iMedia Breakthrough Summit 2016: The Future of Content, Publishing & Media Buying

Last week, I went to the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Santa Barbara, California, where we discussed the Future of Content, Publishing & Media Buying. All jokes about beautiful weather and scenic locations aside, the conference was some serious business and drew marketing folks from all over the world. Here were the key takeaways that will affect your business as we move into 2017 and beyond.

1. If you’re not buying your media programmatically, you need to start.

Maybe you’ve heard of programmatic media. Maybe you haven’t. Whatever the case, you need to find out more about it because it’s changing everything. Ad Exchanger defines programmatic media as:

“online display advertising that is aggregated, booked, flighted, analyzed and optimized via demand side software interfaces and algorithms. While it includes RTB it also includes non RTB methods and buy types such as Facebook Ads API and the Google Display Network.”

In layman’s terms, this signals the end of worrying about site profiles and dayparting. Digital display media is no longer planned based on site audience profiles and educated guessing. Due to technology that now exists, the ads follow people. Between cookie-based tracking (which is falling to the side due to privacy-minded browsers) and identity resolution services like LiveRamp, ads can “find” a person no matter what site they go to.

This means, in essence, when I use my Starbuck’s app to buy a drink near a Sephora store (whose app I have on my phone), while I’m waiting for my coffee and browsing Cracked, which has an audience profile of mostly males, I can see a Sephora ad on that site. It might sound creepy, but it sure is useful for sales.

2. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, Millennials were born between 1981 and 1997.

Please stop treating us like we’re a weird bunch of kids. We work with you. Yes, we are cord cutters and view ourselves as always online, but think about it:

  • We graduated college into the worst recession since the Great Depression.
  • We’re pragmatic.
  • We spend money where we feel it will be best used.

As far as being “always online” goes, we answer a lot of messages via our smartphones. Before you comment on someone being on their phone, ask yourself the last time you were expected to answer an urgent email immediately.

Our behavior doesn’t always make sense to outside observers, but there is method to the madness. Really, just ask us. Stop creating focus groups about us and then making us show up to them as organizers. You could have saved that money and just asked us your questions, since, we’re on the other side of the cubicle wall.

And those teenagers you’re trying to target right now? They’re an entirely different generation, worthy of their own analysis and targeting parameters.

3. Staying on message is harder than ever when you look at your content in aggregate.

Remember when we all said, “Content is king!” and then went to town writing articles like crazy so that we could expand our site’s footprint and garner backlinks? Turns out we dropped the ball and totally forgot to make sure that internal and external branding were the same. More importantly, most of us chose a segment of marketing that we were comfortable with instead of balancing our need for leads with our audience’s need for info. There are now tools to fix this issue, but recognizing that it exists is a big step in the right direction.

4. Social media marketing needs to be humanized, and it needs to make people feel good.

Amy Jo Martin gave an excellent presentation on how seeing people do good, in real life or online, has a 3x ripple effect. As social marketers, we’ve known for years that getting people to feel something–happiness or anger most frequently–is a great way to incite reactions and shares, but have we spent enough time looking at how that flows out three layers? Probably not, or we wouldn’t still be talking about trolls and whether a post is too mean or too nice.

Let’s be honest: Negative emotions don’t sell. If they did, we would all be calling this the best election ever. At the same time, though, negative messages perform well on social media in general. Controversy will always get people’s attention, but it still makes you look like a pot-stirring jerk.

Are we increasing interactions by using negativity at the expense of achieving our goals? Are we starting discussions or provoking arguments? Regardless of what political party you affiliate with, if there’s anything we can take away this, negativity and smear campaigns don’t inspire productive action.

And then there’s organizations like, a site where you can sign up to do some good. The actions you can participate in will help people feel better and will likely make genuine improvements to the world around you, but, no, you’re unlikely to sell something solely based on being a decent human being. That said, when choosing between company A, who talks smack all the time, and company B, who has a reputation for community participation and improvements, it’s not hard to make a decision in favor of company B.

5. Marketing is getting smarter because of automation.

I often express a distrust of automation, but that’s mainly because automation is only as good as the data it’s working from. Without good data, it’s like a Rube Goldberg machine at best. Now, all that said, the data in digital display marketing is getting better and better. Going back to my first point, if you’re not already looking at programmatic media buying, it’s vital that you start.

Part of its accuracy is due to marketers knowing what data to plug into the automated tools. The rest of its accuracy is due to automated tools being able to take website and ad data, analyze it and get your ads out to the right people in the right place at the right time. Starbucks-Sephora-Cracked. It’s all about user behavior and intent, and while people like me plug in the numbers and analyze reports to make sure everything is on track, the machines are the ones doing the minutiae.

New to Programmatic?

If you’re new to programmatic digital display ads, drop me a line. I’m happy to discuss this with you, because, yes, it is a little nuts the first time you hear about it. I promise I’m not empowering Skynet.

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