Real-Time Marketing is Upon Us–Here’s How Advertising Needs To Adapt

There’s an unprecedented amount of technology and consumer data available to create opportunities for marketers. Yet the advertising process isn’t keeping up. Tribal DDB’s Paul Gunning explains why and how brands and agencies can adapt.

Real-Time Marketing is Upon Us–Here’s How Advertising Needs To Adapt

As consumers’ comfort levels with smartphones and mobile shopping continue to increase, marketers are seeing the customer profile coming into focus, offering clear insight into the individuals brands are trying to reach. Given that there is now an understanding of audiences in near real time, why are marketers struggling to act on this valuable trove of data? What are the barriers to obtaining and leveraging this information from both the client side and the agency side?


The obstacles to innovation are, in many ways, systemic ones. You see most brands–especially larger ones–choose to allocate their full media budget to various channels at the start of a campaign, or even a fiscal year. This process has the unfortunate effect of leaving little room to develop creative programmatic responses when and where the consumer demands it. So while there might be some great technical innovation available, if the budget has already been exhausted, there’s very little flexibility.

The marketing ecosystem must allow for the dynamic generation of advertising in multiple formats, yet enterprises are paralyzed by a system where every link in the chain provides an opportunity for the process to break down (from on-demand creative, to media buying, to supply chains and legal departments). If the system is not designed to nimbly push through creative, it’s a nearly impossible feat.

Not to paint an entirely bleak picture… some brands are getting it right. One company that is doing a great job of bucking this trend is Amazon. Aided in many ways by its control of the supply chain from the center up, Amazon has been able to translate years of shopping history into mobile advertising gold through its Kindle Fire, which comes pre-loaded with customers’ Amazon IDs and ads targeted to their interests. Additionally, Amazon is starting to track mobile behavior and will now serve ads based on GPS information and proximity to various retail locations.

While brand marketers have complained for years about the lack of technology that would revolutionize advertising, the issue has now come to a head as the tech has arrived and advertising innovations have lagged. So, what can brands do to re-organize themselves in a way that emboldens, rather than hampers, the on-demand creative process? Here are the essential ingredients:

1. Speedy, Clear Approval Processes

The need for quick action is absolutely necessary when marketing is happening in near real time. The best way to accomplish this is by putting into place clear approval routes that allow great ideas to come to fruition.

2. Stop Trying to Trick Legal!

For some illogical reason, legal always seems to be the final sign-off on any creative project, and yet they have the most power to kill a campaign. Instead of trying to sneak the more boundary-pushing work by legal, the creative team should involve them from the beginning to determine collaboratively what is realistic.


3. Flexible Budgeting

A traditional approach to designing a campaign is not appropriate for on-the-fly adjustments and will stymie attempts to make necessary tweaks based on real-time information. Brands and agencies should build buffers into the budget that allow pivots based on consumer feedback.

There’s a vast universe of consumer data available, and only through trial and error will the industry be able to break down the barriers and learn to leverage it effectively. New innovation is only possible by reinventing the process of how a brand purchases advertising, develops creative, produces and distributes the creative, and then measures and optimizes it. The industry is moving in this direction, but only a top-down, inside-out restructure of the creative process will allow for true real-time marketing.

Paul Gunning is CEO of Tribal DDB Worldwide.

[Images: Flickr users Duane Schoon, Ben Dodson, and Peter Reid]