"The answer is not just technology. The answer is people using technology."- Joanna O’Connell
Joanna O’Connell, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, speaks with Allyson and Devon about O’Connell’s path to becoming an analyst, how she finds her focus in a rapidly evolving world and the importance of asking higher order questions in order to carve a new path forwards.
Together, they reflect on consumer choice and control, address the danger of creative stagnation, while homing in on how identity should be driven by use case. Listen out for when they examine the background and thinking around O’Connell’s new report: The Future Of Advertising Is Imminent Upheaval And You're Not Ready For It.
Allyson Dietz: Welcome to No Hype, the podcast about truth, science and the future of Marketing, brought to you by hosts Allyson Dietz...
Devon DeBlasio: ...and Devon DeBlasio.
AD: Today's guest is Joanna O'Connell. For those of you in the industry, Joanna should ba familiar voice and a voice of reason, spending most of her time picking apart the marketing and advertising ecosystem with a fine tooth comb to give us a state of the state and our predictions for the future. Prior to Forrester, Joanna was the CMO at MediaMath and Director of Research at AdExchanger, and even spend some time on the agency side at Publicist. Joanna isn't afraid to tell it as she sees it, and often does so on stage, in writing and on podcasts, just like this one. Joanna, welcome to the show.
Joanna O'Connell: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
DD: Thanks for being here. Really appreciate the time. So, Joanna, everyone listening most likely has met you, or at least heard you speak, or read something you've written. But for those living under a rock, can you first just tell us a little about your journey to becoming one of our industry's top visionaries?
JO: Oww, visionary. Okay. How do I go from age 23 to visionary? I know I fell into it. I'll be honest. I mean, I started my first job at a digital agency called Eyeballs, which became Avenue A, in part, because I had a friend who was running operations, who said, "You'd make a good digital media planner", and I was like, "Oow, okay. I don't know what that is, but..." I know I just, whatever, being 23. But it turns out that being around really super smart people, being immersed in a really fast moving industry, and stuff with Excel, those were things I really liked. So, I think because I started at Avenue A specifically, I stayed, because just the math and the science of what was possible in digital advertising, I think actually really appealed to me. So, that's how I started.
AD: I mean, that sounds like a great path and a great start. I think it's interesting as someone who at any given time is on the stage somewhere in the world, spouting the gospel of MalTech, and how has the pandemic impacted the way you enforced or deliver your research?
JO: Yeah, It's been an interesting time. I mean, I am a person who's fairly free spirited and unconventional in how I kind of want to spend my day and how I want to live my life. And so, I kind of already was living a life, the analyst's life which, to be honest, totally fell into really by happy accident. I had after the early Avenue A days, co-Founded the agency trading desk at Razorfish. And just by virtue of being early in the Programmatic scene, I think, and also being female, to be honest. I think people just started to notice me, and Forrester reached out. And one of the things I liked about it was, to be again, to be totally honest is, the way it was sort of pitch was "flexible hours", "fun travel", "work from home". It sounded like a spam email.
And I like living my life that way. I like being able to follow ideas. I like to be able to give my brain a break when it needs a break, and I like to come up with something really magical in unexpected moments. And so, back to your question, as in the pandemic, I was already kind of living my life at home, ad hoc, on my own terms kind of way. So, for me, it was not necessarily such a giant change. Although I did find that I really did and do miss seeing people, like physically being in the same place as people. But for Forester, it was pretty huge because that was so different for a lot of people. And what was really interesting, I think is, at the beginning, because we're us, we just threw ourselves into trying understand to what was happening.
Like what did the pandemic mean? How were consumers changing their attitudes and behaviors, and what did that mean for businesses? And it was unbelievable how fast, we just, bam, just so quickly we're producing all this amazing research. And I think what we found is that, people actually really wanted it. They needed help, even as budgets were being pulled back, even as people were sort of retrenching to the safe, they really needed guidance. And so, I don't think we saw any slowdown, if anything, I think it was the opposite.
AD: Yeah. I'm not surprised. I think that you guys have done a really great job to pivot and to find new ways to communicate with your audience. I do wanna double click on something that you mentioned. You mentioned being a female in the industry, and how that really has advanced your career in some ways. I'm curious, because also as a female in the industry, there aren't a lot of women who we can point to and say they're taking a leadership position. How do you think about elevating diverse set of voices in the industry?
