about them that takes them beyond like a web cookie, or what have you. 

By contrast, our retail customers and our folks that maybe have a loyalty program or something like this, our heavy e-commerce have fewer total profiles, but are much more addressable. Because, again, with e-commerce, even those loyalty programs, as I say, have an identifier that makes it sort of unique to you in a persistent way. Meanwhile, sort of third example, maybe I'll pull in like our CPG customers who don't have a ton of profiles, nor do they have a ton of identifiable profiles. They're much more immature, if you will, in this journey, because they've relied historically much more either on retail partners, right shopper marketing and sort of collaborations there, or on third-party buying lists and/or working with MSPs to sort of build up these third-party databases. 

So you may have three very large, very well-known organizations in three different industries that have completely different data volumes relative to the business, but how they might value each profile is completely different. So I give that context, because it's maybe less about, you know, total number of profiles, per se, and more about how that reflects what's going on in your business. 

What I will say is that a CDP, one of its sort of reason for being, is solving how complex the data ecosystem typically is, within an organization, whether again, I mentioned, its web, it's email, it's CRM, it's your former DMP. It's all of these pieces. It's your data warehouse. So you don't have a lot of complexity in terms of channels and or inputs, then maybe a CDP, at least companies like mine, where we're working on much larger sort of enterprise complex organizations, maybe there's a different CDP, a different sort of partner. But that's where that sort of assessment upfront shows that readiness to go back to that question is so important that you have a good grip on that and that you're matching your requirements with the right vendor. And of course, the right cost as well, right. You don't want to overpay if you're not actually using it or getting features that you don't find useful. So that's a good part of the readiness aspect that we were talking about before,

NN: I'll just continue to extend our readiness conversation by asking about having talent internally that can be dedicated to the CDP. So that's something else, I think, in some other types of solution relationships or partnerships, a lot of the responsibility falls on the solution provider to do all the labor; whereas I think when you have a customer data platform, you're going to want to have dedicated internal resources working on that. So how do you, in the event that you are working with a client or a marketer that doesn't have a clear understanding of what types of resources they need to put forth, clarify what those expectations need to be, so that they are making sure that they're investing appropriately?

CM: This is a big one for me, because I feel like marketing and marketing-adjacent teams are always being asked to do more with either the same amount or less, and people staffing, skills, resources, are in the crossfire of that. A couple things on this particular point. And this is again, where we've done a lot of work sorting out different role types that we typically see and ways of structuring the project team to make sure that you're getting the most out of this. So that can be even things like from a governance perspective, how are you thinking about that? If you want to be more matrix, what are the types of roles that you should be versus having more of a center of excellence? We've got customers with both. 

So thinking about the organizational implications of a tool that is inherently cross channel or cross-system, cross-team is super, super important. There's not a wrong way to do it. There's not a right way to do it, necessarily, just what makes sense for your organization. In terms of skill sets, this is actually very gratifying. We have a number of customers who are posting jobs right now for a CDP Project Leader. Forbes just posted a job to hire a CDP Project Lead. Heineken's is hiring a consumer data strategist. Colgate is hiring someone focused on this for their Hills’ brands. So you’re starting to actually see jobs crop up either sort of product owner type of roles, or more technical function roles to be on the data side.

What is generally or consistently true, what I would say is that someone who is designated by the organization as a project owner or product owner type of role is really important. Again, in order to get the most out of this, you're talking about complexity. You're unlikely to have an organization where the same set of people is also the inputs and the outputs; that's just probably unrealistic. And so having someone who is empowered to coordinate all of those different pieces is really key. 

In terms of the hands-on keyboard types of users, you know, those folks often do exist, kind of already in your org. Maybe they've been working on marketing automation. Maybe they were your DMP people before that. So that skill set is, especially once implemented, largely training and being able to make sure that you've got that stuff going on. The most complexity is during that implementation period, where you likely have a lot more folks involved. We have a colleague who sort of describes it, as, getting the plane to altitude and landing it right, that takes much more skill than flying it. So you are thinking about those types of roles that need to be part of that. 

You and I talked a few weeks ago about role agencies in this ecosystem. And I am very glad to see a lot more of the sort of the SIs and digital agencies beefing up their CDP chops to help clients navigate this. Again, a lot of the time, it's much more of a temporary role, it's getting some stuff in there in the first place. But then letting it kind of live within the business. Agencies can play a hugely impactful and efficient role there as they build up those practices.

NN: So let's expand the conversation down that route, because I'm glad you brought that up. Because inevitably, that needs to be a part of this conversation. Agencies are inevitably a part of these conversations. And the thing is, it is kind of a tricky place for an agency to be in, not to call an agency a middleman, but you are in the middle of potentially a really valuable solution that could be brought over to a marketer and a marketing organization not knowing how to navigate that. And then also you suggest something where a lot of the legwork and the blood, sweat, and tears actually is going to fall on them in many ways, too. So I'm curious as to how you might advise an agency that sees a lot of value and that understands the benefits associated with the CDP. How might they want to broach the subject of how a client that they work with might want to consider going down a road of exploring?

CM: Yeah, to be honest, if you're an agency working with a brand or a publisher right now, you should be having this conversation. Because the things that are largely driving CDP adoption, whether you end up investing in a CDP or not, are still happening to you. So for example, the third- to first-party data transition and cookie deprecation. If CDP doesn't end up being the answer, I have some questions for you. But that headwind is happening. That transition is happening, whether you invest in the solution to fix it or not. 

We just watched two years where digital transformation initiatives of a similar kind of characterization, if you ask McKinsey, I think they said they were sped up by five years. All of these things that happened because of COVID accelerating. Again, happening already, but now happening to you faster, that's not going to change. And meanwhile, sort of the ongoing changes to consumer privacy, consumer expectations of how they engage with brands, all of that is also continuing to happen whether you like it or not. 

So the answer to those things does not only lead to CDP, but it certainly leads to a world in which a CDP is part of how you navigate things that are happening to marketing and to brands and publishers right now. So there's an enormously important role for agencies to play in assessing on a customer-by-customer or client-by-client basis. What does this mean for you? How are we going to respond to it? How ready do we feel? There's just a massive, and critical, I would say, role for agencies to be bringing their best practices from across their client base, and making sure that everyone is ready to tackle this and not just kind of think about it, like whether you see it as the opportunities that I think it really can be, it's going to happen anyway. So the choice is yours, whether it happens to you or it happens for you. And I think agencies can be big advocates for making it happen for you instead of to you.

NN: What's your experience as far as the ratio of how often an agency is coming to the table to engage in this conversation with you versus how often a marketer is coming to engage the conversation first?

