For the MarCom industry, the global domination of Meta and Alphabet has thrown up a slew of challenges, some being existential. In 2021, Google took up 65 per cent of market share in the US and 80 per cent in the UK and Germany, dominating the search advertising market globally. Similarly, Facebook continues to dominate social media advertising in nearly every major economy around the world, except China and North Korea where it’s blocked.
Many of us believe the role of the creativies in crafting persuasive content to target audiences has been marginalised in this hyper data-driven landscape where ads can be precisely targeted to users based on their behaviour, consumption and lifestyle, through data served by Google and Facebook.
I beg to differ.
In my personal opinion, the role of creatives and innovation has never been more important, a mandate possibly unique to MarCom. Our task — to persuade, to build credibility and to reassure, is even more critical in a scenario where consumer trust in these big tech platforms is rapidly eroding. To reject brand building for algorithm-based solutions is, as ironical as it sounds, ignoring the data that is actually staring us in the face.
Marketeers have been rightfully concerned about putting their brands on a platform whose algorithms seem to favour problematic content. Credibility and authenticity, which are table stakes for marketeers in the post-pandemic business landscape, become a casualty in the algorithm-driven environment.
Today, brands need to connect with consumers more than ever through authentic, credible and persuasive campaigns that build desire, spark brand love and instill brand loyalty. Sure, these need to be built on data but creativity doesn’t play second fiddle to algorithms.
Technologies such as AI and ML can be the bridge between creative and media, empowering people to be more effective, creative and innovative while reimagining processes and structures. AI can help build innovations into creativity. This is the future of programmatic advertising.
Globally, we are witnessing a backlash against digital advertising based on data gathered through intrusive means. The rising voices of consumers concerned about the impact of digital on their safety, well-being and communities cannot be ignored. Some of the UK’s biggest advertisers have called for Google and Facebook to establish an independent body to regulate content on their platforms. In India, Facebook is grappling with complaints about intentionally supporting consumer and voter deception after the revelations contained in the ‘Facebook Papers’.
The recent global blackout of Facebook was yet another reminder of the vulnerabilities for brands that chased performance rather than building efficiency. In the current duopoly, data governance and privacy regulations can dramatically alter marketing strategies, even making a data-driven approach obsolete. With Google Chrome set to block third party cookies from 2022 and privacy regulations getting more stringent, marketeers need to look at other brand-building alternatives that do not rely on hyper-targeted content and pop-ups.
Despite these developments, digital advertising will continue to grow. From a
GCC perspective, broadband subscriptions and connection speeds are continuously rising, in tandem with mobile penetration (touching nearly 100 per cent in the region) and growing urban populations being other contributory factors.
The changing role of creatives would be to understand the potential of data and technology in programmatic media, and leverage it for more powerful results. Campaigns that are designed for YouTube would require different creative approaches then those for LinkedIn or TikTok. Collaboration is the need of the hour, and the silos of traditional marketing services firms are definitely obsolete for this dynamic environment.
I envisage creatives and strategists working even closer with data analysts and media planners — as is already happening at BPG Group, using rich data and insights to craft compelling and relevant stories for our audiences. As an integrated agency,
we stand at the intersection of creativity, technology and business, working together in harmony for the benefit of our clients, their brands and offerings.
Avi Bhojani is the CEO of the BPG Group