JO: So, I don't think I really felt the weight of it until I was CMO at MediaMath, and I was in a true leadership position, I was an executive at a global company. MediaMath had, and I'm sure still has, tons of unbelievably talented, smart, cool women in all kinds of positions. Lots of female engineers, for example. And I felt the weight of being a representative, of being a good example, of being a mentor, of having useful and thoughtful perspective in a way that before then had almost been a sort of "I'll make a joke about it to diffuse the tension that I'm the only woman in the room" kind of thing. Because sort of, this is what I did.
In the early days of Programmatic, it'd be like me and a bunch of guys. And I would make a joke about wearing four inch heels so that I could see them in the eye. "This conference was designed by a dude cause the camera's pointing right up my skirt" or sort of unintentional things like that people don't think about. They put you on a high stool and a dress and like they shine the camera right up here.
But at MediaMath, I really felt the weight of it. And I took that responsibility really seriously. I think it changed my perspective a bit, where I genuinely feel like it is our responsibility to lift each other up, and it is our responsibility to give each other a voice. And one of the things I would say to women at MediaMath is, you have a voice, you're just have to use it. I guarantee you have something interesting to say, you just need to open your mouth. Because I'm really good at that by the way. I just open my mouth and say stuff, and I think that my professional history has taught me that that has generally worked in my favor.
AD: Yeah. And it makes you a really strong analyst.
DD: As an analyst though, obviously you said things did not slow down for your organization over the past, let's say 18 months. But in that 18 months, a lot of shit happened. A lot of things were coming at us at the high velocities in terms of Google and Apple and legislation and all these other situations are occurring. How do you stay focused? What do you know, in terms of your client base, what they need to know and how do you make sure you're focusing on the most important thing to dig into and present to your audience?
JO: So, the analyst job entails a couple important things. One, I think is the ability to kind of see around corners. And we're not magical, it's just that we spend a lot of time talking to a lot of people and thinking about a lot of stuff. So, being able to see around the corner of where things were going to be able to try and be ahead of it a little bit and say, "Hey world, these big forces are happening and you might either only be thinking about one little piece or maybe you're just thinking about the one that's right in front of you. We wanna take these things that we see around the corner and get them in front of you".
Another thing I think is taking complexity and distilling it in a way that it becomes understandable. And so, the other thing was to be able to say, you think cookies, are you think mobile ad IDs, and you're really worried about this one element that feels really scary. And we want you to understand that it's actually a bunch of things, and we're not saying that to make it more complicated, we're actually saying that to elevate the way you think about it. Like when you think about third party cookies, don't just think about cookies. Think about this larger set of forces that we call data deprecation and think about your path forward as a higher order question, rather than what do I do about the cookie problem. That is that's our job as analysts.
AD: So, Joanna, you touched on cookies. What would you say are the three biggest disruptions marketers should be focused on right now?
JO: Well, you can't make me pick three, but I'll try. I mean, I'll start by saying, I'm coming at this through the lens of paid media of advertising, and probably more specifically data driven advertising. So, I won't tackle the entire universe of things that marketers should be thinking about. But I can say in the world of advertising, the data deprecation thing is giant and I'm heavily focused on that because it is so disruptive. And by the way, actually, not just to advertising, I mean, things like any kind of cross domain analytics, cross domain customer journey stuff like user experience, there are other impacts that come from these sources of data deprecation to marketing that I'm not sure that we've all sort of fully wrapped our heads around.
That said, I'm looking a lot at the future of television advertising. Because there is so much disruption happening right now, consumers sort of flooding into streaming environments but still linear television commanding an enormous amount of ad dollars every year. That is reality. So, the question is one of, kind of how you think about your mix of television and video. So, it's more of a convergence question than an either or question at least for now. And I worry that the conversations that are happening around, especially environments that are more like digital streaming environments and even addressable set top box stuff.
We talk a ton about consumer data, and we talk about targeting, and we talk about personalization, all these things, and I worry that we're not putting enough emphasis on the consumer in all of this, which is, I think a big sin that was committed, if inadvertently, if not maliciously, by digital. And I think we could find ourselves sort of suffering some of the same consequences if we're not super thoughtful and careful. And I think advertisers too right now have to contend with the reality of a lot of fiefdoms in the television world, which adds even more complexity and challenge. There are a lot of challenges.
