Thorsten Schütte-Gravelaar, CEO of MMT, questions the push towards innovation in the advertising industry and takes a critical look at the advancements
A lot of exciting things are happening in the major playing field that is digital marketing. But despite all of these efforts, we can still look back at ‘a boring decade without any truly significant, revolutionary innovation’ as renowned investor Peter Thiel once said about the digital economy. Were there really any truly revolutionary developments after the triumph celebrated by search marketing in the 90s? Programmatic advertising? Or perhaps the optimization of graphic advertising can be considered a real game-changer. How is this possible when it seems like we are talking about something new every day as it is presented to us from the other side of the global walled garden? Or is that perhaps what created this situation in the first place? The market is poised like a rabbit in front of a snake, waiting to see what new innovation that company will bring out next. Instead of rolling up its own sleeves, coming up with its own ideas and advancing the industry itself. The question now is whether the shock created by the pandemic will cause shock waves to roll through the advertising industry. Or whether the state of being frozen in place will instead intensify and companies that are innovating will resume control. Instead of starting a revolution, will it be enough to just leave things up to evolution and then hide behind smaller-scale innovation and optimization? Will we continue to find reasons to restrict true innovation and advancement because of traditional structures and approaches and to simply wait and see what other companies do? We could use the shock of the pandemic as an argument to do just that. Or we could use it as a reason to look to the future full of optimism.
The pressure to keep up with technological advancement is one of the greatest challenges that companies have faced in some time. This pressure continues to grow as new international and global market players and technologies continue to change the industry. When it comes to innovation, the marketing industry is quick to adopt the idea of one solution that will work for the entire industry, often missing out on the opportunity to actually identify the fundamental problems and adopt custom solutions. The search for that one solution, that single market solution for the entire industry, isn’t that the reason why so many in the industry secretly spend time watching the major global players? And then only to complain that those same global players continue to dictate and determine which path to take. Waiting prevents you from thinking for yourself, which then gives you an excuse for your own failure.
Not only is the Covid-19 pandemic a disaster in terms of human health and a huge challenge in terms of solidarity within the community, it has also placed tremendous stress on the economy and those participating in it. But let’s shift our focus back to the advertising market. The digital transformation is accelerating at a rapid pace. Companies are no longer able to avoid taking the necessary steps, and they now need to finish the homework they have been neglecting as fast as they can.
"We need to introduce new structures and processes, make sure these are stable and combine them with systems and technologies that enable us to work efficiently and without error in the digital age."Thorsten Schütte-Gravelaar
That means: We need to introduce new structures and processes, make sure these are stable and combine them with systems and technologies that enable us to work efficiently and without error in the digital age. These changes need to be permanently integrated at the company as the next step towards digitalization.
With the current crisis, more and more companies are finally seeing media management as a profit driver. What was previously largely ignored and neglected is now being recognized as holding significant potential to immediately improve company results. Unfortunately, what actually happens in the real world is often very different. An example taken from the days of the pandemic clearly illustrates how far the gap between innovation and daily life can sometimes be. While the industry is busy talking about the potential to be found in AI-based media planning, media planners are running campaigns for most advertisers either manually or using simple excel sheets, file servers and email. Many advertisers are unable to digitally control their own strategic media investments, not to mention view and control their immediate media results. Analog work processes have managed to survive in the digital age without anyone having noticed. Because technological advancements mean increasing requirements and complexity, it is high time to do away with old process structures, reorient and get ready to work digitally. How can machine learning be sustainable, consistent and function without any time delay if the media plans are organized in excel and sent to customers via email or uploaded in the cloud for viewing? Future-ready campaign planning needs processes and structures that are digitalized and systems and data that are connected with each other and then made available for automated steering. The base system in all this needs to be able to process the necessary algorithms and make decisions based on the available data samples.
Time, structure and processes – because the industry has failed to create a stable foundation in many areas over the past several years, now is not the time to take another breather or spend time justifying this failure to act. The pressure to innovate within the industry has meant that most market participants have been placing their attention on just making sure they don’t do anything wrong since the major global players are sure to come up with an effective solution soon. The shock caused by the pandemic has made the consequences of taking such a stance quite clear. For those who want to stay in the game, the days of waiting and relying on others to come up with an answer are over. In exceptional situations like this one, it is the brave who are rewarded, and these times call for entrepreneurial action and forward-thinking decision-making. This especially applies to the advertising industry in a world that will soon be fully digital.