Episode 1:  Step Right Up

“Step right up and try your luck,” is a phrase employed by carnival barkers everywhere. It’s the ultimate call to action, suggesting your skill and luck can bring you stuffed animal victory. These games of “chance and skill” remind me of the data providers in our digital industry, in a couple of ways…

1. The reality is that winners (advertisers) are few and inconsequential to the booth operators (data vendors) profit. The real game is in getting players to the table. A winner (client) walking around with a monstrous stuffed animal is good advertising that someone must win (sometimes), but the real goal is getting one of those “born every minute” players to try their luck on a game of data whack-a-mole.

2. The stuffed animal prize that wants you to believe it’s the awesome version of an authentic, must have, Ty Beanie Boo, is really a poorly stitched knockoff doomed to the dustbin in a few weeks. However, unlike the masses of data in a DMP with little curation, governance or audit, it’s not bait and switch at the real carnival, because as the player you could see the item on the wall, and probably read the packaging.

3. In my experience, those joining the game are doing so for one of three reasons. It’s usually not the call to action from the carnival barker, but instead either a) the desire to impress clamoring children (clients) who LOVE the plushie b) to look good in front of the significant other (boss) or c) the universal “why not, I’m here, and it’s just a few bucks” (new shiny thing) model of decision making.

Winning isn’t as important as “trying”, except maybe in use case “a”, where losing frequently gets expensive if you’ve foolishly promised success.

        Sidebar Parenting Note: Do not promise success.

So where am I going with all of this? I believe that:

1. Traditional DMPs are the carnival. They are taking their percentage from each and every game, and as long as they can pack ‘em in, they will get their cut.

2. Data vendors are the booth operators, imploring you to step right up and try your luck. It’s a game of segment whack-a-mole with 150,000 possible places to cover. Sometimes you win, mostly you lose, but maybe over time you have some skill with a particular game that your success trends above average.

3. Data quality should be the product offered by the DMP and data vendor. Unfortunately, in the current data supply chain – the data sounds good based on the label, but buyer beware.

Ultimately, what works in marketing is what has always worked. Identifying the right audience, understanding the audience, delivering the right message, and repeating at scale. Inside of riding the Gravitron until you get sick, maybe it’s time to leave the carnival behind and find partners that don’t just spin you in place.

If the carnival of technology and data above is correct, and, as Sir Martin Sorrell said recently on AdExchanger, “What we’ve failed to do as an industry is demonstrate the importance of marketing and branding” and replaced it with data tactic whack-a-mole, we need to rethink our approach.

Better solutions will require us to evaluate data providers in new ways. To understand how they build, source, and market their data. To work with the DMPs/DSPs on quality to plan audience and data driven campaigns. And to educate our clients that marketing shouldn’t be a series of “Step right up and try your luck” distractions, but a focus on how we create engaging brand stories by understanding consumers at a deep and personal level.

That is a game I want to play.

Jonathan Ricard is SVP Business Development at Resonate