‘Un-Platform’ Your Tech Stack

There are too many changes occurring concurrently and in the near future to not re-consider your platform investments. 

The race for audience technology platforms was fierce for the past few years. Advertising and marketing ad stacks extensively sought out Data Management Platforms (DMPs) and Consumer Data Platforms (CDPs) among other investments made. Almost every brand or major publisher needed to demonstrate the value of their audience. From contextual targeting, the industry shifted to audience based targeting that required the scaled usage of these platforms. Sizable investments were made in data warehouses and modeling audience segments. Distinct strategies & channels for known vs. unknown users allowed these platforms to play their roles and keep the course. 

But, like all things, the tide has changed. We are in a time of incredible flux. Covid-19 has forced many changes upon our behaviors and interactions with brands. What is made apparent is that brands need to be quick on their feet and flexible in how they connect with their audience. Unfortunately, that is only a part of the upcoming changes to the digital marketing ecosystem. To exacerbate on the current situation are the looming challenges of cookies, clean rooms, clouds and cohorts:

  • Cookies: Succumbing to their demise, these convenient identifiers phase out of their existence on Chrome in early 2022 taking away the normal mode of operations for audience targeting, measurement, optimization and attribution while Safari and Firefox have already made these updates. Visibility is gradually reducing and change is inevitable. Given the massive implications, you cannot afford to wait it out until the last minute before you adapt to these changes. With each day, you are losing ground.
  • Clean Rooms: As cookies phase out, sharing data becomes more crucial. There isn’t an easy, privacy safe way to share data, may it be between advertisers and publishers, or between two publishers or with retailers/channel partners. Fragmentation is everywhere and the only way to get your hands on high fidelity data is to strike up data share agreements. Because 3P data was readily available, many companies have yet to develop this muscle. Most platform technologies cannot deliver on the infrastructure requirements of setting up and operating clean rooms. 
  • Clouds: The new measurement normal shall be the brand’s need to operate across the cloud environments of the walled garden platforms and their own 1P investment infrastructure. Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to access ad server log data, Facebook Advanced Analytics for use cases utilizing Facebook’s cohort level data, Amazon Marketing Cloud (AWS) for media performance against sales on Amazon. The struggle is real! And the outcome is an IT-led, query-based effort that isn’t business-friendly.
  • Cohorts: Privacy requirements and tight walled garden controls means that you analyze and extract cohort level data. 1:1 marketing gives way to cohort level marketing where you need to create micro-cohorts of your audiences and push into the often ‘one-way highways’ of walled garden investment, which is the majority of media investment these days.

Only through consistent efforts and accessing the various cloud environments & clean rooms can you arrive at a cross-channel outlook of your marketing performance as you sift through these disparate sources of information. You need a system to reach into all these places as seamlessly and as nimbly as possible. Your DMP and CPD use cases can access smaller and smaller fractions of the digital advertising/marketing ecosystem. These technologies do not have the capabilities to bend and flex to these new market changes. It is time to ‘un-platform’ your approach to data management and measurement. 

Future-Proof Tech Stack Capabilities

To adapt to the changes in the ecosystem and the uncertain times, what you need to invest in is a flexible system that is a collection of capabilities rather than a packaged solution which you license in its entirety. In keeping with the trends, let this solution have the following capabilities:

Distributed Data Management
Data shall increasingly be housed in a distributed system belonging to the brand, marketing channels, sales partners and additional participants. Each system will have its privacy controls and contractual obligations. Data management needs to transcend these data islands and yet maintain required boundaries. To do so, you need clean room environments and user identity resolution. You no longer need to think of your known and unknown users being tackled in different platforms, each platform being central to the workflow because that route has limitations. Find a solution that deals with distributed data in a privacy-centric way.

Traveling, Business-First Technology
For distributed data, you need a solution that travels. A solution that has long-reaching arms and legs to go to the various systems housing distributed data and to run analysis. The trend dictates that various cloud technologies & clean rooms will give rise to an effort with over-reliance on IT to unify and query datasets just to access and make sense of the data. However, the end users of this insight are marketing, monetization, business analysts and the executive teams supporting these departments. So your solution needs to be end-user friendly and hence business-friendly. It cannot sustain itself if there is an over-reliance on IT. Pure infrastructure solutions will tackle the partial problem so find a solution that delivers the infrastructure and the applications.

Light On Its Feet & Light On Deployment
The appetite for long implementation timelines and extensive deployments has waned. The industry suffers from platform fatigue as the requirements quickly outgrow the platform. An ideal solution will deliver value in a phased manner and toggle on/off its capabilities. That also speaks to that solutions’ ability to be flexible, grow and adapt to the changes. You shouldn’t have to pay for things you don’t need and that are not relevant to your business.

Contemplate these things when you evaluate your current and future technology investments:

  1. Consider what you need for the future, how data will be accessed, and what platform use cases become irrelevant with upcoming changes.
  2. Find solutions that are architected in a way to be flexible and innovative.
  3. Hedge your bets on innovative solutions meant to tackle these challenges without the rigidity of platform lock-ins, long deployments and reducing scope.