The Machines vs. the Humans: The next marketing tech breakthrough? Putting the customer in control

by Jennifer Burak |

Online advertising and all of the ad tech supporting it is certainly under the microscope these days. And it is not just the rise in ad blocking driving the scrutiny. There is a fundamental shift of online behavior going on with the almost visceral rejection and distrust of anything that is too “commercial.” And if it is interruptive, then just the state of being interruptive is in itself an offense. Programmatic doesn’t solve this dilemma. Putting the customer in control does.

Everything a marketer does should be put through this filter. Everything. Advertising as we know it today can no longer be the core strategy. Paid media needs to be just one part of the mix in the core effort, which is about providing content experiences that drive enough value that earned channels, and the content itself, can provide the return on investment. Paid media? Well, that should just be the icing on the cake. Not the cake itself.

The era of 'leaning in' and discovering

The beauty of the Web is the magic of discovery. It's knowing there's a myriad of avenues to find information you didn’t even know existed or that you wanted. And that feeling of control over getting what you want or need when you want or need it is intoxicating for all generations, not just millennials. Social networks aid that discovery and provide a level of curation that is truly personalized (that is if you are truly selective about who you "friend," link to, and what forums and alerts you sign up for). There is trust there and a vested interest to start.

Put the person in personalization, not programmatic

Personal discovery and social-aided discovery is not programmatic. It is not based on algorithms. It is not based on “the machine being in control.” It is based on “the human being in control.” It has authenticity. The feeling of being both in control by having the power of choice and finding authentic content is actually fueling the rejection of traditional push marketing and advertising we are experiencing today.

But the industry is clawing back with programmatic advertising technology that figures out who you are, what you like, and what you don’t like — all with the hope of getting advertising in front of you that is so targeted to your wants and needs that it moves you to act. However, that rejection of traditional push marketing will continue to extend itself to programmatic advertising because the machines will never get it completely right. And, even if they get it more right, it is still a passive, push message that feels, well, like advertising. Simply put, the premise is wrong.

And it seems like others think so too.

Is programmatic advertising just 'polishing a turd?'

In the latest installment of Digiday’s "Confessions" series, in which the publication "offers anonymity in exchange for candor," Digiday spoke with a media agency CEO who spent the last 17 years working in the digital ad industry while wondering why marketers are squandering millions of dollars on display ad formats no one looks at let alone clicks on.

“It’s all ‘the display banner is dead,’ when in truth it’s never really been alive," the anonymous CEO told Digiday."The industry has to perpetuate that the humble banner works because there are so many people employed off the back of it; so many businesses looking to see or to be acquired off the back of it, and so many tech players built on it. There’s a lot built on the premise that standard display advertising works.”

Is it time to shift our thinking and our resource allocation?

This doesn’t mean that push, programmatic advertising will cease to exist. It has its place — it will always be part of the mix — but perhaps it's a place that has less importance in terms of time, money, and resource spent. Perhaps some of that investment will shift to technology that is not focused on delivery but rather focused on content experiences that put the customer in control. It's about time we shift from technology where the channel is driving personalization (no choice; just push) to technology where the content is providing personalization and choice. Is that the next technological breakthrough? We think so.

Rapt Media just released The Future of Content Report: Personalizing The Content Experience. We surveyed 500 marketers and creatives and our findings highlight personalization and deeper engagement as both the top priority and greatest challenge for marketing creatives.

Check out the report here!

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