There is no doubt that today is the age of data-driven advertising. When more and more people choose to buy things on the Internet, advertisers could reach out to huge numbers of individuals as they took consumer decision journeys online with the help of algorithm(Turrow, 2011). In this circumstance, those advertising agencies, who used to be the main star of this industry, sounds being challenged and replaced by data-collecting firms. We know that in the old glorious days, consumer insight comes from the professional experience and analytic skills of agencies. However, today insights come more directly and accurately since consumers’ keywords are insights into their direct interest. And the same situation happens in media buying process, data analyzer will tell you which publisher should be chosen. So what is the usage, or the role of an advertising man today? We have always thought advertising agencies are a group of people help you to identify and approach your target audience. But just like Turrow said, “Where gems appear is increasingly not as important to advertisers as getting the gems.” Algorithm will always find it.
I remember that one of my co-worker also shared the same worry with me when I was taking an internship in Saatchi & Saatchi. “I think big data is killing us,” he said. I don’t know whether it’s the same in the western world, but in China, a group of advertising practitioners, who used to good at position brands, are now confused to position themselves. I am surely one of them, so the identity of advertising practitioner is a question I always think about. When computer finished our work, delivering the right message to the right person, what should we do?
Luckily, it seems that computers and algorithm are still far away from perfection yet. A blog post and its comment pointed out that too much faith in data-driven advertising leads to dumb mistakes. It’s normal to see bad or wrong connections between advertisements and highlighted keywords. The author claimed that “One day advertisers are going to need to focus on quality not quantity and use some sense.” Yes, when you ask me what is the most impressive thing of the data-driven advertising nowadays, I believe I will say it is their domination of channels, but not quality. To me, I am thinking that the convenience created by data-analyzing companies sometimes just make advertisers lazier or more short-sighted. “Yes they can help me deliver my promoting messages to the right audience, so why should I spend some extra money for hiring a creative agency?” some advertisers may think like this. But what they haven’t seen is that when the mainstream CPM system makes publishers and ad exchange companies get paid whether or not the individuals click on the ads, it also means no one cares about the content of your messages. This is posing a danger to the advertiser because bad content will cause negative effects to the brand image since the high-frequency impression. Why there are increasingly people begin to use add-blocking plug-ins in their web browser? Just because they get tired of endless annoying ads.
“The reality is that for most people, most of the time, they don’t want to be engaged. We have more content than ever, and as consumers, we now see ways to cut out any excess information. For me, the future lies in providing value,” Tom Goodwin said in his blog post, talking about the future of advertising. In his point of view, advertising should be replaced by value-based messages. I totally agree with his opinion, and now the question is: who are the creator of valuable content? Those cookie sellers and data analyzers? Of course not. They are advertising agencies, and publishers. Just like what Turrow mentioned in his book, “Publishing executives are beginning to recognize the exchange-driven devaluation of the website context as a danger to their websites’ long-term health.” the quality of content become the main concern of both publishing and advertising. And it ties their fates together. Publishers need decent ads to make sure they can get great profit but also keep their personality and credibility at the same time. Therefore, from my perspective, media and agency can become allies in this data-driven food chain and try to bring their glory back. For a very long time, advertising plays a role of delivering value from products. Only advertisers need it. But whether there is any possibility to build a brighter future, that every individual needs advertisements to be a window showcasing an unknown world?
Sometimes I just think with the development of technology, the idea of advertising become increasingly narrow. People only want to find out a group of people they think they can convince. Is this some kind of going backward? Is there anyone miss the old day that people have the high spirit to change the whole world with one strong idea?
Here is one of my favorite ad that really broadened my vision even though I’m not its target audience yet. But maybe someday I will really buy the product. Why not?