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2018: The Year of the Great Battle for Data

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2018: The Year of the Great Battle for Data
Imraan Rajab, Technology & Commercial Operations Director at MediaCom South Africa

If you are in the marketing, branding or advertising industry, you have probably heard the term ‘spray and pray’ approach. This is usually in reference to campaigns that are executed without a solid strategy, research or consumer insight.

Programmatic marketing is the opposite of this.

According to eMarketer, predictions show that from 2018 to 2020, nearly $19 billion in additional ad dollars will enter the programmatic display space, and there is a good reason for it: its rich audience targeting capabilities. “Buyers have come to rely on programmatic as the primary way to infuse their ad campaigns with first-, second- or third-party data insights,” states principal analyst, Lauren Fisher.

South Africa’s struggle for valuable data

In South Africa, we are now at a stage where programmatic media buying has entered the mainstream. Agencies are no longer pitching programmatic services as a silver bullet, and publishers are beginning to understand how transacting programmatically can supplement their traditional sales channels.

Digital mature brands, agencies and publishers alike have also acknowledged the importance of data in ensuring that programmatic activation hits the mark. Brands are increasingly looking towards partners who are able to aid them in gathering valuable data about their customers. Publishers and agency groups are also steamrolling ahead in the same direction, investing in data management platforms and similar proprietary technologies.

All round, programmatic is being recognised as an important vehicle for effectively achieving digital media objectives.

A new digital media currency

With all three parties marching towards the same end-goal, some might say that we have a data race underway. To those who are thinking of a few years down the line though, it may also seem as if we’re all doubling up on each other.

While it would make the most sense for brands to be the ones to pioneer investment into this space, in the context of our market, most lack the human resources, infrastructure and funding needed to do so. Brands are also under increasing financial pressure, and marketing budgets are continually under fire. Publishers, on the other hand, may not lack what brands do and are often sitting on a gold mine of user data.

However, the usefulness of even the largest publishing group’s data sets is limited when considering just how fragmented the digital ecosystem is – the data divide between Google and Facebook is a testament to this. And while agencies can successfully navigate as the go-betweens for brands and publishers (at least in the short term), in the longer term, brands should have control over their own data sets as their value and usability only increase over time.

New opponents emerging

The march towards data supremacy by brands, agencies and publishers has not gone unnoticed. More than ever before, the voice of the consumer is being heard globally, and that voice is calling out major concerns around consumer privacy.

When we consider the far-reaching effects of Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of consumer data, these concerns are not easily dismissed; so much so that we’re now operating in an environment that is increasingly regulated. While the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not impact most South African brands, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) is right on its heels and will potentially have the same impact for us here.
We are, unfortunately, still some time away from having true data-driven strategies realised. Add to this the impending impact that consumer privacy acts will have on data collection, and many are already questioning the future of programmatic.

In the days following the implementation of GDPR, some advertisers reportedly cut between 20 and 50% of their programmatic ad spend, creating mayhem in the EU programmatic market. A month later, however, it seems as if things have stabilised and programmatic ad spend is increasing again as advertisers and publishers steadily implement the necessary consent technologies and consumer opt-in rates increase.

Closing the gap

In my opinion, it’s safe to say that we will see the same trends here in South Africa. Predictions are that programmatic spend shifting away from exchange-based buys toward more direct, programmatic-guaranteed buys, where advertisers can be sure of the quality and accuracy of data.

While third-party data kept programmatic going, South Africa can expect a significant decline in the scale of third-party data. This may see the market shifting away from audience targeting towards more contextual targeting – placing more emphasis on the environment. Both of these trends will ease some of the pain felt by publishers throughout the rise of programmatic.

Finally, changes to data collection will increasingly place more emphasis on brands building up first-party data at scale, and while this will require a sizeable investment in the short-term, those brands that do invest earlier will have a major advantage in increasingly competitive markets.

Only time will tell how the battle plays out and who will walk away a victor in this great battle for data supremacy.


By Imraan Rajab, Technology & Commercial Operations Director at MediaCom South Africa

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