CM: It’s still majority coming from the marketing side but I would say in the last like 12 or so months, it's become much closer and you're seeing a lot more of the RFPs and sort of CDP evaluations coming from a brand or publisher having done sort of a data strategy or broader business strategy with an agency in the first place. So they brought in someone to evaluate the company and like where we need to be investing. And one of the conclusions among likely many was, doing a CDP evaluation. 

So we're seeing what I would call an agency-influenced decision to start looking at CDPs much, much more commonly than in years past. So, like last 12 to 18 months or so. And I would expect that trend to continue. In addition to it being the right thing, because that's what the business world needs also, let's be honest, it’s very self-serving. There's an enormous amount of work to be done, as we just talked about. Getting clients ready for a CDP is no joke. I love doing use case workshops with customers and I'm grateful when they use our materials. But we're not consultants. So there's a lot of opportunity before we even get involved where that work can be done, again, to make more efficient use of the time that they do spend with us (the vendor) and an agency that's a revenue stream in its own right, in addition to sort of being the logical place to be spending time. So an upward or an increasing trend, certainly. But I would say still, the majority is coming from what ostensibly appears to be a brand having made a decision that this needs to be a part of where their organization is going.

NN: Something we talked about earlier was that there are going to be some organizations out there that aren't ready and maybe they're quite far away from being ready as far as potentially onboarding a CDP. Maybe they just seemingly are not in a position where doing something with a CDP is accessible in the short-term. What would you suggest, seeing that we are moving into this cookieless future now seemingly faster than we were in the past? And organizations need to do more as far as making sure that they're getting pipes set up to capture first-party data? And maybe they're a couple years out from the potential opportunity of working with a CDP? Do you have any advice for those types of organizations that have really relied so heavily on the third-party cookie, they've perceived third-party cookie data as their data, and now they realize they need to become better stewards of their own first-party data? What would you say to them if they might have some preliminary years of work or whatever preliminary work they need to do that's going to take some time? What are your thoughts on that? 

CM: I think it's a couple of things. One is like, you are ready now because you have to be, it just may be how you start that looks different. So I think the CPGs are a great example of this where the question is not, do we wait until we have enough first-party data to then start using a CDP? No, this becomes your zero to one. You don't need to have had a CRM; you skipped that step. Fine. No problem. But you’ve got to start somewhere. 

So it's more for me about you know, what are we building on top of? If it's going from literally only third-party data that's hosted elsewhere and you have no control over it, then that's totally fine. That just means that we're going to start from use cases that are more geared towards building up your first-party data. I think Heineken is an amazing example of this. They've been a customer of ours for a few years. They started with largely web data, and increasingly started to add physical events and online events, like, beer tastings, and things like this. So you'd get data from people who registered for those, and then started to build that up. Now several years in, they're expanding into all kinds of new channels. How they're thinking about using that data is incredibly rich compared to where they were just a couple of years ago. But it started with, we have a DMP, we need to figure out how to move off of the DMP. And so there we go. So it was much more of a replacement type of scenario. 

On the other hand, if you look more at our retailers, and folks like that, who have tons of first-party data transactions, loyalty programs and web data and all this other stuff, but it's just not combined into a single view of the customer that they can actually use; that's still a reason to start now. It's just we use this Arthur Ashe code, a lot of it “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can; that needs to be today”. It's just more of a question of, if you're going to say, well, we're not going to be ready for a CDP for three years. That's not universally applicable. There may be some data cleansing if you're in that scenario. But if you're in the scenario of we just need to have a first-party data strategy that needs to start this minute. 

So like right-sizing that answer to sort of where your organization is, but if three years from now you're like, “Okay, I'm ready for a CDP '' like that boat sailed on you in a big way I think. Unless you have a different answer for all of the things, I talked about- first-party data and being more resilient and agile and being able to keep up with your customers. You may have a different answer for that. But CDP is largely part of that. I think we're a lot closer to everyone needing to have a clear answer for that for themselves, than spending the next few years kind of getting ready for that eventuality. That's the good thing, I think about Google's change in a lot of this. Kicking the can down the road, again, was obnoxious and super self-serving. But they have put a deadline on us. This was a forcing mechanism. And as we all know, and I get why, like the martech/adtech industry doesn't move unless it's forced to. So the forcing is happening. You've already missed your window, if you were hoping to just kind of get to do it on your own terms. Now is the time.

NN: So, I think what happens to some brands, and you mentioned this just moments ago, is that they may not have that thoughtful of a first-party data strategy. So maybe unlike the Heineken scenario that you described, where they are doing a lot of collection, but there was some streamlining that went on. And then there was an opportunity for them to embark on the leveraging of a CDP in bigger and better ways. Whereas some people are just more in that dusty data space, we really have just left a lot of stuff in these archives and an archaic place. We don't understand how those things come together. There are cobwebs all over them. We're not dedicating resources to take a look at them in inappropriate ways. And so, I think some of your suggestion is to say that if you haven't started working on it, that internal work needs to start right away. Then also setting up more pipes for that data to be coming through in clean ways and where there's a process to say, “Our intention is to orient these pools of data so that we can have it to have insights and new types of audiences extrapolate it”. I feel like that might be a larger suggestion.

CM: That’s a big part of it. There are some sunk cost fallacy aspects of this too, which is like, is the data worth bringing in? Really? I mean, I know you spent a lot of money on it, I totally get it, fair. But let's be honest with ourselves, right? You have this opportunity. Oftentimes, we see with new customers where they come in, and they say, “We're going to import five years' worth of data into a CDP. So we can use it for segmentation also”. And then we start to look at it with them, right, we look at those data files that I talked about, and when should we get in there? And it's like, turns out a lot of it is garbage. A lot of it doesn't have great lineage around consent or opt in. You're not really sure if it's really that great. Do you want to spend the resources cleaning it? Or do you want to say “you know what, maybe we just bring in two years' worth of it.” That's enough to be the basis for some historical trending and things like that to inform what we want to do next. But we don't need to saddle ourselves with the baggage of what came before. 

Another example that I often will talk about is like third-party data appends, which are still legal in the US. We get the question, “Can you bring in data from those types of sources?” And of course, technically, we can. It is a file. And you import it the same way you import a lot of data. But the real question is about, again, having a clean slate of first-party data that you can confidently say is consented and the lineage of all of it, how much do you really want to bring in of third-party data that maybe isn't legal in a couple years, or maybe in a shorter period of time. There may be use cases for it again, we come back to the use cases and the value there. But I do find that the CDP conversation is an opportunity to sort of really check some of our assumptions and start fresh, or at least start from a better place. Sometimes that isn't just cleaning up, it is saying, “Look we’re just going to put this one in the graveyard and be okay with it.” And we see that pretty often. It's not usually the starting point. But we often do get there when people have that chance to sort of be confronted with, start fresh, or just kind of leave some things behind.