So, those are two big ones. The other thing I just have to say, cause everybody talks about it, is how everybody's favorite word now it's commerce, commerce, commerce, commerce. And I see it in everything, from my creative ad tech coverage, when I'm talking to creative ad tech vendors, to innovations being made in TV advertising, like Amazon having shoppable ads. It's just everywhere, this notion of how you kind of close the gap between brand and consumer and create commerce.
AD: Mhmm and that naturally happens in the digital environment, but it's interesting to see how it emerges in TV.
JO: Yeah. I mean, maybe on that note too, how do we think about not letting the creative palette stagnate? Like let's not just take 32nd ads and slap them on streaming TV, let's not just add more ad pods with more ads with terrible frequency. Can we at least try and innovate the experience of consumers?
DD: That's a very good point. And so, just on the flip side of that, I mean, obviously the title of our show is No Hype. And so, we always kind of like to dig in a little bit to figure out where the thud is. And so , what would you say, sticking with the three theme, what are the three most over-hyped distractions that marketers should just be not be focusing on at all right now?
JO: Boy. I mean, it's almost like there are three things that are getting a lot of attention that they just shouldn't think of as silver bullets, maybe. So, one maybe is the role and value and importance of artificial intelligence, applications of artificial intelligence in advertising. It is a very big deal. It already was a very big deal to be clear. AI had already infiltrated advertising from planning to buying to creative generation and optimization to measurement. People just didn't know what was happening. Whereas deprecation though, you start to see more of a requirement to be more thoughtful and more sophisticated about things like creating audiences and predicting behaviors or predicting action, when you can't just default to cookie targeting. So, I want brands to pay attention to it, but not imagine that it is some salt sort of silver bullet magic solution.
The second one which is related to that is identity. Because identity is enormously important, enormously valuable, I know you guys know that. But I think there's a bit of an overcorrection right now for, the answer is identity full stop. And that's not true either. We have to think about how we engage consumers thoughtfully, effectively, intelligently given how deep our relationship with them is, given what the use case is, given where they are in their purchase journey.
There are lots of questions that I think are really important that will lead brands to make better, more thoughtful decisions about the application of a thing called identity, which by the way, you can't really say it's a thing called identity. The applications more intelligently that will lead to better results for them. So, that's two, maybe three is, I don't wanna talk about Meta. Let's not talk about Meta.
DD: Yeah. Oh man.
AD: Twitter has been a buzz.
DD: Yeah. We can switch gears a little bit. So, I want to take us back kind of far. I want to take us back before all the swirl around the death of the cookie started 18 months ago, all the way back to like 2008, when Programmatic started, when the concept of a rich media ad was just being kind of utilized. And this concept of cookies started to be utilized by the advertising and technology worlds. And so, there was this unspoken kind of agreement between advertisers, publishers, and consumers, that for the price of your browsing behavior or a little piece of your identity, your Ambien email, you could have all the free content you wanted across the internet.
And it's clear now how little, the average consumer, like my mom or anyone's parent or relative, that they didn't know what was actually happening when they agreed to giving that information for watching something on the streaming service. So, in your opinion, where did we go wrong along this journey between back in the day until now? What proverbial line was crossed to set off this privacy powder cake over the past two years?
JO: Well, it's funny that you call it an unspoken agreement. It was pretty darn unspoken, which is to say, nobody really understood that they were agreeing to anything.
DD: It was invisible.
JO: It was an invisible agreement. That's right. Because digital move so quickly, and we advanced so rapidly, and there was so much innovation happening, both in just the nature of the digital world and consumers engaging in all the stuff that became available to them, and in the way that digital advertising evolved. And I don't think we ever really explained to anybody how things worked in the context of the value exchange. So, it's like, I don't know that they needed to understand how a cookie worked per se, but I guarantee they didn't understand that a thing called a cookie was being used to put them into segments and target them.
And that by doing that, theoretically, they got more relevant advertising. We failed on that front in many cases. And also, they got access to content for your subsidized. We failed there too, because we didn't explain it to them. So, maybe in the very early days, it didn't matter so much when digital advertising was sorta new, but now that it's so many billions of dollars, and now that retargeting is part of every single plan, and now that it's on more devices and formats than ever, and now that the targeting has gotten even more sophisticated and it feels more intrusive and creepy and personal, we missed the moment, and now we have to live with the consequences.
