‘Digital Business Transformation’ - three words that set a challenge for marketers and publishers alike but also offer unprecedented opportunities at the same time. The phenomenal scale of the data available to businesses is unnerving.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
In the latter part of the second millennium, when the digital marketing and the digital advertising ecosystem became complex, and the ad inventories turned proliferative, the users and their digital footprint burgeoned. While the advertisers’ inventories, properties and investments grew dramatically, the marketers, with only siloed user information limited either to phone numbers, unreliable survey data or a dark email-ID list of users, were looking for a black cat in the darkroom. Harmonizing the delicate demand-supply balance became an uphill task in the absence of a mediator.
The technology at the time merely allowed marketers to capture user’s online activity via the primitive ‘Pixeling’ method and to tie this disjointed storyline based on the 3rd party data. Mining and transforming this data into powerful insights about the customer journey that can be actioned upon can help both marketers and publishers alike. Hence, the advent of the Data Management Platform (DMP). The DMP becomes a central hub for data categorizing mainly into three types:
- First-Party Data: Companies own 1PD collected from digital properties (websites and apps), CRM systems, customers, and customer affinities
- Second-Party Data: User data from partners who share their 1PD for enriching customer behaviour. For example, business affiliates.
- Third-Party Data: Data from other 3rd party vendors who capture and accrue data from sources which have anonymized behavioural or intent data, such as Acxiom, Eyeota and VisualDNA.
A Julebord of DMPs
There are so many prospects and customer interactions happening in the real world, but businesses have so little time to make a story out of it. This offers a gold cove of possibilities for marketing agencies and ad publishers alike. The DMP could help marketers and analysts to ensure that this data is mined smartly and efficiently. But when all roads lead to Rome, a lot of DMPs and other systems behaving like DMPs are on offer in the market. There are DSPs that also offer these DMP nuances. Their USP: it is more efficient for marketers and publishers to use one common platform instead of two. This theory seems legit, as it is always beneficial to have fewer people and lesser technical processes. However, such a thought can be limiting. There are DMPs that offer jazzy dashboards and funky charts to spur out a visual story which helps in conveying key insights to your client, CMO or potential business. However, the downside of such DMPs is that the platform needs structured data and a lot of maintenance and governance processes. This allows the reporting dashboards and preconfigured charts to work nicely, but this can be restricted by the finite number of pre-determined ways to mine the data. So, ironic as it seems, DMPs that function upon rigid and limited structured data can challenge the very cause of their existence.
At the other end of the gamut are DMPs that are free-willed. These allow a user to go digging for fortune data cookies in any way they want, can employ any analysis strategy and execute AI-ML models to somewhat predict the future. This may deliver more benefits, but such options require additional resourcing which again pressurizes the investment chain.
In a short span of time, DMPs have gone from simple tools that manage third-party audience targeting in display advertising to enabling much more sophisticated multi-channel, multi-device consumer communications. As for the future, a report says, “The Data Management Platform Market is expected to reach approximately $3 billion by the end of 2023 with approximately 15% CAGR during the forecasted period from 2017 – 2023.”
The sky’s the limit.
Seek, and ye shall find — Matthew 7:7-8
Adobe Marketing Platform (AMP) and Google Marketing Platform (GMP) are the two market leaders when it comes to data management systems. Adobe grew inorganically from its rich analytics platform, acquired Demdex and forayed into this incumbent space between publishers/advertisers, ad exchanges, SSPs, brands and ultimately, the consumer. It remains as a more DMP-like platform and closely resembles the textbook definition of DMPs. Google was always this vast kingdom with walls bordering its own products. It later realized the immensity of such a platform and started to grow organically as well as inorganically, merging all of its mighty data prowess about the users as well as the advertiser/publisher conglomerates, thereby building a more sophisticated platform with its walls built even higher.
Both platforms have very different backgrounds, and this shows in the way they activate and reach audiences. Adobe comes across as a robust data ingestor having more mature data onboarding, merging and activation capabilities. It can, in theory, drive most of the campaign activation strategies one can think of:
- From enriched 1PD segmented audience activation to frequency capped targeting -- allowing marketers to be smarter in their reach and fair usage of their media budgets.
- Advanced cross-channel activation and analytics to algorithmic modelling – allowing marketers to automatically model new audiences and deliver the right message to the right people, at the right time.