NN: Yeah, and I think a part of that confrontation and starting fresh can be a frustrating one for some marketers who thought, that they had all this information that was going to be available to them. And now they also need to bring in legal and these new consumer privacy regulation considerations and then saying, “Okay, not only can we not use the data from yesteryear, we also need to bake in new processes that consider consumer privacy in ways that we haven't considered consumer privacy”. I think there are definitely brands out there that are doing kind of the bare minimum as far as, “Hey, I think that these are absolute necessities as far as to not get our hand slapped in relation to regulation”. But if you're going to dive deep into some of these types of conversations, you need to think about how that data is being acquired. Are you meeting that consented threshold? I think there are still brands today that do not have those conversations.

CM: You're absolutely right. The other part of it is that it's not just the consent. We should be asking ourselves, what is the value we're providing back to the customer? Let's also not take for granted that this is just a consensus or a checkbox situation. Why would anyone want to consent? What are we doing? What are we giving them that is so valuable that their precious data, if we think it's so precious, then we should be holding ourselves to a standard of giving them back something of some kind of comparable value. 

I sort of used this as a thought exercise sometimes. If we were to end up in a situation where every single website was just a blank screen, unless you sort of ostensibly logged in every time. You've had to put an email in or some data in. Is your content, product, experience, media worth someone jumping through that hoop? Would they do that every single time? Do they like you enough? If you feel nervous about a scenario where that level of gait comes into play, then you need to look at much more than just your tech and your consent and your governance. You need to be thinking about the brand experience and the quality of what you're doing because that is the equity that you are playing with.

NN: Do you have any advice for brands that have been locked up in a scenario of where they're doing a lot of their marketing or advertising, leveraging just third-party cookie data? They're in the business of using Facebook ads and site retargeting and search ad behavioral targeting, just a lot of third-party cookie focus. Now they need to start to reroute themselves and understand that we have a road ahead of us and we need to get moving quickly knowing that there is this anticipated date where these mechanisms that we've become reliant upon will no longer be available. I know you shared a lot of advice on the front end of our conversation and mentioned use cases that you need to ask yourself, but if you feel disoriented, what do you say to those types of clients? How would you advise them as far as how to take themselves out of the state of overwhelm and move into a state of action? 

CM: This is perfectly phrased as well. This is going to maybe be a little bit of an unconventional answer. Marketing and finance need to have a conversation because transitions like this are rupturing. There are going to be performance implications, while you transition away from something to another mechanism of driving the business, especially if you have not started. The benefit of having gotten started sooner and starting now is that you maximize how much overlapping runway you're going to get between the full end of your DMP and whatever you replace that with on the other side. It gives you more opportunity to experiment and figure out what works. 

So your job right now is to give yourself as much runway to try new and different things as you possibly can, before everything actually becomes no longer possible. The only way to do that and do that well is to kind of buddy-up with finance on this and be like, “Look, this is how much we're spending. This is the implications of it”. And ask finance to help model out like, “Okay, if we change this, and we do that. What are the implications here? And help us message that to the rest of the organization that this is a planned loss or a planned couple of quarters where it's going to have an impact on margin or what do you like that sort of rise.” This is why I say, this can either happen for you or happen to you, it's going to happen. 

So being able to proactively tell the story, describe what it is that you're doing, be specific, as opposed to just saying like, “Numbers are down because third party cookies are going away”. Like, sure that's true. But why leave it at that? So talking to finance, figuring out some of that modeling and starting to think about if you look at your marketing or advertising, how much of it is driven by third-party data, to what extent if you have the means to assume that the technology exists, because the technology always exists. But what would be a logical replacement or a good adjacent replacement, for example, to what you're using? And then make a list of that; technology-agnostic to start. Do an audit of that. Start to try to map that up. And then you start to look at “Okay, where would I get this data?” Do we have an option to get it today? Does it need to be a vendor? Does it need to be a CDP? Does it need to be a data warehouse? 

Whatever the questions and answers are, you can start to look at those but there will be a cost of course. And it's going to take time. And one of those is finite and it's the time. So being able to get started on it, it can be overwhelming. But my company is half Dutch and there's a saying in Dutch. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” So, I think this is the moment that we're at. I know it feels big and scary. But there is a path forward. Like I said, sort of partnering with the business from afar enhances perspective on that and really treating it as a business thing, as opposed to just a marketing kind of issue is really critical, I think, to being successful and having the kind of transparency and narrative around that to make it successful and effective for people.

NN: Final question, on my end, are there any things that are burgeoning on the horizon for CDPs, for brands and advertisers to be excited about?

CM: So much. I think, in some ways CDP’s have been around for a long time, yet, the confusion still exists and we're still only scratching the surface of the kinds of use-cases and cool things that the platform can do. I'm super energized about some of the things that data science can start to be brought into the mix and figuring out how to do better optimization of the experience with smarter algorithms, things like that. A lot of this stuff around privacy and the forcing mechanism that it represents, for how brands think about their customer engagement strategy, I think is a long time coming, and being able to use the data to inform those choices and be able to do more effective kind of privacy experience at scale really gets me excited as well. 

Then the last thing, I think, is just a huge amount of opportunity still on kind of the orchestration life cycle side of things. Not just the right message, right person, right place, but sort of sequencing. A lot of this, to me, has to do with being able to do really hard things at scale, which is a big shift. I think we're still again, kind of scratching the surface on some of those areas. But I expect to see big kinds of leaps and strides in the coming couple of years for sure.

NN: A lot of things for advertisers and marketers to reflect on if they haven't gotten onto the path of pursuing a CDP. So appreciate the time and the introduction to CDP's and things to look forward to in the future.

CM: Thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure.

NN: Thanks again to Cory Munchbach, President and Chief Operating Officer at BlueConic for giving a breakdown on customer data platforms for advertisers and marketers. Like Corey mentioned, there's a dearth of information out there for advertisers to assess if adding a CDP is the right next step for a first-party data strategy. With the volume and variety of customer data platforms becoming more diverse and accessible, it's a great time to explore options. You can go to BlueConic’s website to learn more. That's it for now, and thanks for listening to AdTech Unfiltered. I'm Noor Naseer and another episode is coming up real soon.

This recent era of uncertainty leaves little room for marketing that inadvertently steers away from maximizing lifetime customer value.

In this month's episode, Vera Shafiq, VP of Digital Strategy at Location 3, explores how and why advertisers must rethink some common but shortsighted marketing tactics that are curbing long-term success. Her conversation with host Noor Naseer touches on strategies for generating long term, scalable, and sustainable results for agencies and brands.

