For our latest installment of Insider’s View, we’re mixing things up with a Q&A with a member of the media. This time, we had the pleasure of chatting with Lindsay Rowntree, head of content for ExchangeWire, who is a perfect fit for our expert interview series.
ExchangeWire provides global data and insight on Marketing Technology, Advertising Technology and Programmatic Advertising. Delving deep into the business of martech, ad tech and programmatic advertising, ExchangeWire offers actionable market intelligence on emerging models and technology – as well as industry data and specific regional focus.
Lindsay has an extensive background in digital media and programmatic display advertising. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your background and expertise in the ad tech and martech industries?
Before ExchangeWire I spent 6 years at Starcom Mediavest Group (SMG), a global media agency, which is part of Publicis Groupe. I was part of the biddable media team, where I started at entry level and at the end of my time there I was Director Of UK Search.
So my background is paid search, but having always been fascinated with digital media in general, I dabbled in paid social and programmatic display advertising. While at SMG I was responsible for leading a large team of search specialists to ensure that we were constantly innovating to exceed our clients’ challenging targets.
I’ve always been quite technical, so my role was quite technology focused, where I was heavily involved in seeking out new technologies to trial and onboard for our clients, so I became increasingly interested in ad tech and martech! How media, both traditional and digital, fit together has always been of great interest to me and I became very interested in attribution, analytics and cross-channel integration.
2. What is the mission of ExchangeWire and how does your position as Head of Content fit into that mission?
The mission of ExchangeWire is to provide actionable market intelligence on emerging models and technology. ExchangeWire sits in an excellent position within the market, with an overarching view of trends and models and their impact on the industry.
With my background rooted in industry, my position as Head of Content is to continue to expand the reach of market intelligence and emerging models and ensure that we are consistently delivering insightful and engaging content for our audience; maintaining our loyal readership by understanding them, how they interact with ExchangeWire and how we can continue to keep them wanting more.
Beyond that, growth is also very important: how we can continue to grow our existing readership; be that through exploring new markets; new topics; or inviting a wider cross-section of the industry to be part of the conversation.
3. What do you see as the single most disruptive force coming to the world of ad tech and martech?
Mobile. It can and does mean so many things and you have to remember just how many forms it embodies when you’re talking about it as a disruptor. The mobile industry is lambasted, as there’s an issue with engagement and the lack of mobile-specific formats – much of mobile’s early days have been taking what’s worked well on desktop and making it smaller for mobile.
That’s still very much an issue, but mobile is so much more, especially when you consider its power when combined with other marketing channels. I remember back in 2012, when brands like IG were testing out Aurasma’s augmented reality, using your mobile to bring a newspaper ad to life. Despite it being a great way to reinvigorate print, it was considered a gimmick and not much came of it after that.
Fast forward a few years and augmented reality is becoming life – and what’s more, it wouldn’t exist without a smartphone. We’re close to living in a world where every newspaper and out-of-home (OOH) ad is brought to life with a smartphone. What’s more, the sheer success of Pokemon Go proves that we’ll soon be looking through our phones to walk down the street and brands will be able to capitalise on that. Mobile is exciting, so much so that it’s almost scary and it’s still so new – we haven’t even experienced the start of it yet.
4. What do you see as the biggest challenges that ad tech and martech face today?
A big challenge, but also an opportunity, is the convergence of marketing and advertising. Martechs are looking to become ad techs and vice versa, which sees a convergence of technologies more than ever before. This is also hugely being driven by marketers themselves.
Marketers are realising that they need to be custodians of their own data and truly maximise the value they can get from it – this is transcending their business infrastructures and causing previously siloed teams, such as marketing and IT, to work more closely together and with newly developed data science teams to drive business value right from the very first ad impression through to the hundredth repeat purchase.
The opportunity for ad tech and martech companies will be to evolve with marketers; help them achieve these goals and drive further innovation. Ad tech and martech businesses have huge value to add to marketers and are in a powerful position to be able to educate them, but they need to actually do that.
Marketers are taking back control and don’t want to be blinded with and misdirected by hockey stick graphs, pretty pictures and jargon. More and more they want to get their teeth into the nitty gritty of how something works and how it will ultimately help their bottom line – ad tech and martech businesses need to transparently help them achieve that.
