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Make Marketing Human Again

AcxiomApril 07, 2017

OOH company Lamar Advertising recently ran a neat outdoor campaign directed at one person. As you may recall, P&G’s chief brand officer, Marc Pritchard, took aim at fraud and opacity in digital advertising at the IAB conference earlier this year. In response, “Hey Marc, This Ad Is Real,” started appearing on billboards around P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters.

Lamar Advertising’s effort was smart and well-timed. But it also spoke to a deeper irony: even though digital was supposed to make it easier to scale relevance and authenticity, in many ways it made it harder.

We all bought into the idea that new technology would finally let us reach real people – and then we promptly fell short. And, like Wile E. Coyote before us, to fall even a little short is to fail. You’re either reaching the person or you aren’t. Instead, we targeted browser and device IDs. We catered to channels, not segments, and retargeted browsers and devices with products their owners had already bought.

It’s not that we shouldn’t have done any of those things. We were right to buy into the digital promise and we were right to use technology to the best of our abilities. But it’s equally important we acknowledge it has fallen short; that we stop and remind ourselves that our marketing still isn’t, but still should be, people based.

While holding onto that vision with both hands, we need to sidestep an obvious trap. It would be easy to argue, given what’s happened, that the problem was one of over-reliance on tech. In fact, the opposite is true.

Here’s the central irony of all this: if marketers are truly going to make marketing more human, we’re going to have to rely on the least human facets of modern marketing – data science and technology. Together they allow us to:

  • Bridge the gap between what we say online and what our customers do offline
  • Better understand our real audiences with things like data enhancement, sharing and analytics
  • Most importantly, use it to spread people-based marketing everywhere (as this slideshare explains)

The irony that made the Lamar Advertising OOH ad so compelling was the fact that they were using one of the most traditional forms of media to personalize. And they made it relevant because they were listening to what Marc Pritchard was saying and responding to that in a timely fashion – within a week of IAB.

In 2016, a partnership between Buzz Radar and IBM Watson demonstrated OOH can handle a truly human pace of conversation. The world’s first “emotionally responsive” billboard analyzed 5,000+ social media posts per hour and displayed adverts that correlated with their tone and emotion.

It’s clear that the combination of data + digital + humanity means that even the most traditionally static of mediums can become the most dynamic. For example, British Airways and OgilvyOne had a fantastic insight a few years ago: don’t we all look up at some point and wonder, “where is that plane going?”

As marketers today, we have access to some of the most dynamic technology and media ever invented. Let’s use it to make marketing more human.