Behind everything we do is a need that wants to be satisfied. 

Or so theorized Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist whose motivational theory in psychology argues that while people aim to meet basic needs, they seek to meet successively higher needs in the form of a pyramid.

So now let's talk about ad tech.

To put it in the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, could the evolution of viewability metrics, given the increasing focus on cross-platform viewability standards, be a sign that digital marketing is finally evolving beyond “safety” and “survival”?

Fundamental Building Blocks

Until now, the online ad industry has been progressing through early survival, or what Maslow referred to as "deficiency needs" which include "food, clothing and shelter."

Mastering survival in order to move on to higher levels of consciousness requires meeting basic needs, which in digital marketing terms includes advancements in technology and data, the industry’s fundamental building blocks.

According to Maslow, once basic survival needs are met “safety” is next.

Few people would argue that we’ve arrived at this evolutionary milestone. The most important aspect about being in the safety phase, which also begins to address consumer experience as part of the equation, is that we have admitted there’s a problem.

Actually several problems, from attribution models that rely on cookie bombing, to ad fraud and ad blocking, are being discussed ad nauseam in every corner of the industry.

Maslow's Hierarchy of needs

The Cusp of Love & Belonging

This isn’t just good news, it’s a significant achievement.

All the safety debates, discussions and improved solutions mean we’re working on it and will be on our way to enjoying what’s next — "love and belonging" — where we will engage intimately during micro-moments in meaningful ways with the fans who get, need and love us the most.

Who doesn’t want more of that?

The development of cross-platform viewability standards, the success of native advertising, as well as the improvements experienced with holistic attribution models, serve as proof points that we not only want better solutions, but we’re making progress on them, innovating and creating better mousetraps each day.

It’s been just like all the experts tell us: creativity is messy and success is a series of trial and error failures in the forward direction that help us identify better and better answers.

So let’s talk about ‘love and belonging’ in online advertising. Success will still involve traditional concepts like branding, the art of memorable creative, and ceaseless reinvention to remain relevant and viable in our always on and connected global marketplace.

The Correct Use of Data

Thriving at higher levels of marketing consciousness will hinge on the correct use of data to improve advertising messages and creativity.

For example, we’ll need to capture data, translate it into something meaningful and actionable, and use the new insights to create an increasingly more effective feedback loop with each customer interaction serving as an opportunity to improve. To do this, data must be shared between quantitative technologists and qualitative advertising practitioners.

Today, this may not be the case. In February, at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, a well known political strategist joked that he deferred to 20-somethings to run the data side of campaigns. That’s the wrong approach to both political campaigns and ad campaigns.

Quality vs. Quantity

Here are a few examples to illustrate why bringing quantitative data out into the qualitative light will ensure your success:

Segmentation: Segmented behaviors and found lookalikes data tells you how many people and what actions they did or did not take while visiting your site. Doing better the next time requires identifying what to test to learn why people do what they do so you can segment them into more interest-focused groups whose reasons for loving or maybe only kinda liking your brand will not only help you keep current fans happy and plan for what’s next, but also help attract more just like them. And you reduce wasted resources by knowing who not to invest your resources in.

For example, using lookalike segments for a national auto brand, we were able to identify differences in interests and tastes across different geo locations. We observe potential customers in New England who are interested in purchasing pre-owned pickups and SUVs as extensions of outdoor interests. By contrast, we found customers in the Midwest are interested in leasing a sedan that is sporty and high performance.

Goal Achievement: Data can tell if you have or have not reached your conversion goal, but you will need thoughtful review and analysis to tell you why it worked and how you can make it even better. Or discover what isn’t working and why not, so you know how and where to start as well as what to test. You can literally improve your performance based on every interaction.

One large national retail brand incorporated an In-Image component into their online media spend. Using dynamic rich media creative with multiple engagement options, we were able to determine which products and messaging resonated best with end users. This involved running creative specifically messages to holidays and events as well as multiple creative options. The result has been an extremely successful campaign that is doubling the client’s ROI goals.

Identification: If companies fail to accurately identify who their buyer personas are and how they evolve over time, they risk not communicating the right message and not seeing corresponding conversions. Ongoing analysis and interpretation of data is critical to identifying answers that support successful campaigns.

Learning what customers want, where they hang out, how they talk about you, your product, and your brand in their own language, as well as insight into their mindsets and what’s driving them in this direction in the marketplace is all contained in the data. Only thoughtful review and analysis combined with literal hunches and gut instincts of experts about what to test next will support long term viability and growth.

A good illustration of this situation is a national brand campaign we ran for a printer manufacturer that resulted in the company redefining their primary customer profile based on the success and data-driven insights we provided. Initially, the assumption was that their ideal customer is an office manager looking to purchase printers for business use in an office environment.

We learned that this person is actually women planning to use the printers as part of home improvement projects. In fact, purchases were being made much more frequently for this personal in-home use as opposed to the business use.

Think of the inevitable resolution of all the ongoing ad tech debates as the means to an end. The end in this case is the most effective advertising ever developed, and it doesn’t matter if it occurs via mobile, virtual reality, wearables, or whatever.

Reaching the top of Maslow’s pyramid of online advertising needs is closer than we all think. Getting there simply requires being the best a brand can be as often and as consistently as possible.