- Better audience segmentation – also helping the marketers to be ingenious when it comes to targeting and in reducing media waste.
- Cross-device audience identification with Profile Merge Rules – allowing marketers to be more consistent in delivering the brand message, hence driving up the brand recall and purchase intent.
The Adobe activation stack is one of the most sophisticated and rich platforms that can communicate with almost all of the downstream destinations; from more robust asynchronous server-to-server destinations to URL/pixel-based near real-time audience activation.
With all its high grounds, there are certain pitfalls too, which are not small enough to be ignored. The ability of the Adobe platform to identify and match the users on a downstream system such as DSPs/SSP/Ad exchanges (called Match Rate) has been struggling due to the onset of more prudent privacy regulations and many manifestations such as the ITP2.1. The situation sometimes is so bad that a downstream system such as Adobe Campaign can identify only 3-4% of the users Adobe DMP identifies in the absence of any CRM data. Moreover, audiences of users browsing on an Apple device were found to have a match rate of a meagre 20% in comparison to users browsing the web property on non-Apple devices for a large CPG brand.
Other pitfalls, such as inadequate reporting capabilities as well as the product support are other areas of improvement Adobe must evolve to be a christened player in data management platforms.
Google, on the other hand, excels in the areas Adobe suffer, but suffer where Adobe excels. This could be due to the fact that Google has never positioned its platform as a DMP, but more as an effective marketing platform targeted to advertisers, publishers and marketers. The top-notch analytical reporting, the very effective Google custom-intent audiences, enriched Google affinities and in-market segmentation, fewer leakages with its own ecosystem, are some of the very strong points GMP offers. However, the lack of its own data ingestion system (CRM and other brand data) puts it in a very tight spot.
Other players such as Salesforce Krux and Amobee are still in their nascent phase. Rumour has it that when Salesforce acquired Krux and its DMP offerings, the servers miserably failed to accommodate the large (and unexpected) amount of data. Initially, SF seemed clueless for a few days before they contained this flare-up. But marketers should be excited for these platforms to evolve and look forward to how their story of niche-placing-themselves unfolds, in this already saturated war of the management platform realms.
A Glimpse Of DMP In Action
A leading CPG brand in the UK, reaching millions of users through a variety of print, online, digital, and mobile platforms, was looking for a way to communicate better with prospects, catapulting their brand health from a more technophile geeky-brand to a lifestyle-driven brand resonating with the luxurious and the affluent. A careful and efficient mix of Adobe and Google platforms allowed this CPG brand to identify new audiences across both self-owned and external properties and helped in increasing the 1PD reach by to 12MM records, compared to 300K without the DMP. This feat came from the ability to improve campaign reach and effectiveness by tagging the paid media interactions into a more advanced audience segmentation for campaigns, and by providing unmatched insights from customer data. It’s not just the reachability that is benefiting from using a DMP. The increased media relevance, effective customer segmentation and executing frequency capping also decreased the media spend, saving their 20% media budget annually. Hence, a DMP in the right hands of both marketers and publishers can be a highly effective tool in leveraging data that drives up the ROI.
…Mayest be wise in thy latter end — King James 19:20
People are concerned with their privacy issues and the treatment of their data by marketing companies. By having a single integrated system under a DMP, marketers can put in place robust governance guidelines on what data is accepted into the DMP. This could help reassure trust among customers and keep their privacy intact. This is critical to any company that wants to be consumer-centric in their approach to data management.
People are also very critical in the interpretation of a DMP. The DMP is not the ‘cure-all solution’ for the challenges of being a customer-centric business and of data management. However, it can have enormous benefits for analysts-cum-marketers like us. It is the shaping of a DMP framework that makes the data more valuable. It is we who interpret and outline the insights against the business objectives. It is we who strive to adjust campaigns in real-time to pursue greater effectiveness. It is we who seek to make new associations across channels and devices and spot the golden needle in the haystack. All this boils down to the treasured customers, valuable prospects, and us erudite marketers who excavate this trench.
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Ashish is a part of the AIM Writers Programme. He is a Digital Marketing Analyst and former BI Architect at a noted IT firm. With over 10 years of extensive experience in delivering data engineering & cloud-based BI solutions, he has helped clients across domains to enable their digital platforms, extract insights from their business intelligence suites, thereby triggering & tapping newer business opportunities.