From fringe panels to main events, it seemed most Cannes Lions attendees saw one of two pillars critical to the continued innovation and growth of advertising: creativity or completely understanding your audience. In comparing each event’s content and focus, the camps were divided along with advertising functions: programmatic/ad tech and non-programmatic. Though we forget it sometimes, at Cannes, it became clear that to most, programmatic is still on the fringe, despite its ability to deliver high-impact creative experiences, find and reach audiences, and gather stores of data based on what happens when programmatic impressions serve. Index Exchange is a bit unique, in that we believe creativity and finding audiences, and using audience data must go hand in hand.
To add to the conversation around the mutual importance of creativity and understanding your audiences, we participated in a panel this week in Cannes hosted by Triad Retail Media. Index’s CEO, Andrew Casale, was joined by Neil Murphy, Senior Director of Marketing at Walmart.com, Brian Gleason, Global CEO of Xaxis, Bridget Davies, VP of eBay Advertising, and Ben Jankowski, Group Head of Global Media, with MasterCard. The retailer perspective is a unique one, as retailers have “earned the right to have really personal connections with their shoppers,” a virtue that greatly impacts how they gather data and how they use data to communicate and understand their audiences.
A major theme that emerged during the panel was that programmatic buyers have the technology to find audiences and target them, but “contextual relevance” is not yet there, for many, due to the fragmentation of inventory, and thus, audiences. When audiences and impressions live across myriad platforms and marketers have fragmented entry points to each of those platforms’ markets, it’s not easy for the users you want consistently.
Some retailers have less trouble providing contextual relevance thanks to years of really rich shopper data. Murphy, of Walmart.com, is one of these retailers. During the panel, he discussed WMX, which is a robust data platform full of customer purchase data. Walmart uses past purchase data to provide the customer targeted, relevant ads on Walmart properties and across the web. According to Murphy, “there is no better predictor of future purchase than past purchase.”
Brian Gleason of Xaxis spoke to the issue fragmentation presents to the addressability of audiences, citing partnerships as critical to increasing the ability of markets to reach their users. Xaxis, historically never worked with DBM, but fielded demands from clients for YouTube inventory. Luckily, a partnership was struck, and now Xaxis clients can find audiences on YouTube. According to Gleason, “we want to be able to go wherever the user goes.” Luckily partnerships like these and others are making this possible.
Take Index Exchange’s recently announced partnership with Google for instance. It allows marketers buying through Google Display Network to purchase inventory from other exchanges, not just AdX. Partnerships like this and our integration with AppNexus are all about this: providing holistic access to audiences for buyers.
A mechanism that has greatly expanded marketers’ ability to find and buy audiences is, of course, the header tag, an innovation that came up multiple times during the panel. According to Casale, buyers are sick and tired of dealing with “intermediaries, extra fees, black boxes, opacity, technical challenges, and different liquidity pools having different access to demand.” Publishers understand the buyer frustration with this and the desire to serve buyers more effectively is a huge driver of this header tag “freight train” barreling full steam ahead. As buyers have holistic access through the header, they can understand truly where to find their audiences, how to price them, and how to get the right ads in front of them.
Header tag hasn’t come up on the main-stage this week, from what I’ve seen and heard, which is to be expected due to the focus of these higher-level events. Discussion of it is rampant in the fringe programmatic community, which makes me happy. As programmatic focus at Cannes increases and header tag continues to attract more and more brand dollars, we will hear more about it next year, especially because it brings together these two disparate ideas, creativity and audiences, and lets the two of them share importance.