How Ads Know People in the New Media Scene


Kelly Leger, Vice President of Publisher Solutions, Merkle Inc.

In its relatively brief history, digital advertising has changed dramatically, and at such a dizzying rate, that many brands have struggled to keep pace. Technologies, methodologies, platforms, advertisers, and publishers are constantly entering, leaving, and manipulating the marketplace. What used to be the limited and simple banner ad on a website is now an omnipresent, dynamic experience, spanning all digital media and device types. Advertisers everywhere, big and small, have issued a mandate: they need to market to the individual person. Enter people-based marketing – a discipline that requires a keen focus on delivering personalized experiences, context and content tailored to the individual.

In this current environment, ad inventory cannot stand alone; ad placements need to be put in front of the right audience, when they’re ready to see it and on whatever device they’re using at that time. This is why people-based marketing is now top of mind for publishers. Publishers are looking for a custom-audience solution that rivals the abilities of the large social networks to increase inventory yield and advance their media and analytics offerings. This renewed focus on addressable marketing is driven by the advertiser’s need to purchase media with the same, targeted precision found in traditional direct mail and email.

This presents an entirely new set of challenges around inventory, channel and programmatic capabilities. In addition, cross-device targeting and tracking are reaching scale — capitalizing on a newfound ability to tie first-party customer data to third-party online data across platforms and devices. Addressability at scale is becoming more and more attainable.

Both publisher and supply-side platforms (SSP) are working to meet the needs of the advertiser to reach individuals by making media buying recommendations based on the available publisher inventory. However, there’s one major caveat: Because of the rules and regulations that surround the use of personally identifiable information (PII) in both online and offline applications, most online publishers and platforms are not able to directly tie the advertiser’s customer to the publisher’s subscriber base for trackable one-to-one advertising. This is not necessarily new, but what is unique is that database technology and data integration play an important role in bringing together advertiser and publisher audiences. This creates the ability to reach actual individuals across the publisher inventory, engage that person, and then establish a buying journey that matches the brand and its products or services

This is not a simple task. It involves navigating very complex processes. It requires first-, second-, and third-party data knowledge, PII data management, data integration, experience across a number of systems, and the ability to gain insight from data and to execute on that insight across  different media. Working with advertiser CRM lists, customer segmentation, and historical data files can all play a role in fine-tuning custom audience advertising across publisher media inventory. In addition, third-party data enhancement information should be available to create additional insights related to each individual, for example, demographic, lifestyle, and attitudinal factors that refine the profile.

Ultimately, what does all of this mean to advertisers and publishers and why should they care? Publishers benefit from greater monetization of their first-party audiences against their premium inventory, while advertisers win with precise, people-based campaigns by seeing a greater return on ad spend. While the new world of digital advertising is actually being simplified by a focus on the individual, the process of executing higher levels of personalization for both publishers and advertisers remains complex. How media is planned and how it is consumed, relies completely upon the availability, quality, and use of data. Now, with the convergence of media and data, the mutual needs of publishers and advertisers to reach individuals in a precise and intuitive manner can be met. In this new media landscape, ads have a real chance at leaving the general awareness realm and entering into a personalized, targeted space. Advertising finally has the opportunity to initiate a one-to-one exchange between a brand and a customer.

About the Author

Ms. Kelly Leger is Vice President of Publisher Solutions at Merkle Inc. since Feb, 2015. She is in charge of leading publisher and client adoption of Publisher Addressable Marketplaces at Merkle. Ms. Leger served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Digital Solutions at V12 Group, Inc and served as its Vice President of Digital Solutions. She was responsible for the strategic direction, implementation, and technical planning for V12 Group's Digital division. She also oversaw V12 Group's online sales team. She has over 15 years experience in data solutions, business development, strategic planning and product development for several leading multi-media groups and consumer data providers. Prior to V12 Group, Ms. Leger spent three years working in the emerging field of online Audience Targeting. Prior to this, she served as the First Senior Director of Data Partnerships and Business development for the online division at Datalogix. In this role, her primary focus was to create high-level partnerships with large social networks, lead-generation companies, and Fortune 500 publishers for audience development and extension. Ms. Leger holds a dual bachelors degree in Political Science and Public Relations from Marquette University.

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