AD: You just released a new report called The Future Of Advertising Is Imminent Upheaval And You're Not Ready For It. And the report does a really great job of summarizing how this three-way relationship that you're sort of talking about between advertisers, publishers, and consumers has changed. I personally loved how you detailed the role of advertising for each of these groups, and how fed up consumers are ghosting advertising. I thought was so clever. So, for those who have not read the report, what would you say is the major takeaway from your research?
JO: So, we almost have to back up to a piece that came before that one, that has a really boring title, but I actually think it was something like the The Future Of Omnichannel Advertising Must Be Customer Obsessed, which basically says nothing really. But I love that report, because it was a report where we explored. We really started exploring this idea that advertisers had no idea how consumers actually felt about advertising. And in the context of kind of digital and data-driven, because that's what I was thinking about, and that was so ubiquitous. And so, we actually went out and asked a bunch of consumers. We have this thing called the consumer voices panel, we asked a bunch of consumers, a bunch of questions about, "What's a great example of advertising you've liked", and, "What's advertising you hated".
And that, wasn't actually as useful what we heard there. But when we asked people about like, "There's a thing called retargeting and it is used to deliver more relevant ads to you and stuff. Tell us how you feel about that". It was unbelievable what we got back, because it was so variable. Two people that otherwise would look the same in a normal segmentation schema, age, gender degree of adoption of technology, whatever, would have polar opposite views, where one would be like, one very progressive person would be like, "Under no circumstances ever", "No way", "Nope". And another would be be like, "Ah, I'm fine with it". And then another would be like, "I'm fine with it for cosmetics, travel-
AD: Very specific.
JO: ... and pet products". But I'm not okay with it for insurance. And we were like, whoa, okay. So, that report set up this idea, I think that we further pay off in the future of advertising is imminent upheaval, which is, you don't understand how people feel about these things at all, and now it's a little too late. The moment has passed. And so, now that the moment has passed and all of these big forces are happening, it is your job, not just to contend with the changes that are coming, but to take this as an opportunity to rethink the sort of nature of your data-driven advertising strategy, the nature of your engagement with prospects and customers. So, it was a kind of a higher order, don't just worry about cookies again, back to kind of where we started.
AD: So, I have a question, and I'm curious about your perspective on this. How is it different than TV? Because consumers have always had this contract with the "I watch TV and therefore I'm served ads from linear TV". So, I'm curious, like your perspective on this contract, this retargeting idea. How is it different from what they've been exposed to in terms of TV, where they've been served ads historically?
JO: So, the majority of U.S online adults, this is from Forrester technographic state, I will agree with the statement that they'd rather see ads and pay for content, but the majority of U.S online adults will also say they are not comfortable with things like being followed across devices to be served more relevant ads. So, basically, we took an implicit contract that maybe they did understand and something like TV, and we changed the rules, and we made it something that they generally didn't feel like they had agreed to, or were necessarily comfortable with or understood.
So, that's the difference. It's not just ads. The problem is not just ads. In fact, 40% of U.S online adults will agree that ads are a good way to learn about new products. They don't inherently dislike ads per se, but the idea that their data's being taken, their data's being used, they're being followed around, they're being intruded upon. You're getting on their devices, you're getting in their homes. That's where the difference lies.
DD: That's right. Consumers are also bringing those things into their homes. And I guess without that unspoken kind of rule being more spoken, how are they going to know any better? My Alexa is now always muted and an unplugged, because I just don't trust anyone anymore. I know too much. I think we all know too much at this point.
JO: I have none of those things in my home.
DD: To dig in even further with this whole symbiotic tripod of the consumer, the publisher, and the advertiser, I mean the power recently has really seemed to shift to both favor of the consumer, who now expects privacy all the time everywhere. At least they say they want, and the publishers who have direct access to the consumers and their data who want access to this content or news information or whatever. So, what are your predictions to where this is all headed? Are we looking at a totally anonymous ecosystem, where only contextual signals will be used, or will consumers still give away their data in exchange for content? I guess you kind of dug into that a little bit, but extrapolate this out. Will GDPR comes into America and become super, super strict? Where do you think it's gonna go?
JO: Well, I think I maybe I'll first contest your first statement that consumers want privacy everywhere all the time. No, because I explicitly... That's why we did that research a few years ago, was to actually understand if that was true or not true. And the answer is, it depends because people are different. I mean, for real.
AD: And cosmetics and pets versus other things.
