“I think that mindsets have shifted and perhaps that’s the post-COVID world we’re living in. People have had to adapt the paths we’ve evolved.”
So said Glen Dormieux, CEO of Playrcart, commenting in a recent 6GWorld interview. Running a young AdTech firm, Glen is watching the evolution of consumer behaviour through his services… and, at the same time, the evolution of advertiser behaviour.
His own entry into advertising came from his history in marketing films.
“You’d get a whole bunch of millions and millions of views of the trailers, the clips, the interviews that you are distributing on the open web – but it wasn’t equating to a seat or a sale or a download. So while the market told us we’d done the hard yards, we’d seen how many people were engaging, how could we convert them?”
The current online marketing paradigm is built around creating clicks through to an advertiser’s site where they can then engage, purchase, or complete the call-to-action. Indeed, click-through rates and cost-per-click are essential components of the current habitat. Because users consider advertising as secondary, at best, to the content they are aiming to engage with, this derives from a need to keep adverts relatively data-light and not burden processors.
Sending users to the advertiser’s site shows they are taking a step away from their chosen content towards a richer, more data-demanding experience. The downside is that this interrupts the user experience.
“Why shouldn’t you give them the opportunity to convert directly there and then within the advertising unit itself? So that’s what we do. We’ve done it with Vodafone and we’ve got fantastic results,” Dormieux explained.
“The inflection point for us as a business was […] being able to effectively make the technology light enough that it could be delivered down the sort of AdTech pipes of all the ad networks globally.”
Trust and Convenience
As ever when advertising and personal data is mentioned, there is the vexed question of personal data, how that’s managed and – ultimately – how much trust we can put in online services.
“We’ve been running our own research, and we have independent research by Walgreens Boots Alliance from when we ran the Liz Earle [a wellbeing company] campaign for them,” Dormieux commented. “Because people will be looking at this thinking ‘This is new. They’re asking me to fill in my details… am I sure?’”
The results are likely to come as a surprise to technologists, but perhaps less so when viewed through our lived experiences.
“It’s less about trust in the technology itself, which from our side is really unexpected. We thought it might be top of the list,” Dormieux noted. Instead, the reservations people have fall more emphatically in other areas.
“It was more about the fulfilment partner, the brand itself, the price point – and where they actually viewed the advert as well. All of that plays into an individual’s mindset about whether they’re going to purchase or not.”
In many ways, consumers have been raised to put their trust in brands; in an online scenario, this trust can be parlayed into concrete outcomes. The brands themselves are very aware of this and are actively building on this with their advertising.
“At the moment we’re running a campaign with Ford to sign up for a test drive for the new Ford Kooga. Within the campaign itself there’s a call to action within the creative; you click on it, it geolocates you and you can sign up to your local showroom there. Then, that consumer creates a direct relationship with Ford because it’s directly with their showrooms.
“Another iteration would be with a cosmetics brand who has no direct-to-consumer website themselves. They work with third parties – for example Amazon. What we do is bring Amazon to the forefront of their creative as well. So when the user is interacting with the ad unit and looking to purchase a cosmetics product they know it’s being fulfilled by Amazon. As Amazon is a trusted fulfilment partner, that gives that level of confidence that there’s no phishing going on, it’s going to be fulfilled, it’s next-day and so on.”
Dormieux went on to describe a second factor feeding into a newly-developing confidence in online services.
“What’s really helping […] is what people expect from influencer platforms, what they expect from social platforms,” he explained. “You have one-click purchases for as much as possible. So people are growing up with that now, and as people evolve the same technology across the open web, that’s where the industry is heading. People will expect it and demand it.”
As people become more aware of their role to advertisers and media producers in the “attention economy” it has changed their relationship with content and advertising.
“Especially the younger generation expects me to give them rewards. ‘I’ve given you my time as a brand. I want to get something very quickly.’” Dormieux said.
Data and the Future
Coincidentally the World Economic Forum recently released a white paper focussing on the concept of human-centric data, addressing concerns about the role of user data and privacy in the current online attention economy.
While their proposed solution is much more driven by services rather than the collection of data as a resource in itself, it also puts delivery of value for the end-user at the heart of its suggestions. It is striking that pressures and expectations from the bottom up are leading to similar conclusions independently.
Dormieux agreed that data control and privacy are significant issues – maybe not so much for the end users, as already seen, but within the advertising world.
“It’s an extremely hot topic,” he noted, outlining the fact that legal requirements are increasingly stringent – and also different depending on territory. The complexity is significant.
“We have data processing agreements, disaster protocol agreements… I could go right from a technical perspective in terms of who opens or is liable for that data. We have to make sure that we have all our bases covered. And that is very much looked at by not just ourselves, but by the ad company that we are running the campaigns through and of course, the brand themselves as well. So we have to adapt to all their various different guidelines.”
One thing that will make for simplification – and likely also raise a cheer from consumers – is Dormieux’s prediction of the end of cookies as a storage mechanism. “We are very aware of the demise of the cookie, whether it’s next week, or within a year or two years’ time. So our technology is not based on cookies at all, it’s all first-party data.”
Google has already announced that it will end support of third-party cookies on Chrome within the next few years. These were being used by advertisers to track what consumers were doing even outside of their websites. Safari and Firefox have already ended the use of these cookies.
This is partly a response to regulations such as GDPR and California’s CCPR, but it will change the landscape and market for end-user data. While it may reduce the scope of individual advertisers to track customers and potentials, that is likely to transfer opportunity to those platforms that are still able to create and interpret rich data: the hyperscalers of course, but also the telecoms providers who transport all the data in-country. It may be no coincidence that Telefonica is one of the early investors in Playrcart.
Looking further ahead, what developments are we likely to see in advertising and user interactions towards the latter half of the decade? Dormieux is bullish.
“We see the future with TV… You could be, for example, downloading a movie and be served an ad that delivers you a pizza half an hour later. We want it to be as convenient as things could possibly be, we want you to engage with it. It could be voice activated, it could be cursor-activated, via an app on your phone or via the remote for your TV.”
At the recent 6GSymposium, Northeastern University’s Dean of Engineering Gregory Abowd defined 6G as “the use of technologies to improve our human connection”, and described a distributed interface between humans, the physical world and the digital world. Ultimately, however, the commercial pressures on advertisers will be a driving force generating the revenues to make this a reality, and will shape how and why convenience and user-friendliness will operate.
“What we’re trying to achieve is something that is really simple for the user,” Dormieux noted, “Because ultimately it’s user engagement with your unit that’s going to be driving the amounts of interactions or sales that you might receive.”
Alex Lawrence is Managing Editor at 6GWorld. His mission is to bring together stakeholders from across industries, countries and disciplines to make sure that, as technology evolves in the coming decade, it’s meeting the changing demands of society, government and business.
He has been involved as a professional nosy person in the telecoms sphere since 2004, with short detours through industrial O&M and marketing.
If you’d like to talk to Alex about your ideas or projects he’d love to hear from you. @animalawrence or firstname.lastname@example.org.