Episode Transcript:

Noor Naseer: Hey everyone, this is Noor Naseer, VP of Media Innovations and Technology at Basis and host of AdTech Unfiltered. I'm coming back with a new collection of episodes after a long hiatus, but we're ready to finish the year strong with incredible new guests. For this particular episode, we'll be speaking to Vera Shafiq. She's the VP of Digital Strategy at Digital Marketing Agency Location 3. Vera spoke to me about the fundamental concept of what digital strategy is, how to engage with clients about it, and a bunch of digital strategy topics that clients are thinking about a lot these days, including the cookie list future, first party data, CDPs and more. Let's get into this episode about digital strategy with Vera right now.

Vera, we're still in early days. How's the year been treating you so far?

Vera Shafiq: The year's been treating me really well. It's been very, very busy, a lot of kind of meeting with clients, and a lot of talk about the things that are coming down the pipe for marketing, which includes privacy issues, the deprecation of third party cookies. So, right now I'm super busy with that and really just laying out a plan for my team to make sure that we future proof our clients in preparation for that.

NN: Yeah, there's an endless supply of things to be preparing clients for and maybe we think that every year, but I feel like that's especially true this year. There's so many things we could talk about Vera, but for today's conversation I think we're going to hit on something in a more evergreen space. We're going to talk about digital strategy. I'll ask you a really simple question to start. What does digital media strategy mean to you?

VS: Digital strategy, first of all to me is, we break it down even further. It's literally a plan of action. And it was original strategy was originally a military term as to how do you win a war or battle? So, in marketing terms, I think it's having that clear plan of action. So, not only for selling a product or a service, but also driving that long-term growth for the business, and I think media strategy pertains to the ways that we are going to implement the strategy. Typically now we talk a lot about digital media, but there's also the traditional media items that we have to consider as well.

NN: What do you think is a misconception that clients have about digital media activation that really needs to be cleared up when it comes to understanding a larger strategic vision?

VS: I think a mistake that business leaders often make is looking at marketing as just a short term solution. Drive as many leads or sales as we can as quickly and as cheaply as we can. That can be dangerous. Problem with it is that it can be really expensive to go this route because you're really only going after the existing demand that's in the market. And that could be limited, that could be hard to find. So, I think by tackling marketing and media activation from a long-term, and I use that term all the time, it's a long-term perspective, using that full funnel strategy, you are simultaneously creating the demand in the market, but then you're also converting that demand into sales. So, you're kind of having this well-oiled machine. And so for me, the full funnel approach really is that long-term efficient way of driving business results and you're going to see much better ROI and ROAS doing it that way. And I think a lot of business leaders and marketing leaders kind of forget that and tend to focus on just like tomorrow.

NN: Absolutely. I think there's nobody who's going to listen to this podcast or frankly nobody who works in media buying, who feels like they aren't really reporting to a client who sometimes has tunnel vision or they're very focused on just immediate results, and somewhat it's understandable, but on the other end it puts maybe too much emphasis on immediate results now without realizing that the full funnel needs to be accounted for. So, with that in mind, how do you impress upon clients the importance of branding when there is so often this obsession with performance marketing and just evaluating ROAS on a weekly or daily basis?

VS: Yeah, so this I think goes hand in hand with that full-on approach. So, that's the age old dilemma for all marketers is, should I be doing branding or should I be doing direct response? And if you are looking for those long-term sustainable and scalable results for your brand, I think it has to be a mix of both. So, from an agency perspective, we see ourselves as our clients' partners and want to have those long-term successful relationships with them. The end of the day educating them and advising them as to how to strike that sweet spot or that perfect balance between branding and performance marketing is key.

NN: Along those lines, something you've mentioned a couple of times is having that longer term vision and a part of that is looking at each one of the audiences that you want to reach or whoever you perceive to be the consumer, the client, the target. And thinking about LTV or the lifetime value, how do you examine that LTV and how does examining weigh into digital strategy for clients that you're serving?

VS: Yeah, so lifetime value is essentially the dollar value that an average customer spends with your brand over the lifetime with your brand, and it's a super important metric. So, we look at metrics such as lifetime value, average order value, frequency of purchase, the average length of that customer relationship. We figure out the lifetime value and then we back into a meaningful metrics. If we know this value, we can actually understand what a good customer acquisition cost should be in order to be profitable. So, customer acquisition cost is the cost to acquire that customer, including your marketing expenses, not just your media budget. And then we can back into what an allowable CPA or CPL should be, and then set that media strategy accordingly. So, it really is important to look at that long-term view because for example, if you were servicing a gym business, one of our clients is a gym and their average monthly subscription fee could be 50 bucks, and then that customer relationship could be an average of two years. Like that client is going to stay with that gym for two years potentially. And during that two year relationship, that average customer could potentially spend maybe 500 bucks on some subsidiary services, personal training products at the gym. So, we take that on to count, we figure out the lifetime value of that customers, for example, 1,700 bucks. And obviously we want that customer acquisition cost to be below 1,700 bucks. We're allow for profit margins and all of that good stuff. So, that gives you an idea of how the business metrics are really important to developing media strategy. And we look at business metrics first and foremost before putting media plans in place.

NN: Obviously you are giving me this background on what it is that you're conveying to clients to make sure that they are on board locked up with you so that they're bought into knowing that you're putting together a media strategy and activation plan that is going to correlate with a reasonable acquisition cost. But there are a lot of clients that need to be reminded of that when they are doing those more regular looks at reporting, basically when they're looking at them with regularity. What kinds of reminders do you share with clients to just keep them on track as far as when they're looking for instantaneous results, when they're evaluating their campaign reports?

VS: Well, first of all, media campaigns such as paid search, paid social, programmatic, those types of things, when they're brand new, when we first activate them, they all need that warmup period before we can actually start seeing optimal results. So, that's often known as the learning phase and that's the time it takes for that ad platform to kind of really warm up, get that machine learning algorithm to understand what are the prospects that it should be looking for, who should it be serving ads to drive the desired results? So, that would be my first reminder is you got to give the algorithms time to work. Don't expect the day after we launch a campaign to start seeing optimal results. We typically like to see a campaign run for at least 90 days before we can see the optimal performance, and then of course that optimization phase, that's a never-ending part of marketing. Continuing to tweak the campaign settings, the creative, the messaging, the bidding strategy and continue to drive better results. So, the reminder is always that once we hit kind of an allowable or a CPL that we are happy with, we're constantly tweaking that, and when running that full funnel strategy, there's going to be a lag period before that demand gen, or the brand awareness tactics start to permeate. We want the top of funnel to have an effect on the lower funnel. So, it's really important to set the expectation before any media activation that it takes time for this machine to start to actually work. It's almost like a flywheel. The momentum starts to go but it takes a while before we actually start to get in the groove of things. And then with organic strategy such as SEO or content marketing, I like to use the metaphor of it's a marathon and not a sprint, and I always remind clients that you're not going to get instantaneous results with these types of tactics. Like SEO is an investment for long-term success and it can be months before we actually start to see tangible results. Search engines need to index your pages, they need to analyze signals, link equity, user engagement, all those things. So, at the end of the day, patience pays off. So, patience is a virtue in marketing, and all the legwork that you do, especially on the organic side is going to results further into the future. And then that all allows you to be a lot more efficient with your budgets.

