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Marketing in a Disrupted World


Over the last decade, the change wrought over the marketing industry due to the evolution of technology has been dramatic. A buzz word for ambitious startups is 'disruption’, the idea of upheaving a certain industry by undercutting the established players, changing the rules of the game and forging a new kind of relationship between provider and consumers. (Think of what Uber has achieved with the taxi service industry in the USA and Europe.)

However the collective boom of the tech industry over the last ten years – inserting multiple screens into almost every aspect of our daily routine – has itself disrupted the world of marketing. As our work, entertainment and social interaction is increasingly conducted through screens on laptops, smart phones, tablets and, most recently, watches and glasses too. This means that marketers have to adapt their methods of advertising.


Display Advertising

Display advertising on websites has grown in relation to the amount of time we spend online. In fact, targeted advertising that has been made possible through the large-scale accumulation of data, brings in billions of dollars to tech giants such as Google and Facebook each year. Attempting to mimic their success, this model was soon adopted by the small fry. People who had created successful blogs purely for pleasure soon realised that they were able to live of the revenue from display ads. The idea of someone making thousands of dollars each month through a personal blog in turn led to the rise of web hosts such as this, who offer domain names and site maintenance at minimal prices. Many blogs today, in contrast to the industry's humble beginnings, are being set up not to provide the internet with enriching content but purely to make money.


Creativity through Technology

However, the sudden significance of technology within advertising has manifested itself not only in display ads on web pages but also through social media. In 2011 Facebook began inserting adverts into users’ news feeds; shortly afterwards Twitter introduced Promotional Tweets.

With the fast-growing accumulation of user data, what these platforms are able to offer marketers is becomming increasingly sophisticated. Last month, Twitter introduced a new ad tool for SMEs, Quick Promote, allowing companies to amplify their best performing tweets by using the tool to insert these tweets into the feeds of users who have ‘interests similar’ to their own followers. Buster Benson, product manager at Twitter wrote in a blog post introducing the tool:

‘Whether you’re Tweeting about a new product, promotion or blog post, Promoted Tweets can help you drive measurable business results. In fact, we found that users who see a relevant Promoted Tweet from an SMB are also 32 per cent more likely to visit that business.’


Creative Backlash

Many marketing professionals retain a scepticism of such tools. At a round table held late last year by the Guardian in association with the software developer Adobe, Lisa Bridgett, sales and marketing director at the online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter, urged against the growing digitisation of marketing campaigns, and highlighted the danger of automated programmes being regarded as more valuable than human creativity and intuition. Specifically she warned against programmatic ad buying, whereby computer programs buy and place ads online through an algorithm.

"You can’t just say that the technology is perfect because of course it’s not. In fact, I’m sitting with my agency and really unpicking programmatic and the truth is that they don’t understand it at all. I don’t actually think that there is anyone who understands a lot of these things when you get into the world of big data.”

She added: "What I do is build up an arsenal of data and then I use my intuition. Time and time again it plays out right. So you need to be dextrous in these two different worlds.”

Indeed, when bypassing such programs the immediacy of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allows savvy marketers to capitalize on a social buzz. Naturally such advertisements have a short life-span, but if they hit the right tone, they can go viral in a matter of hours and create a huge impact. When witty enough, they can also foster the impression of a brand being ‘just like us’ by smoothly taking part in in a dialogue with consumers. The flurry of adverts after Luis Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini in the Uruguay - Italy match during the football World Cup last summer, is a good example of how this technique has now become common practice for the biggest world brands.

It is in ways like this, that creative marketers can and must work in tandem with data scientists and computer engineers. As Bridgett said at the Guardian’s round table, in regard to the best marketing professionals:

"The real stars are the ones who can balance a passion for technology, data, fashion and creativity at the same time.”