Blog: Three big tech challenges for 2017

V7i's Joseph Leon argues that the rise of technology has brought about new challenges, including an expertise vacuum and the need to be better partners.

By: Joseph Leon

In last year’s Media Digest, I referenced the dawn of a new era of media measurement, driven by a wave of technological innovation and the accelerating convergence of platforms, channels and techniques.

Beyond measurement, technology evolution is unlocking a wealth of new marketing opportunities, from omni-channel targeting and dynamic personalization to virtual and augmented reality. But evolution rarely comes without disruption. The role of technology is shifting from peripheral to central and forcing our industry to adapt.Copied from strategy - Joseph-Leon@300ppi-623x350

The current marketing technology ecosystem is in a sustained state of flux and we are being challenged on three fundamental levels: ownership, expertise and partnership.

Ownership conundrum

Tech stack, data stack, unified stack, point stack, full stack developer, full stack marketer. We all seem to be obsessed with stacks.

Funded by the epic investments of the ‘stackzillas’ (Adobe, Oracle, Saleforce, Google), the rise of the stack has been propelled by the technical integration of two historically distinct silos: marketing technology, crudely defined as technology focused on the customer, and advertising technology, focused on the prospect.

“While each brand’s approach will vary based on scale, maturity and vertical, the stakeholders have already changed: chief technology officers, chief information officers and chief digital officers are now all at the table, driven by enterprise technology considerations.”

This collision is challenging established ownership norms – agency and adtech, brand and martech – in particular around holistic data management and DMPs (data management platforms). While each brand’s approach will vary based on scale, maturity and vertical, the stakeholders have already changed: CTOs, CIOs and CDOs are now all at the table, driven by enterprise technology considerations. Agencies must brace themselves for new challenges, new clients and new ownership models. Adtech cannot and should not continue to operate as an agency-owned silo.

Expertise vacuum

As technology innovation unlocks opportunity, new questions and challenges arise. Many initially fall between the cracks as the established boundaries of marketing disciplines rapidly blur. An expertise vacuum has emerged as our industry takes time to address the service, skill and resource gaps.

Consider the opportunity around ad personalization. As martech has honed personalization via email, SMS and web since the advent of Amazon’s recommendations engine, adtech has languished behind, perhaps distracted by the explosive growth opportunity of programmatic. (And for those eager to protest, crude product retargeting ads do not count as personalization!) Few, if any, viable solutions exist off the shelf and even basic ad personalization requires a custom solution involving several platforms.

In this technology gap – between DSP, DMP, adserver, CMS and customer database – lies a thought leadership vacuum and brands need guidance. More than any other discipline, our knowledge of measurement, data and ad platforms should allow us as media agencies, to transcend specialism boundaries; to develop a new, broader technological fluency; and transition our clients into this new age of technology as core.

Partnership and collaboration

As witnessed by the expertise vacuum above, the surge in integrated solutions and the growing trend for multi-agency pitch teams, technology evolution is proving a potent catalyst for industry change. Quality media services are no longer viable without deep technology fluency, CRM expertise and data management capabilities.

Media agencies must learn to partner, collaborate and ultimately integrate with new teams, new agencies and new clients. Technology has made the silos and niche thinking of the past unsustainable. Openness, adaptability and breadth will triumph.

Joseph Leon is the president of media for V7i. The column originally appeared in the 2016/17 CMDC Media Digest, a definitive guide to the business of media that has been issued for over 30 years, compiled by senior media professionals from CMDC membership.