At a startup, advertising can come as an afterthought – after all, you might not even have a product to offer yet. But once you’re ready to go out to your target audience, all you have to do is start working with Google Ads or a similar product, and you’re off to the races, right? Not likely.
As it stands, Adtech is undergoing vast changes seemingly faster than you can read this sentence – Google will be phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of next year, and its new Privacy Sandbox will make Personally Identifiable Information (PII) obsolete for behavioral and cross-site tracking. Apple, for its part, has established a well-earned reputation for protecting privacy and it’s paid off for the company, with experts expecting to see more from Apple in the future.
Even with changes to the major advertising platforms, other problems arise with the amount of spend in play. In Canada, we’re seeing advertising move towards a focus on the home market, where revenue from digital ads hit over $20 billion CAD and spending crossed the $10 billion CAD mark last year, and Canada is expected to be the 11th-biggest market for spending in the world by 2024, meaning breaking through the noise needs more amping than ever.
How can startups, with limited budgets and lofty KPIs, face these two major headwinds and still get the optimized outcomes they’re looking for as they build their brands and their audience?
First, rethink what you’re actually trying to achieve with your advertising budget. Optimizing towards clicks or visits is a thing of the past. We have seen a shift to optimize towards deduplicated conversions that are measurable in external ad servers like attention metrics or maximize return on ad spend (ROAS). A click won’t do much for your startup building a brand if it doesn’t come with attendant mindshare and attention.
Second, understand what your target audiences are really looking for at this point in time. The pandemic created a rapid and dramatic change in consumer behavior – and the World Bank is among the latest saying that economies including Canada’s are looking at possible recessions this year. As prices for essentials like food and gas rise and economies contract, consumer priorities are going to significantly shift. Ads for non-essentials will need to be better-targeted than ever before to provide significant ROAS.
Of course, this heads right back into the question of privacy, at least at first glance. You may be asking: “How do I know what my audience wants if I don’t have PII? How do I make decisions about where to put my ad dollars?”
The answer lies in AI – AI platforms require no direct consumer interaction, meaning there’s no cross-site tracking (cookies) or profiling. Instead, we use freely available metadata from bid requests, containing no user-level information, to create our advanced optimisation models. This is highly beneficial when deciding for the privacy-first era – by not having to rely on user-based signals for optimizations, we can help our customers make the most of the ad stacks they have already invested in.
That brings us to the third point: optimise what you have instead of starting from scratch. As budgets get tighter, there’s less room to throw out hours of hard work and try again if a campaign isn’t working out as expected. We have noticed that advertisers investing in paid display, video, and mobile media buying are instead prioritizing finding and fixing campaigns that underspend and underperform. While that may sound time-consuming, this is where AI can come in handy by quickly absorbing data and providing recommendations for how best to improve campaigns, amortizing existing investments in programmatic instead of making new ones.
In addition, many ad stacks right now are disparate, with proprietary first-party, CRM, and marketing cloud data all residing on different platforms, with measurement and reporting data, such as attention metrics, then also disconnected from other actionable data. AI can quickly unify these different data sources, making it easier for all of your data to play a role in deciding where to place your marketing dollars.
Finally, future-proof your campaigns. As I noted earlier, privacy-focused changes are coming to the open web. By the end of next year, we’ll be in a cookie-less future. By shifting now to rely less on the methods of the past and more on what targeting information is available now, you’ll have more applicable knowledge to use in the future. A sophisticated, effective, scalable AI can help here as well by aggregating those learnings for you in an efficient manner.
It’s clear that screens and digital devices aren’t going away. Advertisers have to take the best of what we have and move forward the right way in respecting privacy – which is even more important for a startup looking to build its brand and awareness alike. Whether it’s leveraging our platform or using another AI tool, understanding the new advertising landscape and acting on it will place you ahead of the curve and allow your startup to compete with the big guys.
By Tanya Illiakis, Commercial Director Canada, Scibids
Tanya Iliakis is Scibids’ Commercial Director, Canada. Scibids uses AI to improve ad decisioning without user tracking and profiling. Tanya focuses on expanding current partnerships and creating new opportunities. Her knowledge of the global media market comes from positions at 24/7 Real Media, Verizon Media, and MiQ.