Transformation before acceleration - designing for the future

Michael Wretham-Brown
By Michael Wretham-Brown | 27 July 2023
Michael Wretham-Brown.

Michael Wretham-Brown, Head of Transformation at Match & Wood

As an industry, we’re right in the middle of a huge transformation. 

Alike many of my elder millennial peers, I’ve seen the rise of social, the rise and adaption of ad exchanges to programmatic media, the digitisation of outdoor, the year of mobile (x5), google glass, snap glasses and the list goes on.

Reflecting on how we dealt with change as an industry, there always seems to be a bit of a dual response – the constant strive for a media first, or that one cool piece of tech to make that latest media response really sing; through to just rolling with the punches as vast changes roll through such as privacy and pixels.

The change we’re about to face is different to the others. Generative AI has the potential to truly change how so many different facets of our daily lives operate and new applications continue to be considered month on month.

The one thing we do know as we face this upcoming change – data is key. The way we sort, consolidate, store and present data is going to be essential in both getting the best out of AI platforms, and maintaining a level of human intervention in what it’s doing.

As we embark on AI acceleration, there are four key areas I can foresee taking the front seat for media professionals.

Architecture – building structured databases

As mentioned above, structured data is really where we’re all going to have to start to feed things in and out of AI-based platforms. 

Consider a set of data built around an ecommerce advertiser, often the best in class with database management. They’ll have daily media results, sales results and customer intelligence all feeding into a central repository – providing the organisation with key information to power decisions.

As AI accelerates, this advertiser will need to scale the database to handle a greater level of channels to ensure decision-making is as clear as possible – or, risk having an AI pushing all spending to lower funnel activity without an understanding of upper funnel drivers.

Architecture is going to become incredibly important to give AI the tools and visibility to make decisions. Digital leads who have been doing this for years will become best placed to architect holistic databases covering all activity, ready for the likes of GPT, Copilot or whoever your new AI friend will be, to interact with and advise.

Measurement – we’ll go back to fundamentals

As any digital specialist can attest, measurement has always been an area of focus and attention. With automated activation comes a need for always-on-attribution, whilst privacy legislation and technology changes will continue to change the way in which we handle things.

Crystal balling measurement is quite difficult in the current state of play, with solutions evolving over time via major technology partners (ie. Unified ID 2.0 and Google Privacy Sandbox). What we do know is that user-based, PII-focused measurement needs to be paired with an always-on macro view of campaign success. 

The sum of parts needs to be considered along with the various solutions in place, to allow for continued understanding of success whilst platforms evolve, through regression, modelling and so forth. 

Activation – it’s going to be hyper-automated

With a strong architecture, and AI assisting us to make decisions, the next major consideration is going to be how we link our databases to our activation directly.

If we pair rich data sets and generative AI, with the pipes to make things happen in platform, acting outside of the walled gardens, we’re going to see a huge evolution in the way we activate day-to-day.

Campaign decisions triggered by data tolerances, audiences targeted based on AI findings when combing the data and budgets spent as efficiently as possible – all delivered with hyper-relevant and intelligent creative, it’s incredibly exciting.

Much like lead nurture programmes which many digital specialists are aware of, this style of activation means a lot of upfront work across channels. Once complete though, triggers and tolerances power decisions.

Now, even though this all sounds amazing, the trick here is this – everyone will be doing it.

Brands – never will advertising be more exciting

This is where things get even more interesting. With an industry delivering activation engines that power decision-making, we can then focus on changing our core focus.

Whilst the baseline will be a rich AI-powered ecosystem - to truly cut through, we’ll need a re-energised focus on inspiring acts, memorable brands and rich experiences.

At the end of the day, as we’ve seen pre/post COVID, the fundamentals of consumer behaviour are still retained and people are still humans craving excitement and inspiration. 

I don’t know about you, but less time, effort (and cost) placed in the administrative functions leading to a greater level of brand leadership across the industry is something we can all aspire to.

As we enter this next era of advertising, and we see a wave of digital leads and planners evolve into truly omnichannel practitioners, I’m filled with excitement, as we look to evolve the full activation mix within the complex digital platforms we’ve worked to understand for years. 

It’s impossible to not be energised by the opportunities to build things from the ground up, by the way our architecture is going to evolve and through the sheer volume of times we’re all going to be saying “wow – that’s epic”.

I feel very lucky to be working with a team of truly omnichannel practitioners, in the next wave of agencies big and small, designed to take on this challenge – bring it on.

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