Digital marketing in the blockchain era. It’s time to look at throughput instead of output.


Blockchain and AI. Most meetings in 2018 will either start or ends with these topics.

Like many, I read tonnes of articles on the basic foundation of Blockchain and AI. It’s fascinating when you understand the benefits of applying Blockchain and AI in digital marketing (especially programmatic). Also, I work in an environment where I see the benefits of AI first hand and it helps me get a glimpse of future possibilities. There’s no doubt that we will keep hearing about various ideas of Blockchain and AI applications in marketing as a whole, not just programmatic.

However, I believe we need to take a step back and take a real close look at various factors that form the eco-system.

First, automation at supply side:

Tech companies, right from Facebook and Google to startups in a garage are coming up with products, tools, and AIs to automate media planning and buying. Consulting companies are getting into martech big time with their own tech and APIs that work on top of the offerings that walled gardens and programmatic platforms provide. Each of them has their own agenda and outlook towards the ever-evolving business model of digital marketing.

Second, the demand side gap:

Marketers want to understand the change in the media landscape, how customers are buying their products and what the future looks like. But they are time-poor and don’t know whom to trust to help them. On top of that, digital scares most marketers. This fear has left an opening that tech vendors are exploiting – selling MVPs and broken products that are supposed to solve problems but fails most of the time, resulting in client frustration. The is the core problem that caused mushrooming of namesake exchanges and publishers who game the system and make money out of junk inventories.

Third, a broken agency ecosystem:

No, I’m not here to proclaim that agencies are dying OR consultancies are taking over the agency networks. Having worked in agencies for almost a decade, I firmly believe that the value that agencies bring to the table is still significant.

But, the threat of agencies losing relevance in new age marketing is real.

The big challenge is the fact that various agency teams still work in silos. Instead of creating synergies on the key performance indicators that lead to bottom-line results for the client, agency teams focus on isolated KPIs which in my understanding leads to the poor selection of idea, media, platforms, creative expression and ends up affecting business results for the client and erodes the little chances they have to become a trusted partner they once used to be.

The significance of throughput in the Blockchain era:

No, blockchain in my understanding won’t change marketing. But it will kill the bad apples that plague the digital media ecosystem. Ads.text is a great initiative but Blockchain has the ability to clean the supply pipe and benefit both the publisher and the advertiser. It will save potentially hundreds of millions of marketing dollars that otherwise goes to benefit the fraudsters.

When the supply pipe gets cleaned up, we have a great opportunity to make a once in a generation shift on how we approach digital marketing.

How? By focusing on throughput, instead of output.

Throughput simply refers to the amount of material or items passing through a system or process”. The application of throughput changed the first industrial revolution where the innovation was around producing a quality product at scale in lesser time at much cheaper cost.

Why throughput now? I don’t think the scenarios are different now. All companies want to scale within a shorter time frame and want to be efficient.

It’s time to channelize our efforts towards a seamless consumer experience and various possibilities of data harvesting at each stage of their journey. I’m not talking about best UI, optimized sites etc.

At present, the focus is on output metrics like CPC, CTR etc, which are great metrics and should be tracked to evaluate the campaign performance. However, not all brands have a clear strategy to leverage possibilities of personalization at each stage of the customer funnel, enhancing the audience quality or minimize spillovers with the help DMP possibilities, integration of CMS / CRM tools, etc.

There’s no study required to understand the performance lift when we apply personalization and data from impression to conversion. With so many tools, it’s really possible to provide a personalized experience to EACH of your customers. Imagine Google in 2010. It was a massive service used by billions. Fast-forward to 2018, Google is still massive, but it has a billion versions for each of its users customized based on their behaviors across their services.

It’s no more a rocket science to:

  • Before bidding via your DSP, apply pre-bid filters like viewability, excluding site with a history of BOTS, applying advanced filters to exclude certain topics, nature of publisher, adding exchanges based on historic data OR top 5 exchanges, whitelisting/blacklisting at the publisher level
  • Show 100 variations of an ad with CMP / DCO based on variables like their DMP profile, CRM data, purchase funnel stage, recency of past visit, geo, time of the day, weather, etc.
  • And your website has the same Ad message or visual that lead them to your site and changes the content and call to action dynamically based on the user’s device
  • And have a dynamic call to action that is extremely specific (again based on DMP, CRM etc)
  • And ensuring your customers have a great post-purchase journey workflow like reviews, referrals etc  instead of going into a master re-targeting list etc

When you shift your focus to throughput and do a great job implementing it, the results will be truly delightful and will offer more insights for further betterment.

And the change already is happening. Check out how Volkswagen is using AI for its media buying and IBM’s plans to use blockchain to clean up digital media buying.

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