Martech-adtech convergence is about people not platforms

By Judy Gern and Timothy Flink

Today’s trends in platform convergence are irrelevant if your marketing team is still organized like it’s 1999

The convergence of martech and adtech is a topic that’s been covered by every major industry prognosticator.  In case you’re not a marketing geek, here’s a quick summary:  Martech-adtech convergence is about the increasingly overlapping functionality of the platforms that 1) power  the ads that you see online, and 2) enable multi-channel campaign management and CRM.

The promise of this trend is the holy grail:  a single view of your customers and prospects, enabling relevant, real-time targeting and seamless customer experiences across online and offline channels.  And that’s not all.  Customers using Oracle’s data activation services have realized an average 2x increase in sales conversion, and savings of 20 percent (or more) on media costs (source:  “Data Activation Results” whitepaper, Oracle Marketing Cloud,

But before you go out and invest your hard-earned budget in a converged marketing stack for your organization, let’s do a little reality check.  Some of the core systems – the plumbing that makes convergence possible – have existed for years.  Let’s take a look:

  • Tag management systems:  Tag management has been enabling data handshakes between domains since the beginning of the internet.  Tags allow one platform to gather data from another site or platform, and are the backbone of ad servers, web analytics tools, and also how marketing automation systems recognize website traffic and match cookies to personal information entered on landing pages.
  • Data onboarding systems:  LiveRamp, originally Rapleaf, has been activating offline data for use in online channels since at least 2011.  Facebook Custom Audiences launched in 2012.  If you expand the concept of data onboarding a bit, companies like Janrain started solving the challenge of linking identities across channels as early as 2004.
  • DMPs (Data management platforms):  Direct marketers have been managing databases for decades, but it took digital marketers to realize that they needed a better way to manage not only known but also anonymous customer and prospect profiles.  Now the DMP – with its ability to integrate customer identities whether they’re engaging with you as a known person or just a cookie/device ID – is being lauded as the lynchpin in martech-adtech convergence.  However, attribution vendors like Visual IQ have been integrating online/offline data for use in measuring media effectiveness since 2006.

What’s stopping marketers from taking advantage of these capabilities that are already 5+ years old (an eternity in the adtech space)?  We believe it’s a combination of siloed marketing functions and a focus on specialized over generalized expertise.  As career marketing practitioners, here are some of our first-hand experiences that demonstrate why platform convergence must be married with mindset convergence:

  • Teams organized by funnel:  In these orgs, you’ll find teams built around specialization in Acquisition, Demand Generation, Conversion, Retention, etc.  In theory this can be a very effective way of organizing your team if you take care to ensure that KPIs and goals are aligned.  The problem comes when the funnel dictates the tactics each team can use.  Case in point: CMOs that view paid media as an Acquisition tactic but not something the Retention team can use to target existing customer with upsell and cross-sell offers.  Modern marketers realize that tactics can be used across different phases of the customer journey, but that thinking isn’t commonplace.
  • Teams organized by channel:  Classic marketing org structure, with Advertising, Email Marketing, Social Media teams that are experts in the intricacies of each channel.  Teams that have depth in their channel can help ensure flawless execution, but who thinks about customers as they interact with your brand?  Is your advertising team endlessly retargeting people who just purchased a product by clicking from an email?  Probably.  This structure requires a strategic and hands-on senior leader to herd all those marketing cats in the same direction to identify inefficiencies and put the customer in the center of each team’s thinking.
  • Marketing ops-centric organizations:  A strong marketing operations team can transform a company by delivering insights that drive your marketing strategy and planning cycles, and can also manage your marketing stack to minimize redundancy and help your campaigns teams realize value from platform investments.  Sounds great, right?  It is, except that in many organizations, marketing ops = marketing automation or CRM.  Where are the ad ops folks that manage tags, traffic campaigns and configure your DSP?  Oops – they’re not in your marketing ops team.

So before you bemoan the state of industry fragmentation so evident on the LUMAscapes, turn your attention toward your organization and hire for marketing’s converged future:

  • Hire generalists who possess skills across multiple functions, such as a database marketer who has also managed media campaigns, or someone who’s been both agency and client-side.
  • Seek analytically-minded people who can harness insights to make smarter decisions.  Analytical approaches are not only the purview of data analysts; a designer or writer can use data to produce better work, as illustrated in this Adobe case study
  • Don’t underestimate the need for highly-skilled operations specialists who can connect the dots between different tech-powered capabilities.  These “unicorns” can guard your organization against duplicate functionality and failure points in the massive daisy-chain of platforms that deliver your customers’ experience.
  • McKinsey suggests going a step further and “consider bringing together a small team of talented people who can work together at speed. They should possess skills across multiple functions (both internal and external), be released from their “BAU” (business as usual) day jobs to work together full time.”  This may be a pipe dream for most marketing leaders, so consider bringing together contractors to supplement your full-time staff.
Judy Gern

Judy Gern

Judy is best known in the industry as the founder and CEO of Adroit, a pioneering Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) platform that was acquired by MediaMath in 2010.

Judy has been named a “Biggest Marketing Hire” by iMedia Connection, and holds a patent in the area of dynamic online advertisement creation.
Judy Gern

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