NN: You mentioned optimization a little bit earlier in our conversation, Vera, so I wanted to ask you, how do you communicate an intentional shift in digital strategy in a way that's going to sit well with clients, especially if they are accustomed to some of the old ways in which they've previously seen programmatic activations take place?

VS: Yeah, that's a really great question especially now in the post pandemic era. And we know that media consumption trends and the way that people are shopping now has changed and that pandemic really drove those seismic shifts in the area. So, we've had to make intentional changes in the way that we do marketing and continue to do that based on seasonality, based on market trends that, and then on top of that, digital marketing tactics and technology itself are changing at such a fast pace that we'll often want to recommend that pivot, or that intentional shift in strategy, and so for some clients it can be difficult for them to accept these changes like we're only human, humans don't like change and that's just normal. So, it's a natural reaction to be resistant to change and nervous about the unknown, but it's really all about that communication, communicating and educating our client partners on the why behind the pivot, and not just the why, but what do we expect projected results to be as a result of that pivot, showing them case studies of how we've been successful with similar pivots or shifts with other clients, that's also a really powerful way to get that buy-in. So, before we even make the shift, they're already invested in the decision and they really trust that it's going to benefit them and their business as a whole.

NN: Can you share an example of how you've been able to activate a pivot or shift for one of your clients successfully?

VS: Yeah, so we have seen, as I mentioned, with the pandemic shifts in the way people consume media and over the pandemic, it turned out that not just young people but even the older generation were shifting to things like YouTube. Watching YouTube's become a huge trend that we would never have imagined it to be. But everything was kind of propelled into kind of movement because of the pandemic people were stuck at home, people started watching streaming video more. So, YouTube has been a shift that we have for several of our client partners actually, but specifically one who has an older target audience and typically have been used to targeting linear TV, cable TV as the medium of choice. We shifted their budgets into not a hundred percent digital, but we took quite a large amount of budget and shifted it into things like YouTube and CTV, connected TV, and it was a change for that client. They weren't used to having such a heavy budget in those mediums, but we were able to show them the data that justified that decision. And we have been able to reap the rewards because we're seeing the older generations really latching onto watching YouTube even on their large screen TVs, which is a huge trend right now. People aren't just getting on their phones and watching YouTube, they're watching it on smart TV as if it were a TV show. And these people are really receptive to advertising messages and are actually acting upon them on YouTube.

NN: I want to pivot into another question and such an important one, especially as we move into this cookie less future, which is about first party data activation. So, it's brought up often, but the reality is that when it comes down to executing an effective digital strategy or digital media strategy, there's work that goes into actually getting the right volume of first party data. So, I'm curious to ask you, as an agency leader, what does it look like as far as working between yourself and your clients that you serve to properly collect and leverage data in a way that's going to garner the best results from the digital media plans that you put together?

VS: Yeah, so one of the pieces of advice I always give my clients is that collection of data should be done selectively and it should be all about quality, not quantity. Because a lot of times we're collecting these hoards and hordes of data, really don't know what to do with it once we have it. A lot of it's just garbage, honestly, garbage in and garbage out. So, to be really selective about what we collect and by being selective, we are going to force ourselves to only collect data that's going to move the needle for our business. And it's also going to allow us to be more ethical in the use of our data. We are going to be respecting the consent and choices of our customers by only selecting and storing data that they're allowing us to store or giving us permission to store. And I think at the end of the day, going into 2022 and 23 kind of notion of clean data is going to be really important. Cleaner our data, meaning the more accurate our data that we are collecting, the better it's going to be for our marketing campaigns and strategy because we are now using real true accurate data rather than stale data, which is something that you know a lot of businesses do have on hand right now. So, I think the name of the game is going to be first party data absolutely has to be collected and it has to be a priority, it's a strategic imperative for any marketing leader and let's just make sure that we're doing it for the right reasons and storing the correct data.

NN: Vera, you just mentioned how it is imperative for clients and brands to be collecting clean data and that surely is a part of clients' digital strategy, but from a strategic leadership standpoint, how do you guide clients on the right path forward to collect data in a way that really is privacy centric or just respectful of privacy, especially as we are increasingly in a world where it's important for brands to be reflecting on that?

VS: It's a mutual value exchange. So, bear in mind that when we're collecting data about our customers or our prospects, we want to give them a reason to share PII with us, their email address, their phone number, whatever that happens to be. If we want that, we have to provide some kind of value and give them an incentive to provide that. For those prospects that don't want us to track them or don't want to collect their data, obviously we need to have measures in place to respect those wishes and so that's where CDPs and platforms like that come in, but I think the key then is going to be to start collecting that first party data but then continually refining and enriching that data by putting surveys out to your customers or prospects. Asking them questions, having them raise their hand and giving you freely and voluntarily information about themselves, not just PII, but about their preferences, about the ways they like to shop, about the ways they like brands to communicate with them. Getting that information from the prospect or customer by voluntary action is going to enrich our data and allow us then to do much better quality marketing going forward and we're going to be able to deliver those remarkable experiences, which at the end of the day is what the job of the marketer is to do. I would also say focusing on retention strategy is something that's going to be more and more important as we go into the cookie less world. We want to start focusing on spending our marketing budgets on keeping loyal customers. That's actually a more efficient way of marketing than trying to get new customers. So, I think it's going to be a fine balance between the two.

NN: Yeah, I think I don't hear that viewpoint often enough in terms of how important it is not just to collect the data but then to keep it clean and keep updating it. I love that touchpoint about making sure that you're having that continuous interaction after you've gotten the data. It's not good enough, more interaction is necessary. And I think of so many of these world class brands that have a lot of first party data, especially the ones that I just have a consumer facing relationship with and what are they doing? They're constantly interacting with me and getting me into a position where I feel comfortable sharing more information with them. So, I'm completely in alignment, seemingly a simple point but not so easy to actually achieve. I want to ask you a follow up question on the back of that, as far as the fact that we are moving into this cookie less future, it's inevitable it's coming up, even if it isn't coming up today. Sometimes I think there is this false sense of confidence that we still have cookies now, so we are not really looking forward to that future in which suddenly cookies will no longer be accessible. So, I'm curious for you as an agency leader, how do you bridge that gap between what we can still do now, which I imagine you still activate with third party cookies as most folks do at this moment in time and then getting clients to acknowledge that we're shifting into a future in which this current data source is no longer going to be accessible.

