Advertisers need to rethink their approach to technology if they don’t want to be controlled by it. Paul Stringer, consultant at ID Comms, explains why in-house upskilling is needed.
In the iconic sci-fi movie, The Matrix, the film’s hero comes to the grim realisation that the world he inhabits is an elaborate construction, orchestrated by sophisticated AI that has the power to control and shape reality.
It would be ridiculous to draw too many comparisons between the world of martech and that of The Matrix. However, I do think the film has something important to say about the dangers of becoming subservient to technology.
During the pandemic, advertisers have been slashing spend across the board but have largely spared technology from cuts. That’s because the flight to digital and corresponding changes in consumer behaviours has demanded investment in platforms and tools that help marketers evolve and strengthen their relationship with consumers.
But this investment in technology has not been matched by increased spend in upskilling marketing talent or adapting internal processes to ensure that martech is being used to its fullest potential.
As a result, we find ourselves in a situation where many marketers feel overwhelmed by the complexity of their stack and unsure of the value it brings to their business. In fact, just one quarter of advertisers believe they are using technology at their disposal effectively.
The danger is that as technology grows ever more complex, the knowledge gap will widen. Already there are warning signs: most advertisers show only moderate or worse levels of confidence in their understanding of how technology platforms contribute to wider business and media goals, leading to technology being underutilised, or worse, used in a manner that actually harms marketing efforts.
If we continue on this downward spiral, then it is possible to envisage a future where marketers have completely lost control. It’s not quite The Matrix but still a dark vision of decision making being outsourced to machines and ruthless efficiency trumping human ingenuity.
Of course, all of this is avoidable if spending on martech is matched by investment in people and processes. This type of spend can run counterintuitive to the desire for instant results. Yet without it, marketing technology will continue to underdeliver and, in the long run, do more damage than good to the industry.
Avoiding that danger means taking action in five key areas:
- First, if you already have a clear strategy for martech and clarity on the capabilities that you want to invest in or grow, then you need to conduct a thorough audit of your current capabilities; to identify key strengths and weaknesses and assess your readiness for working with any new piece of technology.
- Second, you want to determine what can be managed ‘in-house’ and where you will need to lean on the expertise of external partners. This can be built into a future-facing roadmap that describes how you will continue or cease to rely on external partners for support across each element of your tech stack in the future.
- Third, with support from external partners you need to develop a bespoke programme of media training designed to address capability gaps and get your talent to a level that they feel comfortable working with a given piece of technology. Establish a minimum baseline of understanding for your entire marketing organisation before identifying the additional needs for each function.
- Fourth, back up that training by refreshing your existing ways of working to drive seamless and smooth integration of the new technology with your current marketing processes. Set up regular check-ins to ensure that all stakeholders are comfortable with the process of adoption.
- Fifth, continue to track and monitor progress. Ensure that you are measuring the ‘success’ (or otherwise) of new technology against clear KPIs that you revisit on at least a bi-annual basis.
In The Matrix, our hero only gains the confidence to fight back against the machines when he understands them. Likewise, advertisers need to inspire confidence in their marketing teams by equipping them with the right skills and capabilities to hack the matrix of martech and wrestle back control.
In doing so, brands will be better equipped for the transition to an agile, automated and data-driven environment.