Every year, the tech event calendar revolves around the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — self-described on its website as “a proving ground for breakthrough technologies and global innovators.” That may sound like a lofty claim, but the 2023 show delivered on it, especially in the worlds of advertising, media and entertainment.
For marketers and publishers, the message at CES 2023 was clear: From the final crumbling of the third-party cookie to the prospect of looming national privacy legislation, the marketing technology landscape is undergoing tectonic shifts. And while it may be easy to identify choppy waters on the horizon, it’s significantly harder to navigate them deftly — or merely figure out where to start.
The good news is that’s what gatherings like CES are for: getting the right minds in the right place to have the right conversations to move the industry forward. Here are three things in particular the TruAudienceTM team took away from this year’s show.
1. The future of identity is flexible.
One-size-fits-all identity solutions have historically been the norm, with identity providers building their graphs to focus on one point along the spectrum of reach and accuracy. While this kind of graph may have sufficed in the past, it has a fundamental flaw: It ignores the fact that client needs can oftentimes be too complex for a cookie-cutter solution to solve.
Different industry players need different balances of scale and accuracy: While a national CPG advertiser may want to establish as broad a view of its customer base as possible, a niche publisher will be more concerned with levels of identification fidelity it can get from its audience. It can get even more granular as publishers and marketers seek various levels of accuracy vs. reach — from campaign to campaign and use case to use case — bringing an entirely new level of sophistication to the identity table.
The narrative coming from CES is tomorrow’s successful identity solutions will need to be tunable to the unique needs of each client, whether that’s offering wide reach, laser-focusing on accuracy or any point in between. To adapt to the changing needs of the industry, next-gen identity solutions will need to be built with flexibility in mind — the off-the-shelf days are over.
2. Marketing strategies must evolve with the times.
From continued signal loss to a media ecosystem that’s only growing more fragmented, agencies, brands and publishers are all facing unprecedented challenges. At this year’s CES, TransUnion EVP of Media & Entertainment Matt Spiegel hosted a fireside chat — Hard Truths: Your Current Advertising Strategies Won't Cut It in 2023 — where industry leaders from Walgreens and Publicis explored what strategies should (and shouldn’t) be carried into the New Year.
In particular, the panelists called out a need for players across the media ecosystem to stop and think before chasing the next big data solution or technology. CES is by nature a forward-looking show, but all the marketing technology innovation in the world doesn’t mean a thing if it’s not actually fulfilling a purpose. But technology isn’t the only space where the industry needs to be more rigorous around investment. Choosing the right partnerships to enable a robust and future-proofed marketing strategy is equally important. Ensuring every partnership accomplishes a business goal and, more importantly, integrates well as part of an overall marketing strategy will keep programs streamlined and moving in the same direction.
It can be easy to get swept up in the swirl of new technologies and ever-expanding partner relationships, but at the end of the day, every player in the industry should be aware of their north star — whether that’s effectively monetizing while driving excellent customer experiences as a publisher or driving positive campaign outcomes as a marketer. By asking the right questions, businesses across the industry can ensure they’re staying grounded in what’s truly important to drive success.
3. What’s old might just be new again.
There’s no doubt the future is now — but the shape that future is taking is more nuanced than it may first appear. For the digital marketing ecosystem, what was old is proving to be new again: From the field of media companies coalescing around the few largest players to terrestrial radio continuing to hold its own against digital audio, in some ways, the media marketing landscape looks much as it did in the early 2000s.
But before we all hop into our proverbial DeLoreans to head back to the future, it’s important to realize just because some legacy approaches are resurfacing, doesn’t mean they’re going to be embraced in the same ways as in the past. The traditional TV panel is a prime example of this: With the deprecation of some digital identifiers, and the fact the industry can’t (or likely won’t) land on a new identification standard, some marketers and publishers are seeing new value in the panel. Instead of basing all their decisions solely on panel results, forward-looking marketers are seeing opportunities to use panels as seed audiences, side-stepping the issue of low scale that panels have historically struggled with while at the same time playing to their strengths with high-fidelity, high-confidence data.
On a broader level, this means it’s crucial for players across the industry to avoid succumbing to “next big thing” tunnel vision. Rather, a balanced approach that continues investigating and developing cutting-edge solutions while also paying heed to the lessons of the past will give markets the best shot at driving performance and publishers the best shot at improving monetization.
The future of advertising is already here whether we’re ready for it or not. The New Year may see advertising budgets shrink, and the traditional ways of identifying users go the way of the dodo, but where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. With a strategy that combines forward-looking, flexible identity solutions with an awareness of what’s come before, marketers and publishers alike can position themselves to not just survive in the 2023 but also thrive.
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