Technology or Content——aGame that Troubles Ad Industry
Bathing under the golden ray in France’s seaside,every ad man in Cannes a month ago was thinking about the same question: How dowe define the relationship between technology and content?
This is the“Riddle of Sphinx”in today’s advertising &marketing industry.
Everybody knows the answer that advertising willeventually reach the balance between technology and content. But everyone has differentidea and plan to achieve the balance. There is no right or wrong for we are all on our way to explore the right path.
Technology is reshaping the advertising industry,but we did not expect the huge influence five years ago. The rapid developmentof Internet and Mobile is collapsing the operation logic which has been runningin advertising & marketing industry for decades. Big agencies and media wouldno longer hold the monopoly over the market. Instead, some innovative media arerushing toward us. They are more or less carrying the gene of technology.
Some ad men with sharp insights have already seen thehuge opportunity hidden between technology and content, and taken actions proactively.They created new ad forms and reaped huge profits out of them, driving thewhole industry moving forward.
In the debate among the advertising & marketing industry,we see the anxiety and confusion in people’s eyes, and the optimism deepinside their hearts. Anyway, this problem will be solved sooner orlater, and advertising will embrace a next golden age with the help oftechnology.
Technology or Content?
The brightyellow sky wheel in front of Palais des Festiva presented by Snapchat hasbecome the most eye-catching visual element in this year’s Cannes LionsInternational Festival of Creativity. People enjoyed taking selfies here andupdating them on Facebook, Twitter and Wechat’s Moments.
Palaisdes Festiva was the main venue of the Festival, where the popular andthought-provoking speeches were held. Therefore, Snapchat’s sky wheel is theplace not to miss for almost every ad man. The six-story installation was veryattractive, even Terry Savage, chairman of the Cannes Lions Festival, was fullof praise about it.
Savage went to China and cited the example of Snapchatin his speech addressed to China’s ad professionals before the Festival. Hementioned that Snapchat dressed the whole city with its typical bright yellowin last year’s Festival and hogged thespotlight.
“It looks like a carnival of Internet industry,”says Savage.
Savage’swords revealed a truth:advertising would no longer be exclusive to ad men, and technological powerrepresented by the Internet would exert greater influence on advertisingindustry. Snapchatis one of the cases.
An article about Snapchatwritten by Morketing mentioned that the creative ad forms of Snapchat win thehearts of advertisers and customers. We have toknow that it is not easy to be favored by both sides of an industry chain in atime when advertising & marketing is facing with doubts.
Snap rolled out ad filters or lenses, an interactivead form. When users choose ad filters or lenses in Snapchat, related logos willappear on the mobile screen. It is quite a hit. Snapchatters actually paidtheir attention when they were using the branded filters or lenses, which isquite valuable to advertisers in an era of media fragmentation. After all,getting attention is the starting point for achieving communication effects.
“This is anew option to activate brands, and also one of our most attractive ad products,”anintroduction to the ad product on Snapchat’s official website says.
Snapchat is just one of the cases, but reflects a phenomenonthat theInternet is becoming the core strength driving the development of ad industry.
Tencent’s Wechat seems to be the China’s version ofSnapchat. It has updated its WeChat Moments ad which highly recognized byadvertisers for several times. The latest version in mid-May adopts the card ad form, which haslarger display area and the landing page after click could deliver more information.It is proved that the new ad form has greatly improve users’ interaction interms of the amount of click, like and review.
Generally speaking, creative and content are what ad menemphasized before, but now it is far from enough to only focus on the above twothings. No one can ignore the power of technology for it represents data,precision and trackability, or put it in another way, it seems to be the futureof advertising.
Content’sAlternative or Assistant?
This year’s Cannes was the best channel to review therelationship between technology and content. The ambivalenceof ad men was obvious.
Forums and speeches about technology were still themost popular activities in Cannes. Almost half of the guest speakers in “ChinaDay”are from the Internet industry or with technological background; techexecutives from Google, Twitter, Oracle and IBM presented a vision with greatimagination for advertising. In their eyes, technology can help enterprisesfind the people they want to target or the so-called“target consumers”,and get back“half of the wasted adexpenses”which proposed by John Wanamaker a hundred years ago.
It seems like the“Utopia”in the advertising world.
Undoubtedly, today’s advertising & marketingindustry is probaly undergoing a greatest change ever. Last similar change can be traced back to 1980s, during whichadvertising agencies initiated a movement of conglomeration to adapt to thesocial and economic trends of globalization. In response, the idea of IntegratedMarketing Communication(IMC) emerged in Northwestern University of USA andguided the advertising practice in the following years.
