Maximizing Marketing in the Cloud

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How do you choose between legacy Adtech tools and their shiny new cloud counterparts?

Marketers: Step right up to the cloud

With many vendors, analysts, publications, and other industry thought leaders extolling the convergence of Adtech and cloud, would any brand dare admit they are barely in the cloud? Every marketing team wants to say they are fully harnessing the astonishing storage, security and processing power of distributed computing. However, the sobering reality is that many of the “new” marketing tools are marginally different when run in the cloud, while others are absolutely changing the game. 

More recently, cloud storage providers are rushing to provide competitive marketing services, and it is increasingly difficult to discern where to spend scarce marketing technology budgets and allocate precious staff.

What kinds of marketing tasks benefit most from the cloud?

To understand where cloud adoption is the fastest, let’s look at four use cases that all revolve around handling customer data to improve data fidelity, sales growth and marketing efficiency.

Data Cleansing and Enrichment: Cloud Impact – Moderate

Traditional ApproachNew Cloud Approach
Marketers use a variety of tools to clean their first-party data, including removing duplicates, splitting false merges, and adding either missing PII or demographic attributes.  Data companies typically process this data on your behalf by securely receiving files via SFTP and returning a revised file.Marketers are investigating and adopting “transferless” connections to data providers where permission is granted to read the data where it resides in the cloud.  This can be a preferred route for data governance and compliance, for sensitive customer data that should not be copied or moved.

Data Onboarding and Activation: Cloud Impact – High

Traditional ApproachNew Cloud Approach
Marketers historically engaged the two largest data onboarders – LiveRamp and Neustar – to broadly target consumer digital devices like laptops and smartphones. Marketers can also directly target existing consumers on websites that collect customer emails (Facebook and Google are flush with these). With privacy laws gaining traction, marketers are increasingly shifting to Walled Garden data onboarding, rather than broad cookie-based campaigns to the outer Internet or “open web.”  Today, some brands are divesting data onboarders in favor of customer data platforms (CDPs).  The former was designed to push ads to nearly everyone with an Internet browser, while the latter is purpose-built around logged-in user data.  It’s well understood the scale is diminished when only targeting known customers, but both brands and advertisers agree it is more respectful of privacy.  With the advent of CDPs that are “composable,” – meaning they can be configured to work as a connected application to your data warehouse – your ad operations workflow becomes more efficient and privacy compliant.

Identity Resolution: Cloud Impact – High for Walled Gardens, Lower for Open Web

Traditional ApproachNew Cloud Approach
Now that an advertising campaign is in flight, how do you make sense of all the digital interactions?  Marketers use what’s called “fractional identifiers” collected during the campaign such as a cookie, IP address, location data, physical address, phone or email.  Any one of these identifiers can be resolved to a real world consumer using an identity graph which contains a large repository of IDs. Once resolved, a marketer can take real-time action or measure response more accurately, by stitching digital interactions to a successful sale.  For decades, the most common use case was turning tracking cookies into a kind of user-level view across every website that could be tracked.With open web tracking cookies going away, Adtech practitioners are moving towards Walled Gardens where consumers log-in and knowlingy consent to advertising while browsing Facebook, Google or Amazon properties.  The identity resolution use case in this way mirrors what is happening in activation.  Where customers knowingly log-in, that is where the investment is ramping up  Outside the walled gardens, “open web” cookies still exist, but are losing steam.  Rather than a vast ocean of tracking cookies that consumers may forget they agreed to, the future is in “tide pools” of consented consumer data analysis around a single website, made available via the cloud.  Facebook, Google and Amazon have all announced cloud-based data clean rooms in partnership with Habu, to share data with marketers to resolve activity back to customer identifiers in a privacy compliant manner.

Data Collaboration and Data Clean Rooms: Cloud Impact – Very High

Traditional ApproachNew Cloud Approach
To overlap two sets of first party data (Let’s say a pizza delivery company and a CPG beverage company) you must engage a vendor who works with both clients and has:

1) the same set of exact identifiers from both participants, or
2) the same hosting environment to overlap data between two parties.

The process requires months of legal approvals, business requirements gathering, and is limited in scope. Most commonly, these collaborative opportunities were “one and done” and only when research funding was made available by a trade group or as part of an “innovation lab”. Only the largest brands in the world had the agency and technology relationships to conduct a complex data collaboration project.
Data collaboration is now much more accessible and has benefitted from three massive changes.

First, privacy regulations are making collaboration worth the effort, wherein two parties sharing consented first-party data is more compliant than third-party data collected from cookies.

Second, independent data clean room software can read data at the source, negating the need to move sensitive data.

And finally, data collaboration can securely process data that exists across multiple clouds, since no two companies have the same technology stack 

Verdict: If your marketing team is hands-on with cloud technology, it’s worth asking informed questions about where they are placing their bets, and if they include newer techniques in activation and collaboration.

It’s not enough to simply say “we are in the cloud.” Or more recently, “we use a cloud app for that.” It’s critical that you make an honest assessment of your cloud maturity by answering the following questions:

  1. What is your cloud data warehouse infrastructure? The most common providers are Snowflake, Databricks, Google, Amazon (AWS), and Microsoft (Azure).
  2. If your preferred cloud provider offers a native solution, are you just receiving an invoice for the same work from a cloud vendor now, or are you really doing something new and differentiated from before? 
  1. Does your primary use case require working with partners that may have different cloud environments? Ask if they are “interoperable,” meaning data processing can happen across multiple clouds even if they are competitors – otherwise you are locked-in to a single cloud provider.

Example: Cleansing first party data isn’t new.  A vendor can clean data records and return a shiny new file via SFTP.  However, using cloud interoperable software to read data at two secure regions at source, and resolving to a common identifier to collaborate on opted-in records – that’s the bleeding edge of marketing right now.  Knowing the difference means understanding why it makes sense to rush toward the cloud or stay put.

Closing thoughts: Is your focus on data fidelity, sales growth, or marketing efficiency? What are you trying to get done this year?

No single marketing tool or even a suite of tools will act as a co-pilot to solve every KPI. So, what is part of your C-level strategic goals this year, and where are you doubling down? With the frenzy of digital transformation that followed COVID, many brands are left with a glut of technology and a less clear picture of what they actually want to do. 

By starting with use cases, you can better understand which areas provide the most return on investment. Hopefully, this post can help you understand how to rationalize resources for the cloud, or sit tight with what already works.

Want to talk through the use cases you have in mind? Contact us to setup time to talk to one of our experts.

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Andrew Artemenko is an award-winning digital strategy leader with 20 years of experience spanning client-side marketing and enterprise solution selling. Andrew brings a unique hybrid perspective from buying media and building customer experiences to consulting the world’s largest brands on SaaS technology investments. Prior to Habu, Andrew has worked at LendingTree, Bank of America and Neustar, a TransUnion company.
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