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AdTech Reboot

The Tyranny Of Digital Marketing Technology

Picture of Judy Shapiro

Judy Shapiro

Editor-in-Chief at The Trust Web Times
Picture of Judy Shapiro

Judy Shapiro

Editor-in-Chief at The Trust Web Times

In the past three years, I have seen nearly dozens of dreamily written articles espousing the virtues of all the new data ventures or AI firms or SaaS platforms. Many technologies make black boxes promises with hefty promises that sometime defy logical scrunity.

Nothing in breathless media deluge about one venture or another seemed to connect with real-world advertisers.  The tech firms portray their perfect technologies that can take the guesswork out of the incredibly subjective business of marketing.

The tech stories are very seductive stories – even if they are – well – plainly wrong. 

The real tyranny of digital marketing is that it has become an all or nothing tech proposition. Either it is all automation which is deeply limited in its ability to be and malleable or it is all managed services undermining the full efficiencies of technology.

The truth is simply this. Technology makes marketing tasks easier – but it does not make achieving marketing results better.

Technology, in fact, makes a marketers’ life much much more complicated because technology simply shifts where we invest our efforts.

Pre the adtech explosion marketing, while tedious and not predictable, the basic components were readily available and the process of creation somewhat predictable (if not brilliant).

Now let’s compare that to what a marketer must wrestle to the ground today. A typical adtech stack may have 20 different modules for 3rd party data, 1st party data, CRM systems, CMS systems, web analytics, digital ad buying (DSPs), attribution modeling, email marketing et al. The actual task of a single function, such as media buying, is infinitely easier and the results may be better but integrating this task into a holistic view that can drive business is infinitely harder.

But the complexity doesn’t end there. To get it all to work requires a mini army of data engineers, developers and technologists just to keep it all running, a pricey and dicey proposition. Wait – it doesn’t end there. Now with our new, increased marketing “scale” capacity, we need a whole other layer of adtech verification solutions from brand safety concerns to bad traffic verification solutions to process all these impressions we can buy at scale.

Which brings me back to my initial point. Adtech does offer advertisers new capabilities but the price of these new capabilities may exceed their value.

The seduction of new technology belies the reality that technology is neither a time saver nor even more efficient. Heck sometimes when I read the press covering a new adtech firm, they seem too blinded by the brilliance of the technology to be objective.

All I ask is that we play it straight with people – technology is cool and helps simplify some aspects of marketing. But the myth that technology makes our lives easier should be allowed to die. That is the true tyranny.