VS: Yeah, I think the first thing to bear in mind is it's already started the cookie less future has started Firefox and Safari already deprecated the third party cookies a few years ago. So, we've already started experiencing data loss and then Apple's iOS 14.5 update as we all know as marketers in in April of 2021, that's created a huge amount of data loss, especially on Facebook, but other platforms as well. And so if we haven't started thinking about this and taking some kind of action and at least testing some new strategies, we are going to be behind the curve. So, I think it's really important to say, okay, yes, we still have third party data now continue to use it, continue to leverage it, but you should now be dipping your toes into things that don't rely on third party cookies. Things like contextual targeting, things like machine learning and blended data. So, just recently Google announced that they are deprecating Google Universal Analytics for GA four, which is Google Analytics four. That's going to happen in 2023 July to be precise. So, while it seems an early long way off, the marketers need to be preparing for that too because GA four is going to be very privacy conscious, it's going to not rely on cookies and it's going to be a whole new way of really doing data analytics. And I think marketers need to jump into that now and really get used to those metrics and ways of measuring. So, we've already started looking at how do we replace things like behavioral targeting, affinity targeting in market targeting, things like that, even retargeting that are going to really be a lot harder to do if not impossible once 2023 and the death of the cookie happens, and so as I mentioned, looking at that old school method of contextual, which we've had available to us as marketers forever, but looking at how that can now be revived and really help us to drive better results. We are also looking at things like in-app lead gen. So, this would be collecting lead information within the app itself, Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever that happens to be, rather than driving people to the website because once you send people to your website, there is a chance you're going to lose them because tracking's going to go away, cookies will go away. So, finding innovative out of the box ideas of how we can retain that data and still be successful marketers.

NN: July 2023 does not feel far away to me, I'll tell you that much Vera. It feels like it's sneaking up real quick. And of course Google has moved the target in the past, so with a combination of what's happening with cookies and what's happening with GA, I feel like everything that's in the Adtech ecosystem is being impacted from targeting to attribution to measurement. And we don't need to necessarily backpedal into that earlier question as far as preparing clients for the change, but I think these are all going to be a significant test for agencies and for leaders to really convey and communicate clearly to their clients. I'll take it from there and ask you a little more about something you brought up or briefly mention earlier, which is CDP or CDPs. Can you tell me a little bit more about them as far as them being a part of a path forward where clients are looking to collect or segment more first party data?

VS: Yeah, absolutely. It's one of those three letter acronyms again that we love as marketers and it's something that I'm really excited about because I really do think it's going to allow us to use our first party data really effectively. So, what a CDP is essentially is a platform that ingests data from disparate data sources across your business, your website, your CRM, your point of sales system, your mobile app, your offline channels, and it puts that data in one platform and stitches the customer data together so that you have that golden record of the customer, you know that that holy grail that us marketers have been really looking for, and then allows the business to create these really powerful segments and then market to those segments in a really smart way and in real time. So, for example, at any given time, any prospect in your system may have changed an attribute about themselves, they may have already purchased your product, they may have signed up for an email. And the CDP is going to immediately know that okay, this customer, this is what they're doing, this is what their preferences are and this is how you should speak to them or market to them, this is what they're looking for. Are they looking for an offer, a discount? Are they looking for a message, talking to the quality of the product? And then you're able to really customize your messaging that way. So, I'm really excited about CDP and it is a conversation that we're having with several of our clients who really want to learn more and want to start onboarding this type of technology for their business.

NN: In some ways with the answer you just shared, it seems like you already answered the question that I am about to ask you, but I will still go ahead and ask it. Just to be crystal clear with a client, how do you let them know why a CDP is an important part of their future digital strategy?

VS: Yeah, so I guess the first thing would be is first party data important to you as a business? And really the answer should be yes at this point. If not, we would have a conversation as to why it should be, we're losing third party, first party is where it's at, and then really just getting into the nitty gritty with the client on what are your goals, right going into the future. Do you have disparate data sources, storing information about your customers? If you do, CDP is for you, do you have multiple marketing engagement channels? Typically the answer is yes. If that's the case, then CDP again is for you because we are going to be able to send those segments off to Google ads, to Facebook, to LinkedIn, to programmatic and really kind of harmonize your marketing or orchestrate it. And then a question that we often also ask our clients is, do you feel that your marketing could be more segmented? Could it be hyper segmented? Do you think that the messaging could be more personalized? Typically the answer is yes. So again, CDP will help with that, and then finally, privacy and compliance. How important is that to you and your business? And I think the answer again should be very important because as we know, privacy regulations are getting tighter and tighter and it's going to be an imperative to be able to understand the preferences of our customers and respect them, and CDP helps with that as well. It can really kind of tie all of that together. So, these are the reasons why we are recommending our clients invest in the customer data platform.

NN: Sometimes I think for anybody who's done digital media buying before, you're a person who reports to a client, sometimes there's a little bit of fear around sharing a new concept with a client because they might get really excited about it or you don't know if they're the best suited for it. And when I think about something like CDP, it's a pretty significant relationship and partnership to be for an organization or a brand to get invested in. So, I just want to ask you Vera, as a person who clearly is advocating for CDPs with the right types of clients, how do you identify which clients will be well-suited?

VS: Yeah, that's a really good question and pretty challenging, and I think the first thing we want to consider is that client sophisticated in their use of technology, like what does their metrics look like? Now some clients may not be ready for CDP, they may still be working on other things like getting their website experience up to scratch or optimized or maybe this CRM isn't really doing enough for them and they need to focus on that. So, I think jumping into a CDP isn't necessarily right for every client, but I think any client that has a relatively sophisticated tech stack, any client that has those disparate data sources, especially if they have things like a mobile app, they're brick and mortar and they have stores as well where customer data is being collected. Those kinds of clients who feel that they're not really understanding their customer from a 360 degree profile, those are the clients that we'll recommend would be a good fit for CDP.

NN: Why should clients be taking the possibility of building a CDP partnership seriously? And I know it seems like a silly question because of everything that we've mentioned earlier as far as the cookie less future, but I think still thinking about the fact that clients are vetting a lot of different types of solutions simultaneously, they might feel overwhelmed. How do you impart the importance of its consideration in the event that they meet that criteria that you just described a little earlier?

