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Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Power of one ... It's all about me!

There is an amazing transition of who is defining the internet user experience. The significant influence that content owners, use to have, is now moving towards the average person/user. Everyone is beginning to recognize that they can now choose their own content and services, and with this development, there are implications for an industry you might not have thought of at first– Advertising.
In the past, advertisers love(d) content owners. When there were only a few of them (relatively), they had the unique opportunity to define what content would be viewed by an end user.  Think of the influence they could wield, their ability to track patterns of interest and through the grouping of similar customers be able to create user profiles.  Like any enterprising group of businesses, the content owners would then, in turn, share this incredible insight with advertisers to help the advertisers create relevant ads for specific groups.
Okay, now move to today, where we have an incredible 3- 4 billion web pages of content for people to access either through websites or other platforms … that is roughly 1 unique content source for every two people on earth (this is compared with some 3.5 million web pages that were active just 15 years ago!). Based upon this development, it is increasingly difficult for the content owner to create profiles which are accurate.  Think about it… How in the world could you create a unique profile, of every person, based on the unique combination of content they may each choose to access, let alone adapt that profile based on their mood, time of day and location in the world for each individual website?
In walks the Over the Top (OTT) player who is able to provide us with a new approach.  This new model monitors all webpage’s, applications and media, through cookies and operating system tools. The content providers and advertisers have had to adapt to the OTT’s and ensure they had the right arrangements in place to promote their online content or their relevant ads. Naturally this is a situation which neither the content owners, nor the advertisers, should be or are very satisfied with.
For this reason, it is no longer the content owners or the associated advertising providers who have the best visibility and analysis of the dynamic nature and changing profiles of each individual users given the enormous diversity of content to choose from. This ultimately means they have now become dependent on the OTT for data on customer profiles. Meanwhile, it is the OTT’s that have been increasingly dominating the ad space purely through volume of end users they have visibility of.  There haven’t been any alternatives or any noticeable limitations on what OTT’s could or couldn’t view. Until recently, OTT’s could capture all data, from all users, without any concerns on the public’s perception on where or how this data was being collected.  In essence OTT’s were the “All seeing eye”.
Despite the far reaching capabilities of OTT’s, there are now more regulations and increased savviness from internet users to block out cookies and ultimately decide what information they want to share about themselves.  This in turn, is making it harder for OTT’s to provide accurate profiling of end users, which leads to advertisers again looking for alternative means to present relevant ads to internet users. It is these changes which I refer to as the Power of One.  Me, you, all of us, now have the ability to decide how much data about ourselves we want to share (whether that is our location, our interests or even our friends).
Enter stage left, the one remaining group who should be building relationships with advertisers, and until now, have not been fully leveraged– Internet providers. What if you could sign up for ads that were relevant to you based on your interests, location and time of day, without worrying about someone gathering all of your personal data? Ok … I hear you saying I don't like ads, I understand and agree with that but, they are a fact of life, so let’s use the “Power of One” to see ads we want to see rather than ads they get the best deals for.  Signing up through your internet provider, whether at home, or in a cafĂ©, or a shopping mall, to define your areas of interest can be mutually beneficial. We trust internet providers not to store all of our data through the internet, and know that they have a customer service model that if we see any ads that we don’t think is appropriate we can ask they can act on it, something which OTT’s tend to propose they only facilitate and therefore can’t be held accountable for.
There are some interesting companies out there like Adztream, Jiwire and Urban Airship who are seeking to help advertise firms - and businesses seeking to advertise directly. They understand how to help advertisers adapt their approach to reaching out to individuals, through various solutions which are targeted at the changing profile at any time on any day. It is important for advertisers to maximize the changing landscape and rebalance their focus of engagement.  Move from the content owners to those providing access to the internet, whether in the form of operators (fixed and mobile) or private wifi owners such as malls, campuses, hotels and sporting events.
These companies are the early adopters in introducing alternative models which drive more of a symbiotic relationship between the advertisers, internet providers and most importantly the end users. It is now up to the internet providers to look at how they can best leverage these platforms and start shifting the traditional source of advertising from those pushing ads based on the “all seeing eye”, to pulling relevant ads for the end users which they have chosen to see or are relevant based on where they are at that point of time. So now what? Well, to advertisers, I would say start looking at alternative avenues and platforms to introduce relevant ads that avoid the discussion around privacy. To Internet Providers – it doesn’t matter whether you are a ISP, Mobile Operator, coffee shop or university, your private network gives you an opportunity to look at engaging partners to create a positive user experience subsidized by end user relevant advertising. For all of us, as end users, the internet experience is no longer about what we are told it is, but more about what we want it to be and most importantly about how much data on ourselves we are willing to share.
We, as the Power of One, need to remind ourselves that we define our own experience and the market will continue to evolve to the point where we will see ads more customized to our specific situations at any given time or location versus what OTT’s think we should see. The Power of One is not only alive and well, it is now clearly having an influence on the internet industry and the advertising revolution.


Jay Fulcher said...

Nathan - good post. The Power of One, or personalization, is clearly a seminal concept as publishers, advertisers and intermediaries recognize the imperative of not creating more channels (as in the past) but now creating one channel - yours.

Nathan Bell said...

Like it Jay ... couldn't agree more ... seems as the capability to personalize becomes more visible the blending of content, for "anywhere, anyhow, anytime" viewing and data analytics are going to become even more crucial to maximize monetization as well as customer experience!