The signs of programmatic maturity are everywhere, no longer just in aggregate spend figures. We see it as more and more brands buy into the full-stack reality and explore solutions that connect martech to ad tech and data to creative.
At the same time, there are talented people within brands and agencies who have mastered the new digital toolset and become fairly sophisticated about how those tools are used. There’s even what you might call a “programmatic workforce,” marketers with five-plus years of direct experience with the technology who are rising through the ranks. This all paints a picture of relative maturity.
But there’s one major downside to the maturation of programmatic, and it’s causing growing concern among marketers. In short, it’s that the marketplace for third-party data has become increasingly commodified and flattened. Third-party data is losing its efficacy because everybody is using the same stuff, and there’s nothing differentiated about it.
Now that programmatic targeting is table stakes, just having the capacity to execute a data-driven buy no longer provides an edge. Brands are finding that they need to dig deeper, segment better and target more efficiently.
Smart money is betting on first-party data as the answer to the problem of differentiation. Onboarding CRM (customer relationship management) data to match with third-party segments extends the market intelligence of the prepackaged audience segment into the brand’s own unique environment. This approach adds tons of value, but it’s best suited to retention and retargeting. For marketers focused on acquisition and reach, more is required to set the strategy apart from the competition’s.
For real differentiation, brands need to expand beyond CRM data to bring in all of the data that reflects the actions occurring within a brand’s ecosystem. The key may reside in “dark social.”
The power of ‘dark social’
With brands distributing content through email links, social platforms and influencer engagements, the extended reach of a brand’s content becomes difficult to represent in one place. A consumer’s entire engagement experience with the brand extends beyond the footprint of owned properties into the platforms and pathways through which people share the brand’s content.
Whereas in the past, publishers acted as the primary distribution points for brand content (whether in the form of branded content or traditional advertising), today, the consumers themselves act as distributors to their peers. And that sharing happens well beyond the trackable environments of Facebook and Twitter — email, text messages and IM, for example.
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