But this change is obviously bigger than that in 1980s,it literally rebuilt the industry logic of advertising. From anotherperspective, we would say that advertising industry never lacks “Utopian ideal”,but it is technology make people see the possibility of coming ture,
At the same time, quite a few people overestimate the roleof technology because of the beautiful ideal, and thusformed a craze of technology worship in advertising industry. The same thing evenhappened in Cannes. Technological words like VR, AI, Big Data and Cloud Computingcould be heard in almost every speech, giving people a feel that the “Utopianideal”has already come ture.
However, a person’s energy is limited. When we paidour attention to technology, creative and content seem not that important asbefore. In this year’s festival, the newly-pointed CEO of Publicis Groupeannounced that Publicis would take a break from Cannes next year andcancel all paid promotion activities including ad festivals and ad awards. Themoney saved would be invested into technological research and development withan eye to building a concerted platform for all the branches of Publicis globally.
It is hard to say whether it is right orwrongas marketers put most oftheir focuses on technology rather than promotion. You can say this reflectsthe ad agencies are keeping pace with the technology times, you can alsoconsider this as a representation of confusion under anxiety.
Some people start to rethink that if we overvauledthe technology.
When“technology” becomes buzzword, more and more people also start to realize theimportance of “storytelling”. Annette Simmons wrote in her book TheStoryFactor: “Facts do not give birth to faith. Faith needs a story to sustainit - a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that yourideas, do indeed, offer what you promise.”
The right audience could be found by technology, but theywould not be touched without story even with the most precise ads and marketingactivities. So you would see that some Internet giants started to cooperatewith advertising agencies, for example, Alibaba established strategiccooperative relations with Publicis; Tecent and Dentsu Aegis opened comprehensivecooperation.
In this way, advertising agencies provide creative andcontent, and Internet companies power technological support. These changesreveal an obvious trend: content shall not be neglected, and technology is justa tool for delivery but not the goal.
Walking on the Wire
After cooling down, people would find that content andtechnology are two indispensable sides of advertising. There is an indistinctand subtle relationship between content and technology, but grasping therelation is vital to the future development of advertising industry.
Actually, there were some ad men and technology men startingto do it and did well.
Isreal may be a war-torn nation in many people’s mind,but it is also consided as the cradle of innovation. Around 2007, an ad-tech agencynamed Taboola established there and developed itself into a high-profileunicorn very soon.
The agencycalls what they are doing as “content discovery”, a brand new interactive modebetween audience and content based on technology.
Takinga look at the evolution of advertising, we could see the earliest advertising wasdominated by pop-ups. But the forced mode of communication harmed user’sexperience. Subsequently, display ad e.g. banner appeared, but it still followsthe advertising logic in traditional media times.
However,the new mode – “content discovery” rebuilt the interaction between users andcontent. You can regard it as the “Toutiao (which means today’s headlines, afamous news aggregator in China)” in advertising & marketing industry. Thekey difference lies in that Toutiao is a media platform, but the two companiesonly provide technological services.
Technologicalplatform delivers information with higher relevancy to users through thecombination of users’ browsing behavior and rigorous algorithm. On the onehand, it could restrain consumers‘ potential “reverse psychology”;on the other hand, it could ensure ads to be delivered and shown in the rightplaces.
This mode is hard to imagine in traditional mediatimes for the early communication is often achieved by massive contentproduction and transmission. Personalization is very hard to achieve. ButTaboola thinks that personalization is no longer an impossible dream. It is a changeablepresent continuoustense and the source of the changes in contentinteractive is technology.
TaboolaCEO Eldad Maniv told Morketing: “the best ways to generate ad revenue arenative sponsored ads and creative activities targeting specific audience ratherthan massive ad display.”
Maniv wonder ifit wouldexert better effect to recommend another relevant article with brandexposure when users are reading about health and running. The answer ispositive. Relevancy guarantees users to read it, interesting content drawsusers’ attention, and ad information stimulates consumers to finish the laststep of decision-making or brand memory.
Technology enbales a very smooth process ofstorytelling.
Whentechnology and content are combined together, enterprises will be the first oneto get benefit. According to the data from Taboola, it serves 360 billioncontent recommendations each year to over 1 billion unique visitors, and itsrevenue in 2016 reached 550 million dollars.
To some extent, Taboola would not be regarded as abright star company. But the bottom technology supplier’s ingenious combinationof technology and content yielded considerable profits.
“Find astory and tell it out.”Maniv’s clear understanding on advertising might be the mainreason why his agency develops so rapidly.
At the very beginning, people talked about creative.Then, they talked about technology. Now, theystart to talk about the fusion of technology and content. When a new thingemerge, people tend to shift from the one side to another, then graduallyadjust to the most comfortable position in debate and practice.
And now, advertising & marketing industry isfollowing the same track.