VS: Yeah, well I think the main reason is competition. If you got to keep up with the Joneses, if you don't think about this, don't invest in it, your competition will. And I think that's going to give them a real big edge on the success of their marketing and we don't want any of our clients to kind of fall behind the times. So, that would be one top reason for really taking it seriously. Right now there are hundreds of vendors out there that are offering CDP as a platform, that landscape is getting more and more consolidated and companies are buying each other out, and I think we're going to start seeing some kind of top dog CDPs kind of rise to the top of the cream of the crop. We're going to start figuring out, okay, well these are the players in the CDP space that we should be looking at, and at that point I think it's going to start becoming very commonplace for businesses to start purchasing this technology and leveraging it. So, I think that is the name of the game right now, but really at the end of the day it all boils down to first party data again. If you are making an effort, taking time, investing money in collecting first party data, then the CDP is the next level to leveraging that data. So, you don't want to waste your efforts and then try and manually figure out what you're going to do with it. I think that CDP is going to take you to the next level. So, I think it's an investment well worth making and those will be my two main reasons.

NN:  We still have a lot of the year ahead of us. What are you most excited about Vera, from a digital strategy standpoint as we continue to make headway into this new year?

VS: Yeah, I think you probably already know the answer to that based on a lot of the things I said. I think CDP is one of the things I'm really excited about, just diving into what is a relatively new channel for everyone or a new platform, understanding what the capabilities are and what the outcomes will be once we start to fully leverage these platforms. But I think to boil it down, what I'm most excited about is being able to do better marketing, smarter marketing, more ethical marketing that the consumers are excited to receive and be on the receiving end of. Marketers for a long time have had this reputation of being creepy or being insensitive and a lot of people have blocked ads and really kind of do not appreciate some of the ads that they're being served because they're irrelevant, et cetera. And I'm really excited about getting back to basics and doing marketing in a really organic, healthy way, respecting what our consumers want from us and personalizing it honestly. Because that's really the goal, is to be able to hit our prospects with messaging that really does kind of excite them. And kind of give them a delightful, remarkable experience, and these are things that we can now I think do even with the cookie disappearing because I think the third party cookie actually hindered us in a lot of ways. And I'm just excited to get rid of third party cookies, move on and start doing marketing in a more exciting and organic way.

NN: In some ways, the third party cookie made us lean back too much and put too much reliance on this tool. And then we also were suggesting that all of the benefits of this medium, the digital media opportunity is contingent upon what the cookie can deliver to you. And it was oftentimes sold into clients that way. So, I just love the passion with which you're approaching a world in which cookies don't exist and being an advocate for the utilization of new platforms and the evolution of the tech stacks. So, I'm excited to touch base with you again in the future, Vera, as Location 3 does new and interesting things in the digital media world.

VS: Absolutely. Yeah, me too. Definitely looking forward to keeping in touch with you Noor.

NN: Thanks again to Vera Shafiq, VP of digital strategy at Location 3. Something I took away from this conversation with Vera beyond her knowledge of the topics discussed was her capacity to paint a big picture. I think some of the art of selling in a strategy has been lost in an industry that is now dominated with slinging promises about optimizations taking effect in a day or so and other types of instantaneous yield. Some of the concepts we discussed today aren't turnkey and won't be easy for every brand or marketer to immediately accept, especially when they may need to be doing investment upfront and see results holistically after a waiting period. It seems like going back to the fundamentals of advertising is something we're going to be seeing a lot more of in the future. That's it for this episode. I'm Noor Naseer, more episodes of AdTech Unfiltered coming up real soon.

“Change is the only constant.”

It’s a phrase we’re all familiar with, first said by Greek philosopher Heraclitus over 2,000 years ago. Over the past few years, his point keeps hitting home. After the world was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the fallout continued through 2021, many expected 2022 to be a year of recovery. Despite our expectations, 2022 has saddled us with even more challenges.

While the average consumer may no longer be tethered to their homes like most were a couple of years ago, new economic complexities are impacting their daily lives and again shifting their behaviors. From interest rate hikes, to an impending recession, to supply chain shortages, there are numerous factors at play. And when consumer behaviors change because of what’s happening in the world, so too must marketers.

Advertisers who quickly lean into an altered marketplace set themselves apart from those who see themselves as victims of unmanageable change. To that end, let’s take some time to evaluate the ever-changing economic landscape, its implications for marketers, and tactics that can be used to adapt to its complexity.

Current Trends Impacting Marketers

There are many factors shaping the marketing landscape today. Here are some of the biggest:


Here are a few stats to know on the current economic situation in the US:


The global supply chain was first rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the disruption has since been exacerbated by fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Here’s what marketers should know:

With uncertainty surrounding the conflict in Ukraine, supply chain challenges will likely remain a reality for brands and marketers to grapple with for the foreseeable future.

Additional Consumer and Market Factors

Beyond these economic and geopolitical circumstances, there are other significant issues impacting consumers and marketers in the US: 

Taken together, these varied factors result in substantial instability for consumers—which puts the pressure on brands to adapt.

Reframing Challenges as Opportunities

Marketers may want to wait until these proverbial storms clear, but there’s no knowing when additional challenges will follow. Instead of surviving the crises of the present, marketers can engage in cognitive reframing to adapt and think flexibly.

For those new to the concept, cognitive reframing is the process of identifying your current perspective, naming the challenges or shortcomings of that viewpoint, and then shifting to a new way of thinking. At its core, reframing “encourage[s] us to look at situations from different perspectives in search of unique and improved solutions.”

A few examples: A difficult conversation with a colleague could be reframed as a chance to problem-solve collaboratively; a quarter in which earnings are missed could be reframed as an opportunity to test new sales strategies; a team losing yet another member due to the Great Resignation reframed as a moment to take an honest look at company culture.

Through reframing, brands can approach today’s moments of adversity as opportunities for reflection and change. Leaders looking to make reframing an organizational habit can benefit from asking the following questions:

Amidst Uncertainty, What Strategies Can Marketers Embrace?

So far, we’ve explored the complexity of today’s landscape and how reframing can serve as a beneficial tool. Now, let’s dive into the marketing strategies teams can use to adapt. While there’s no silver bullet for advertising during times like these, there are methods brands and agencies can use to remain flexible and agile:

1. Keep Advertising

During economic downturns, it’s tempting for brands to pause or cut back on advertising budgets. There are signs of some taking that approach today, as July 2022 was the worst month for ad spending in two years, with a contraction of 12.7% YoY.

However, there are many reasons to maintain advertising levels through tough times—and preserving brand recognition is perhaps the most significant one. If you want your brand to remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds, it needs to be visible. This is especially crucial for smaller brands or those with less name recognition—just a few months out of the spotlight could result in significant damages and losses.

Another reason to keep marketing levels consistent is to build brand loyalty. For younger generations in particular, consumers want brands to share their values and take part in important cultural conversations. Especially in today’s competitive landscape, brands have a lot to lose by slashing marketing budgets.

2. Adapt Your Creative to Your Consumer

Another approach brands and agencies should embrace is to prioritize the changing needs of customers. Though every economic downturn is different, the Harvard Business Review’s analysis of how brands survived the 2008 recession still rings true today. They claimed that one of the most critical steps advertisers took was “to track how customers reassess priorities, reallocate funds, switch brands, and redefine value.” Put simply, when consumers change, advertisers should too.

