Don’t Worry, Be Relevant!

 

kmBy Kirk McDonald, President of PubMatic

This piece originally appeared on The Drum.

Technology usually accelerates everything that it touches.  This acceleration leads many of us to do a lot of fretting about the sudden changes technology brings to our culture, habits, businesses and economy.  Therefore, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised at all by any of the hand wringing over the impact of technology on the media and advertising business.

In the 1800’s, people worried that the telegraph would corrupt our youth and disrupt polite society – yet we somehow survived. A few decades ago, these concerns were re-run as the world came to terms with a then new technology called television. Today, some again lament the supposed decline of culture, journalism and civilized discourse in the digital age, and the very future of the media and advertising businesses even as they work to find sustainable responses to “digital disruption”.

As we embark on our annual pilgrimage to Cannes, the truth is that our industry will do more than survive, it will thrive as technology creates new opportunities to deliver better experiences for customers – and improves the health of our businesses.  So if I may, we would all do well to take the sage advice of the songwriter Bobby McFerrin, with a twist: “Don’t Worry, Be Relevant.

It’s not the technology that anyone should be worried about.  The real challenge is relevance. With more impressions on more screens and in more places than ever before, it’s a tremendously exciting time for marketing. However, being an impressive impression demands a new set of skills, data and technology.  For the consumer, marketing is becoming less intrusive and more helpful.  The promise of a relevant message tailored inside a media environment consumers are largely curating for themselves is the new reality. New skills and imagination are required for us to capture attention in the moment when consumers express their intention.  This is a much more purposeful moment and requires a more thoughtful engagement.

Not everyone will find a significant role in the media world where relevance is king.  As the advertising and media businesses shift to a new paradigm organized around data and technology, some players will have to exit stage left, as they are simply unable to evolve their businesses to meet the challenge. Others will emerge and thrive as they embrace the more fluid and effective ways to understand and connect with their consumer.  We should expect some bad actors along the way, who will try to exploit this period of accelerated innovation to use technology, data and automation to arbitrage on the ignorance of others.  They’re a distraction and a problem, and will have to be weeded out.  In these cases, technology is not the problem it’s the people behind the machines. However, for the rest of the industry there is so much more to be celebrated as we engage consumers in more relevant ways.

Technology and data are enabling content producers to be more relevant to their readers and viewers, and the publishers to package and sell advertising inventory in a way that is more relevant to the buyers. The virtual chain of relevancy continues as data and technology also allows advertisers to cut through the proverbial noise and clutter to make each impression matter more.  So even in a world where there is an almost infinite supply of non-differentiated advertising impressions, technology and data are enabling relevancy to become the new model for differentiation and value.

For us at PubMatic, we’re excited to be the technology provider offering the marketing automation software for publishers to manage their inventory, and for buyers to discover and plan their media campaign strategies. Our industry is at a very critical stage. Our sustainable response to the digital disruption will come from our ability to create relevance in the moment. The concept of “real-time advertising” might have to be amended to the idea of “right-time advertising”, “right-time messaging,” “right-time creative” and “right-time consumer experience.” This sustainable model will ultimately flow from our embrace of data and technology  and the skilled ability to use them to create right-time relevance for the consumer’s media and advertising experience. So, again in the words of Bobby McFerrin: Don’t Worry, Be Relevant!

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