Machine learning upends rules of mobile marketing

12 Jun,2017


By A Correspondent


Against the backdrop of a massive explosion of data, mobile industry players can harness the power of machine learning to transform complex data points into a tool for effective targeting and measurement, ultimately building trust in consumers and businesses alike. This was a key focus at the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Forum Singapore 2017, attended by leading marketers, brand and agency representatives on June 9.

Over 20 industry leaders took to the stage to discuss a wide range of topics – from programmatic and multi-touch attribution to vertical video and retargeting campaigns. “As we move forward, data insights are going to be very powerful, especially on mobile. Data like context, location, time of day to target consumers – no other media but mobile can give you that – and our next step is to channel this data towards building mobile as a reliable platform with the same accountability as any other platform,” said Rohit Dadwal, Managing Director of the MMA in Asia Pacific (APAC).

“Machine learning has been a huge talking point for our speakers, and for all good reason – multi-touch attribution is where our industry is heading towards, and this is something marketers have to start embracing,” Dadwal said. Hailing multi-touch attribution as the holy grail of marketing measurement, he added that it will pave the way for agile marketing by improving transparency and verification of data, standardising terms and performance metrics, while linking advertising data from many touchpoints – effectively resolving key challenges currently faced by mobile marketers. He explained that achieving multi-touch attribution is difficult, as it requires advanced analytics of user level data to allocate proportional credit across various marketing touchpoints. However, as big data increasingly comes into focus, so would the development of multi-touch attribution and machine learning.

Echoing Dadwal, Sapna Chadha, Head of Marketing, Google India and Southeast Asia, said: “We’ll soon be seeing a massive explosion of data, from 16 ZB today to 163 ZB by 2025.” In fact, some telecommunications companies in India are making their data available, and Tom Simpson, Director, Growth and Programmatic, APAC, AdColony, believes “telco data is one of the best for targeting.”

Chadha called for industry players to channel user data into machines, to allow them to develop the discretion and intelligence needed to optimise outreaching and advertising. From personalising advertisements at scale to automating bidding processes, machine learning is revolutionising digital advertising, helping marketers achieve more in scale, speed and efficiency.

Industry leaders emphasised the need to harness data-driven insights to reach the right consumers on the right platforms. Amidst rapidly declining attention spans, strategic targeting, be it through innovative technology or contextual storytelling, has become all the more important.

“If you can’t hook consumers within two or three seconds, you might as well not do it at all,” said Richa Goswami, Head of Digital and Innovation, APAC, Johnson & Johnson, calling for marketers to marry content and context to tell compelling stories on relevant platforms. Similarly, Jayesh Easwaramony, VP and GM, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, InMobi, said: “The first 15 seconds of a video count in driving brand recall. If you’re still doing 30-second pre-roll ads, you’re doing it wrong.”

At the same time, speakers cautioned that marketers might risk losing consumer trust if they carry out excessive and unstrategic targeting. Graham Kelly, Founder, Originate Pte Ltd, expressed concern over the recent allegations against Facebook advertisements targeting emotionally vulnerable and insecure youth who are more susceptible to buying products. Creative solutions to tackle other roadblocks in targeting such as ad-blocking and declining app downloads, were also discussed at the Forum. For instance, Video Ad Serving Template (VAST), vertical video, interactive video and 360 video, were highlighted as effective tools in driving viewability, as well as buffer-free, immersive and meaningful user experiences.


Way Forward

The data explosion is creating new questions and complex challenges for the industry, and leaders across various industries – marketing, agency, DSP and measurement – called for new data-driven metrics that are responsible, accountable, and reliable, as they are critical in informing mobile spend, driving programmatic adoption, and boosting trust in the industry.

“If a consumer switches across their three devices, are they counted once or thrice?” Joanna Wong, Head of Business Marketing, Asia Pacific, Spotify, asked. Likewise, Bryan Kim, APAC Managing Director, TUNE, said cross-channel measurement and attribution is a top priority among 57.1% of marketers in 2017.

According to Matthew Talbot, Chief Executive Officer, BBM, even though messaging apps now see more people today than social media does, little marketing spend is being channelled to messaging platforms. With better measurement standards, this disconnect between consumer habits and marketing efforts can be reconciled. Speaking on a panel on programmatic revolution, Joe Nguyen, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific, comScore, Inc., said data is currently missing in the use of programmatic in APAC, and the industry needs more data and better metrics that can inform programmatic buys in delivering desired return on investment.

Beyond data, the panellists agreed that buyer trust is important in improving evaluation metrics. Andrew Tu, Vice President, APAC, Tapad, asked: “How do we convince a brand marketer to spend money programmatically? It all boils down to trust in measurement standards.”

In a similar vein, Kenneth Chow, Commercial Director, SEA, Adobe Advertising Cloud, Adobe, said: “Our industry is still trying to determine if we can trust that we’re reaching and engaging the right audiences using our existing metrics.” Dadwal harked back to the need for reliable measurement in his closing speech: “To truly position mobile as a formidable platform equalling TV, we must make it attributable. Businesses need to know the exact impact on their ROI and sales, or they wouldn’t be able to justify the hefty investment they have made into this tiny device.”


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