JO: That's right. So for real, we have to take that into account. And it's very hard not to over swing, because that's what human beings do. We over swing, and we over-correct. And I feel like we're in a moment where these agents operating on behalf of consumers, government agents, or regulatory bodies, or browsers, or device manufacturers, are trying to correct in a way that could be good, but also could go too far. And to me it's about not a privacy total or privacy absent world, it's about consumer choice and control.
And so Devon, to your question about publishers, that is gonna be what all of us should be obsessing about. All of us should be obsessing about how we create experiences for consumers that make them want to participate in a way that is beneficial for them and beneficial for us, whether we're a brand or a publisher. And that is not a set it and forget it thing, that is an ongoing thing that you have to kind of continuously nurture and grow. So yeah, go ahead.
DD: I would say, all boats will rise, right? I think that's what the whole concept is. If you are truly transparent, truly kind of understanding and compassionate about the data that you're receiving from your consumer base, then you're hopefully gonna get more data from those consumers if you're not an asshole about it, to a certain degree.
JO: And that's really F-ing hard. I mean, because I don't... You know what I mean? I'm not here to be like, “and everybody should just yay, party, wooo.” No. This is really hard. So, if you asked me how it's gonna play out, it's very hard for me to say. I guess what I would just say is, I tend to see that we, as human beings and certainly as the ad industry, as a subset of all humanity, tend to over swing and we tend to over-correct. And so, I can see right now you've got some overcorrection, but then you see industry trying to figure out work arounds, which is the opposite kind of overcorrection, which will lead to more overcorrection, and someday things will settle down, but it's not going to be anytime soon.
DD: I have a reframe though of the initial question. Do you just feel that privacy has become a competitive advantage? Or at least like AI or machine learning or anyone else has said that back in the day? It seems like obviously apple is using this to our advantage. Others have taken that step forward. Is it now just a talking point, because consumers maybe don't really care as much as we thought they did, and now it's just a way for us to differentiate ourselves as different tech providers or different ways that consumers can enter into a portal that is super safe.
JO: Yeah. Privacy is the new black. I mean, it's hollow though. I mean, unless there's something really meaningful behind it, it's just a word. I said this already, but I'm gonna say it again. To me, privacy is not binary as though consumers want and should have 100% perfect privacy. What does that even mean? Versus no privacy at all. What does that even mean? Either? Don't make people make that choice. Let people make choices as individuals about how they wanna engage with the world around them. Human beings have agency, let them use it.
Now, that said, the easier you make something, the more seamless you make it, the more attractive, more frictionless you make it, the likelier people are gonna be to adopt something or make a choice that you want them to make. And we are not doing that right now, individually or as an industry. So, I'm interested to see how that plays out.
AD: Yeah, I think you're right about essentially there's an opportunity for us to make it easier for the consumer, but what do you think the consumers can do to take more of a front seat role in ensuring the ad ecosystem is really headed in the right direction?
JO: I mean, I'm not gonna say that every consumer is an activist for his or her data rights, that would sound ridiculous, and it's just, frankly, not true. So, I'm not sure if we're really honest with ourselves as much as we are in an era of much more consumer power, and much more consumer control and choice, just in general, it still really falls to us to be the ones to create the things for people that give them what they want without making them give up something that they don't want, or let them give it up in a way that they feel okay about. So, let's not overly expect consumers to be proactive here.
That said like, I mean, if you go to the, is it the NAI, oh my gosh, Ad choices. Let's say if you go to the ad choices website, it's like opt out of a thing called distillery. Like, what is it that? You know what I mean? Opt out of a thing called Moncast. What? That means nothing to people. I've always sort of had this maybe naive, idealistic dream of like having a preference center for myself. I don't know how many consumers would actively use such a thing, unless again, you made it really easy and simple for them. Like, stop serving me ads for refrigerators because I bought one.
But I love things for horses in perpetuity, ads for horse stuff in perpetuity. I don't know. I don't know if that's the kind of thing that a subset of people would use. Probably, not everybody, probably, but we have to, then as an industry, maybe change our default settings to something that's less intrusive and more respectful, and then have people be more interested in coming more to us rather than like shoving things down their throats.
AD: I think that makes a lot of sense. And I when you said that, I thought immediately of my mom, who just really can't advocate for herself, she can barely download an app on her iPhone.
JO: Same here.