5. With all of your experience in paid search, what do you see as the upcoming trends for that channel?
Again, I think it’s all about mobile. Shopping, location, apps, voices and images.
Marketers have been slow to react to the fact that mobile is fast becoming the search tool of choice and, much like mobile programmatic advertising, mobile search spend lags far behind actual search volumes. Just a quick look at the Google AdWords Keyword Planner shows that in June 2016, 54% of global searches for the term ‘washing machines’ was via mobile. Marketers have always been reluctant to ready themselves for mobile as they have convinced themselves that their product/service will never be bought on a mobile – it’s an unnecessary investment.
They have to get out of that mindset. 54% of searches might not be from people intending to actually buy a washing machine on their smartphones (although to be honest, I definitely would and have done similar), but if you aren’t visible during those initial research phases, you may as well not bother at all.
Google have definitely been playing their part in getting marketers to understand the value of mobile and it is improving, but there is a long way to go. Deeper than mobile broadly, it’s how users are searching through mobile. Voice recognition is continuously evolving and now it’s completely normal to walk down the street, saying random phrases into your phone.
The mobile web is also becoming very image-led, which has definitely been helped by the likes of Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. I think search engines will be working with marketers more to see how they can better incorporate images into ads to drive higher engagement. I also think that Google’s recent announcement of Instant Apps will change the way search works, when it comes to app advertising.
It’s a fascinating development that will really set Android apart from iOS on the app front, but more than that, it will converge the mobile web and in-app worlds, help to evolve tracking and targeting between cookies and device IDs and will force marketers to have a consistent user experience across their mobile web and app assets.
6. ExchangeWire focuses primarily on EMEA, APAC and LATAM. In your experience, what are a couple of major differences and considerations for digital advertising and media in these regions versus the U.S.?
It’s important to be conscious of how cultural and economic differences affect digital advertising and media. APAC as a region is so far advanced when it comes to technology, that their developments in digital advertising really reflect that – it’s a fascinating region to watch.
For example, Japan are transforming one-to-many channels into next-level one-to-one marketing channels; using number plates and car make/model recognition on the streets of Tokyo to deliver personalised OOH ads. That wouldn’t work in EMEA for many reasons, but one is that we just aren’t as technologically advanced. It’s not that we aren’t capable of it as such, we just don’t embrace it in the same way. We don’t consume media in that way…yet. LATAM is still quite far behind, but it is absolutely a region to watch.
There are big ad tech companies launching offices in LATAM – they’re biding their time, learning what works in more established regions and using that knowledge and insight to break into LATAM, with success. The US is obviously a leading region, but US advertising businesses would be the first to admit that it’s not perfect.
They look to other regions for inspiration and there are many European advertising businesses, for example, that have expanded into the US with great success. Considerations are that every region suffers from the same challenges; to differing degrees and at different stages of development, but we must remember that advertising is fundamentally dictated by the consumer and if the consumers don’t like something, it doesn’t matter where they’re located, they will respond in similar ways.
7. There are thousands of companies in the ad tech and martech industries, and the whole ecosystem gets more complex every year. Do you have any recommendations for marketers on how to navigate this space and choose the right technology/vendors?
It absolutely depends on how advanced the marketers consider themselves to be. Before marketers even start courting vendors, they need to be clear across their entire business what their goals are. Without this vital information, they will not be choosing technology for the right reasons. On top of that, don’t get too swayed by fancy words.
After establishing goals, marketers need to establish exactly what tools they need to achieve those goals. All too often marketers spend thousands upon thousands of pounds on technology platforms and only utilise 10% of their functionalities. It’s a waste and it happens all the time, to the detriment of ad spend.
When businesses need to streamline, it’s so often the advertising budgets that get cut, when in fact, the technologies being used to power that advertising should be audited – slimming down on unnecessary tech to help ad budgets survive.
If marketers don’t have the internal resources to be heavily involved in their advertising strategy and execution, then full stack solutions are a safe choice – everything is in one place and there is less requirement for the marketer to understand how the tech is powering the advertising, but instead just know that it is being powered.
Standalone, best-in-breed solutions tend to be much more powerful for marketers that have an inherent understanding of exactly what they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it. Innovators that are keen to constantly push the boundaries will tend to take much more notice of developments in technology and how they can test it within their businesses.