Is this the future of advertising?

Last month, after 2 multibillion-dollar acquisitions, (including the AppNexus purchase for a reported $1.6 billion), AT&T has finally announced its brand-new ad platform, Xandr.

Announced at AT&T’s Relevance Conference late September, Xandr was positioned as a revolutionary addition to the ad business that will make advertising relevant to consumers, profitable for media companies and accountable and efficient for the advertisers that use the platform. Xandr CEO Brian Lesser has been open about the grand plans and vision for Xandr: launching a marketplace for all media owners where advertisers can bring their own data and augment it using AT&Ts data and run measurement attribution models. “We want to give data back to our clients so they don’t have to trust us that it works,” Lesser said.

With this announcement, what does the increasing number of these platforms really mean for marketers?

AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner back in June placed them in a unique position to use their data and technology infrastructure to digitise media content. At the time, it was seen as a power play to claw back market share from non-traditional media companies like Netflix and Amazon. However, conglomerates simply don’t earn as much as they do without having an ear for new business and money-making opportunities.

As the industry has witnessed with the exponential growth of Amazon, when you have content and data, you have the power to sell it to advertisers for a price. By diversifying into advertising and building their own proprietary ad tech, Amazon has been able to sell their unique data and content offering and compete directly with Facebook and Google. Following the Time Warner acquisition, AT&T was quick to replicate Amazon’s model and have their own distribution function through their purchase of AppNexus. As Lesser said, “the modern media company [has] everything to do with the combination of content, distribution, data & technology.”

What does this mean for advertisers and agencies moving forward?

Ultimately, we are now in an ecosystem that expects data led strategy and real-time optimisation. We work harder to create attribution models and challenge our businesses to think holistically at a customer level. Customers expect a personalised journey, failing to deliver only highlights shortcomings. As we look to centralising data, with the goal of having a single view of the customer, we need to work with platform partners. These partners need to be willing to customise technology to get it working optimally for our clients and our models. Lesser contends that the ultimate goal for Xandr is for “[Advertisers] to ingest the data, model it themselves and make sure it works on their standards”. While there have been multiple formats developed in the past for advertising, unless you can insert the format into the content and deliver it through technology to the specific audience that wants to see it, you can fail. Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration, privacy. Without taking precautions to ensure customer privacy, these customer data stacks and data platforms will fail spectacularly.

Moving forward, we need to continue challenging current media mix modelling. An increasing number of platforms continue to pop up and are gradually understanding user engagement. This understanding, across online and offline engagement, will, in turn, build more connected experiences. Agencies and advertisers alike must be more fluid in our approach to buying media.

The future will see richer data becoming more readily available, with increasing abilities to optimise within and between channels in real time. Advertising and adtech are becoming more complex, combining data, technology, premium content and distribution. The paramount purpose for advertisers and digital media companies must be to make advertising matter and to connect with real people with the brands and content that they care about.

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