AD: So, I feel like you're right, there is some responsibility of the industry. We talked a little bit about one of the solutions previously, and one of the things that people often look to as a silver bullet, which is identity. And I know you have another piece of research coming out that focuses specifically on identity and advertising. We talk a lot about identity on this podcast in general at Neustar. So, I would love to get your take on this hype topic. How does Forrester define identity?
JO: Oh man, how we define it? I'm gonna cleverly not answer that question and start in a different place, which is, this research is actually co-authored between myself, who you guys know what I think about, and Joe Stanhope who thinks about enterprise marketing technology and the future of enterprise marketing technology. And identity in the context I think of kind of known owned relationships, existing relationships. And so, it kind of takes the two of us to be able to figure out the story of identity and advertising.
So, all of that said, there is not a thing called identity as some kind of perfect singular thing. I just don't think that that's true. It's more like identity is driven by use case. So, if you have an existing customer and you want to have a deeper understanding of that existing customer, how do you take that profile and enrich it? That's very different than, I am in an open RTB environment looking for members of an audience of green moms.
So, how we think about something like identity, I think in the practical world, needs to have this use case lens put on top of it. I also think then that it should dictate how you think about the partners you work with, how you think about the necessity of interoperability, how you think about questions of scale. All of those things matter in the context of what you're trying to do. And that's why I'm kind of cleverly not answering you, because I don't actually think that just saying what is identity is gonna help the average brand get further along. It's more like, well, why do you care? What are you trying to do? What kind of relationship do you have with consumers? What are your goals? That kind of stuff.
DD: And those are the questions we asked our clients as well. They come to us for identity, but like, wow, that means a lot of things.
DD: And with that being said, so in your role, I'm sure you see, and I know you see every solution under the sun come across your plate, especially during the research you're doing now for this future study. And so, in your opinion of all the solutions you've seen, either that promise all of this ubiquity of identity or providing addressability without cookies or device IDs, which of these have the highest likelihood of succeeding? Or what combo of these solutions has the highest likelihood of succeeding in the future?
JO: The answer is 42. No, I mean, does anyone get the hitchhikers reference? I'm such a nerd. That's the thing. The answer is yes. I mean, the answer is, there's gonna be a few things that survive, and they're gonna survive for different reasons, and they're gonna survive to serve different needs. So, anything that puts consumer consent more heavily in the fore, I just generally feel more comfortable with, than things that are box checking around consumer consent. Like, oh, we're in compliance. It's like, okay, compliance today may look different than compliance tomorrow. So, is it something that is adhering to the spirit of consumer privacy? Which is shorthand for control, and choice, and respect, and all that kind of stuff.
I think a move toward consent as more of a technical mechanism than a handshake mechanism, because when you have handshake mechanisms, people abuse them. So, I'm looking at stuff like that. I think that that's important. Things that are not overly reliant on the kinds of signals that are here today, gone tomorrow, are things that people need to be looking at. There is not going to be a solution or a winner. I think there's gonna be probably a handful. I'm sure Joe would say the same thing, Joe Stanhope, a handful of solutions that are have some various flavors that are, again, helping folks do different things, and folks will need to contend with kind of how they manage those things or how they make those things work together. Because I don't think it's a given yet that everybody wants to be interoperable with everybody else, to be Frank.
DD: It's true.
JO: Yeah. How's that for a web of confusion?
DD: I mean, that's kind of where we are right now in terms of web of confusion, because we're still so early in terms of the timeline. Like nothing actually has to work right now. We have cookies. I mean, maybe it's an issue. Apple's definitely clamping down, and we saw the reports of Snapchat and others. There's a lot of issues that are definitely being caused in mobile, but I feel like mobile has always been this [00:39:00] thing that's always the year of mobile that never came. And so, I think everyone just kind of continues to forget that mobile is so important, and then it doesn't really innovate in the space, at least for advertising, for my personal opinion.
JO: It is so important. I mean, yes, that's nothing. We did a blog post on it, and we basically were like end data deprecation. Because again, we keep trying to bring it back to that for people that you need to affect behavioral change inside of your organization when it comes to the use of consumer data and the strategies that you use and all this kind of stuff, to really survive this in the long term. And that ultimately, those are hard moves, but good moves because it means it engages things like your customer experience team, your analytics team, you know what I mean? It's bigger than like, oh, darn I can't use mobile ad IDs anymore in my ad network buys on mobile.
