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It’s a no-brainer that marketers want to reach their intended audience in the most efficient way possible. That means using the lowest number of interactions, delivered in a preferred sequence that moves the recipient towards a conversion, and with an appropriate level of personalisation.
This promise of greater efficiency lies at the heart of the concept of people-based marketing, a digitally driven method of finding and serving the right advertising and content to the right individuals.
The key is in using information about real people – generally given up by them voluntarily through some form of signup process – as the basis for targeting.
While these identities are generally anonymised, they allow a high degree of certainty that the recipient meets preferred audience criteria, and can be used to determine if anonymised identities across different devices or platforms, such as desktop and mobile Web and apps, are actually the same individual.
According to head of advertising and technology consultancy Louder Group, Andrew Hughes, people-based marketing can deliver on the needs of greater frequency, reduced wastage, better sequencing and improved relevance.
“You are able to personalise the Web experience and personalise the app experience,” Hughes says.
Proponents of people-based marketing promote it as ‘deterministic’ in nature, rather than being ‘probabilistic’, as is the case with audience segments created through cookie-based behavioural advertising analysis, where the individuals have not identified themselves and their attributes.
Rise of the DMPs
People-based marketing is one of the key benefits of data management platforms (DMPs) being provided by the likes of Krux, Lotame and Adobe Audience Manager, as they enable publishers and advertisers to effectively manage first-party and third-party data. According to Krux chief technology officer, Vivek Vaidya, the benefit of a people-based approach comes through being able to create a common persistent identifier.
“Eliminating media waste is something a lot of marketers care about,” he says. “Advertisers spend a lot of money on advertising. What they want is to make sure all of the money they are spending is being used as efficiently and effectively as it should be, by making sure the right message is being shown to the right person the right number of times now.
“The challenge really is how do you take device identifiers, which everybody seems able to track, and stitch them together into a central identity that maps to a person.”
Working with real identities is one of the keys to Facebook’s success. The social network can determine with near-100 per cent certainty that interactions through the Web and its app are with the same person. It is a capability that has made other publishers envious, and has led to a slew of technology providers creating solutions that bring deterministic attribution to the wider Web, including DMP and cross-channel marketing technology providers.
The advantage of these platforms is they are able to anonymise identities across multiple publishers and platforms. Hughes says this enables advertisers to extend their reach beyond so-called ‘walled gardens’, such as those maintained by Facebook and its partners.
“From an advertiser perceptive, you want to be able to not just personalise the advertising experience, you want to be able to personalise the user experience across all of the properties that you’ve got,” Hughes says.
The concept is not necessarily a new one. Apart from Facebook, Vaidya says Krux has been providing these capabilities to publishers for more than five years.
“They [publishers] recognised at the time that people use different devices to consume that content,” Vaidya says. “And they were looking for infrastructure that could stitch those identities and different device level identifiers together, using a deterministic identifier that they had, which was this registration identifier.”
It is also a capability Adobe is offering through its Audience Manager product. According to the director of marketing for Adobe APAC digital marketing, Paula Parkes, personalisation is key.
“Not only do customers demand it, we’ve also seen strong indicators across APAC that customer experience and creating compelling content for digital experiences are the most exciting opportunities for marketers and agencies,” she says. “Shifting away from device-based marketing to people-based marketing is a way to ensure that individual customer experiences, across all devices, are consistent and personalised.”
Programmatic to people-based
Another company to offer people-based solutions is Signal, which recently signed a deal with FlyBuys for the brand to become an early adopter of Signal’s addressable media solution. Signal’s senior vice-president and managing director for people-based marketing, Michael Twomey, positions the approach as the next step on from programmatic buying.
“Programmatic was all about the automation of media buying using technology,” he says. “What people-based advertising allows us to do is essentially to go to the next step – not only automate the media buying, but with precision, and reach real people with a relevant message across any independent publishers or across any closed platform, such as Facebook.
“It also allows them to get reach by speaking to customers across both open, independent publishers and closer platforms, such as Facebook, and bundling the results. You are targeting those you want to speak to across the right channels, so it is more efficient and you are not spending money on audiences that you don’t want.”
As with all new advertising technologies, squabbling has broken about between players regarding each other’s true capabilities, and which implementations and techniques are most effective. But generally all providers are united in their belief that using persistent identifiers is preferable to traditional probabilistic cookie-based solutions, although in many implementations these two data sources are blended together.
Vaidya does not believe cookie-based systems are going to disappear any time soon.
“We have been hearing this for three years now,” he says. “But it remains a useful abstraction that is in place already. A lot of businesses have been built on top of that core concept and infrastructure.”
All that remains to be seen now are the results for Australian advertisers, Krux country manager for Australia and New Zealand, Jo Gaines, says there is great interest in the technology, and numerous consultancies are now emerging to provide advice to marketers on how to use it.
But actual adoption seems to be being held back by archaic internal systems and resistance from agency partners, while some advertisers are still coming to grips with creating effective capabilities for tracking viewability and campaign success.
“For a lot of clients, this is a year or two years away from even being in their circle of reference,” Gaines says. “We are still talking to them about being able to track campaigns and know if a human saw it.
“Everyone wants to know what is down the track. They want to know that we are thinking about it. But in terms of readiness, many of them are still a couple of years away from readiness.”
To date, Gaines says the strongest interest has come from publishers, including News Corp Australia, and REA Group. The latter’s head of media operations and strategy, Jonas Jaanimagi, says people-based marketing offers a means to move beyond existing audience solutions.
"We’re looking closely at the evolution of cookie-based buying of audience segments to pixel-based executions,” he says. “This technology is exciting because it has the potential to automate true one-to-one marketing."
Ultimately, Vaidya says it is about data governance, with people-based marketing giving marketers greater surety in who they are reaching.
“There is a need for a general purpose infrastructure that allows different entities to share different types of data amongst each other,” Vaidya says. “But you need a layer, and we call that software-enabled data governance, that allows different entities that are on our platforms as clients or not, to share data amongst each other.”