When unexpected market factors arise, it is especially important to understand how these factors influence consumers and their behavior. In today’s economic landscape, this might look like embracing messaging that approaches inflation and high prices with empathy. It could also mean considering the impact of both cost and value for today’s consumer, and adapting messaging to better connect with target audiences.

By focusing on consumers and how they change in response to different situations, brands and agencies can embrace messaging that “feels right” to consumers in the moment. Rather than being reactive when a challenge arises, advertisers can pause, reflect, and think: what does this mean for our target consumers? Then, they can craft responsive messaging that is grounded in common sense.

3. Lean Into Digital Trends

A final tactic brands and agencies can use to maintain agility and flexibility amidst uncertainty is to analyze digital consumption trends and adapt advertising strategies based on their findings. Once brands have identified their ideal consumers, they should lean into available data to determine where those consumers are spending their time. This could mean ramping up CTV advertising to adapt to elevated viewership levels, or exploring a new social platform based on user trends. By analyzing and exploring the data, marketers can make strategic adjustments to meet consumers where they are.

Embracing Solutions for Good Times and Bad

For advertisers who find success in times of uncertainty, agility enables their resilience. They assess the ever-changing marketing landscape and reframe their thinking when challenges hit. They respond to consumer needs in a way that meets the moment, use data to make informed and strategic decisions, and utilize available tools and technologies that empower them to do their most impactful work.

As the marketing landscape continues to change, I’m committed to rolling with change and finding opportunities in the chaos.

My team and I dive into this—and more—in our webinar: Advertising Through Uncertainty: How Marketers Can Navigate Economic Downturn. Check it out to better understand the complexities of today’s advertising landscape, key shifts in consumer behavior due to economic instability, and best practices for marketers and advertisers in an unpredictable marketplace.

After a two-year hiatus, SXSW finally resumed their 10-day interactive, in-person film and music event this year. While attendance was less than in years past, many of us were back in droves for the festival, brand activations, and conference sessions. The Advertising and Branding Experience track hit on a few key themes repeatedly, including AI, the metaverse, and (of course) NFTs.

But the marketing trend that most struck me as I attended sessions throughout the week was the importance of brand authenticity. According to panelists and speakers representing US and global brands across industries, authenticity is a brand attribute that companies must be more intentional about. When brands are inauthentic in their branding initiatives or messaging, it takes no time for consumers to call out the inconsistencies. Soon after, companies suffer the social and financial consequences.

What is Authentic Representation?

A session titled “Avoiding the Pitfalls of Brand Wokeness” covered the rising trend of brands attaching themselves to inclusivity- and diversity-oriented causes. The problem: if those external messages depicting cultural awareness don’t match with the values a brand actively espouses, the messaging can register as performative and yield negative consequences. A critical step for brands before announcing cause-focused messaging is to ensure that their internal actions align with their external proclamations.

Speaker Sydney Carlton impressed the importance of brands prioritizing inclusion and representation, sharing an Adobe study that found that 61% of those surveyed think diversity in advertising is important and 34% have boycotted a brand that didn’t represent their identity in ads.

Carlton also cited a program from Deloitte called the Heat Test, which attempted to measure the quality of representation among ads and found that the companies that scored highest experienced an average stock gain of 44%. This discovery highlights the insight that authentic representation is more valuable than the sheer presence of an underrepresented person in an ad, or similar efforts that fall into the tokenism trap.

The session emphasized that these trends are only expected to compound as Gen Z rises as the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in history.

The Anatomy of Authenticity

A second session dove deep into how brands have seen success through authentic representations of their identities. Like other session themes on this topic, the conversation leaned into the current state of consumers wanting to buy from brands that reflect their own values. A panel made up of DoorDash CMO Kofi Amoo-Gottfried, NASCAR and 23XI’s Bubba Wallace, and NBA CMO Kate Jhaveri explored the creation of marketing campaigns that reflect relevant shared values, as well as how brands can consistently stand for what they believe in while also reacting to noteworthy cultural moments.

Both Amoo-Gottfried and Jhaveri emphasized having crystal-clear visions of their corporate values and detailed how those values visibly permeate their businesses every day. Each CMO broke down how their values correlate with communities and causes they seek to serve, with or without external messaging. Jhaveri noted a pledge by the NBA to commit $3 million to Black and Brown communities, while Amoo-Gottfried called out DoorDash’s partnership with Bubba Wallace following his racial justice activism surrounding George Floyd’s death in 2020. By making sizable partnership and monetary commitments to those causes, both brands exemplify what it means to authentically uphold brand values.

Authentic Brands Stand Out

When brands take the time to identify their values and set up systems to uphold them, that work comes through in their messaging. These days, we're all overwhelmed with media that peddles generic diversity- and equity- themed messages, attempting to capitalize on the increased public attention on those issues. Consumers notice when brands try to ride these trend waves with minimal thoughtfulness.

A session entitled “Cut the Branding Bull” took on the challenge of showing brands how to build advertising campaigns that stand apart from the competition. With internet users endlessly scrolling, marketers are serving brand messages to compete for the attention of an overstimulated, always-on population. The session panel suggested starting with a concept that’s accessible, then turning that idea on its head via exploration and curiosity. In the process, a familiar concept becomes non-linear, memorable, and authentic. They also highlighted the importance of being open to unusual concepts in an age where people are quick to dismiss anything that isn’t eye-catching.

Most striking from the theme of brand authenticity was the intentionality and long-term commitment that characterize authentic brands. Successful brands that are embraced for memorable marketing campaigns have already put forth significant time and resources to live and breathe the values they deem as core to their businesses.

Even now, many companies find themselves looking for a fast fix to capitalize on a cultural moment or seasonal happenings, without deep reflection. That kind of disingenuous messaging doesn’t go unnoticed—and brands suffer the consequences.

Ultimately, brands must attune their messaging to consumers' increasingly adept “authenticity meters.” When those messages ring true, brands will reap the benefits of memorability and loyalty from the audiences they seek to connect with.

Nearly a decade after its debut, programmatic in-housing is having a moment. Many brands and agencies that buy programmatic media are expressing a renewed interest in bringing those capabilities in-house. The resurgence has organizations doing a deep evaluation on what in-housing means to them and determining what they look to achieve by pursuing it.

In this episode of AdTech Unfiltered, host Noor Naseer chats with Raashee Gupta Erry, principal and founder of UpLevel Digital Media Consulting, about how an organization can determine if in-housing is right for them. They explore the many ways to interpret what in-housing can entail, discuss who needs to be involved when considering the possibility, and much more.

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