DD: Is this all a technology change? Is this all an investment in actually in technology? Is there a human element that needs to be considered when talking about governing over data and managing privacy? What's the ratio there? I mean, there may not be a golden ratio, but is it just technology or is there a huge human investment that needs to be made and decisions that need to be made at the brain level versus the tech level?
JO: So, the pop fly question that you gave me is, is it technology or is it people? And the answer is it's people. The more complicated question is, what's the golden ratio, because that's the harder part. Technology should just be an enabler of good strategy. But the reality is, if you are a super sophisticated brand and you know exactly what you wanna do, it's not like the technology is there for you, perfect, 100% all of the time.
DD: Good point.
JO: So, in short, I would rather people start with the people part, which is the, who are we as a brand? What do we wanna stand for? How do we wanna engage with consumers? Don't just build a first party data strategy. What is that? That means engaging with consumers. So, why, and what value are you gonna give them? And what do you want from them? And is that gonna be an ongoing relationship? All that kind of stuff. Do you have silos? All that stuff that we've been talking about for a million billion years, and then the technology theoretically supports that. Not that the technology is perfect, it's not.
AD: So, who would you say is most likely to benefit from the focus on privacy and the death of the cookie and the changes in the ecosystem? And do you feel like we'll see more walled gardens, or Devon likes to call them identity islands? So, who's most poised to benefit from all of this?
JO: I'm just gonna get a suntan on my identity island. I was gonna say Apple, because we all have to watch Apple. But yes. One of the things we said in future of advertising was, and the first version came out over a year and a half ago. So, it sounded more revolutionary than it probably does now, but there will be more Wally behavior. Because if you have direct consumer relationships, if you have data, if you have content and ways to serve them ads, you're in a much more privileged position in this world than if you are just, say, an independent ad platform who doesn't have those kinds of assets.
So, it does shift the dynamic power toward media companies and publishers. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just gonna create new sources of kind of tension between buyers and sellers that both are gonna have to contend with. That does not mean though that magically publishers and media companies are ready for this, or know how to deal with this. They're going to have to trial and error their way through it too. So, I want that though, because I don't want the winners just to be the giants. That's not a good thing for a healthy and open thriving internet.
AD: Yeah. I mean, I always think about that green mom you mentioned earlier that is trying to create a blog, that is just driving interest, how is she gonna drive revenue from that versus the Metas of the world.
JO: I worry. I worry for small publishers. I don't know enough about things like the opportunity around micropayments and so on and so forth, but it would be very cool to see cottage industries arise that support small publishers who could be existentially threatened by some of these things, where when signals disappears, CPMs go down. I don't want that to be true.
Now, contextual is a thing, and it's gotten so much more sophisticated than it used to be. And that is a thing that publishers can participate in, for sure, as a group, if they're not big enough to do it on their own. But I also would like to see kind of new methods spring up to help small publishers survive. But we could then go down the rabbit hole of independent journalism, all that stuff, but I'll spare you.
DD: So, Joanna in closing, wanna wrap up, any final words of wisdom from you. Is there anything final that you think we didn't cover that you think we should be looking out for, or anything you want to talk about in terms of future research that you're gonna be putting out before the end of the year?
JO: The identity stuff is super interesting and important. So, we're working on that. I'm working on finalizing a piece on the future of DSPs and an data deprecation, because that dream that I had of perfect, holistic, centralized, managed is way threatened by all the things that are happening. And so, that's causing a lot of change. And then going into next year, I really wanna do something on how we, this is going to sound nerdy, but planning. We've lived in this world of time buying, but how has planning evolved to become more intelligent and more sophisticated? What does modern planning need to look like?
DD: We might have to go back to it, right? We might have to go back to it because if you have to go start buying more directly to people to get around the issues of the supply chain, then you're gonna have to think about how to actually plan across multiple platforms that are just putting all your money into one DSP.
JO: Spoiler alert. That's basically what I say.
AD: As an analytics nerd here I'm pretty psyched about that because I think that gives you more opportunity to take those data-driven approaches.
JO: A hundred percent. A hundred percent. And back to, we were talking about things like AI and the sort of ubiquitous presence of various applications of AI, but like more sophisticated forecasting and scenario planning and all this kind of stuff that could really help push us forward. But again, the answer is not just technology. The answer is people using technology.
DD: Thank you Joanna for the time; really appreciate you hopping on the podcast and giving us your thoughts here.
JO: It was my great pleasure. I hope you folks find it interesting.