Ad tech must market to the marketers

Dax Hamman is chief strategy officer at Chango.

If you want to annoy CMOs, there’s an easy way to do it: tell them that marketing and advertising are the same thing. This common misconception frustrates CMOs because it undervalues the many other important aspects of marketing, from research, to content management, to analytics and so on. Indeed, according to Gartner, only 12.5 percent of digital marketing budgets are spent on advertising.

But the real problem with this misconception isn’t that it’s annoying. For the ad tech world, this failure to realize marketing’s true breadth is inhibiting the industry’s growth. While its natural that ad tech would pay attention to media buyers — the people with the money tend to get attention — they’re leaving out a huge segment of their audience. The client’s market researchers and content managers aren’t invited to the party. That’s a serious mistake.

Ad buyers don’t operate in a vacuum. After meeting with ad tech vendors, they go back to their desks and chat with the rest of the marketing department. And having not heard the pitch from the ad tech team, those other marketers have no reason to believe that a new technology can be so much more effective than the way things have always been done.

The irony, of course, is that the whole idea behind ad tech and real-time bidding is that we’re delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. And yet when it comes time to delivering our own message to marketers, we’re failing to deliver.

How do I know that most marketers still don’t know all the details about ad tech and real-time bidding? Just take a look at the sites of the top leading DSPs. With the exception of one, I found very little emphasis on the benefits they offer clients, that is, the people who are actually paying for the ads.

Sure, the DSPs and the rest of us in ad tech talk a lot about big data, algorithms and artificial intelligence. And, sure, a lot of VCs love this type of jargon. But most marketers aren’t particularly interested in artificial intelligence. They want straightforward and concrete explanations of how the services we’re offering are going to solve their problems and increase sales for their businesses. They know when someone’s trying to sell something too hard — they’re in marketing after all. (It’s for exactly this reason that at my company, Chango, we are trying our best to decipher the ad tech lingo.)

Still, the best evidence of all is simply that spending on real-time bidding hasn’t yet overtaken site buys. The real-time bidding sector is growing at a rapid rate, but site buys continue to attract the majority of media dollars. And, call me biased, but it’s hard for me to imagine why you’d still want to waste money buying up a site’s entire audience when it’s now relatively easy to pinpoint the specific individuals you want to reach.

The message for the ad tech world is a message most business people now know well. Having the best product isn’t enough. It’s only the beginning. If the ad tech community is ever going to rise to the top, it’s going to have to do a much better job of marketing to marketers.

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