How Adobe Advertising Cloud is Rebuilding its Relationships with Media Agencies

Keith EadiePrior to being acquired by Adobe, TubeMogul’s strategy provided options for brands to circumvent media agencies by working with brands directly. But, the Adobe vision has since pivoted, as Adobe Advertising Cloud (the division that has since absorbed TubeMogul’s DSP capabilities) strives to rebuild relationships with media agencies.

More often than not, Adobe’s products have been sold directly to brands, but those same clients often work with agency partners too of course – a practice which Adobe encourages. “I very much want to change history and collaborate better with agencies, in terms of how they use Analytics, Audience Manager and Ad Cloud together for their clients,” said Eadie. “And training them up and giving them a completely self-serve product they can use to do that is a big effort of ours.”

This move towards closer ties with agencies reflects how at least some brands seem to be cooling on the idea of completely in-housing their media buying. “There’s still a handful of companies, very much the minority, that are aggressively in-housing and sticking with it,” said Eadie. “And then there’s the vast majority who contract directly with us, but are retaining their agency for activation, strategy, planning and whatnot.”

“So I think the in-housing hype is overdone – it’s a great headline, and it absolutely works for some,” he continued. “But the majority are challenged by skill sets, by retaining a variable cost model that they can spin up and down with agencies, and agencies still give them a breadth of capabilities, from strategy to planning to analytics to data management etc, that’s really hard to replicate in-house at scale.”

But there certainly seems to be a significant opportunity for brands to be more involved in media buying, given the value they can get out of their first-party data. The Experience Platform I’m talking about is a brand implementation,” said Eadie. “They’re stitching their CRM data in, they’re stitching their point of sale data in, then they’re stitching their email data in etc. So that is very much a brand instantiation where the brand is going to have to engage. But that doesn’t mean the brand can’t then permission out usage and activation of that data to agencies for media, which is what I think will happen.”

But beyond this, Adobe has a broader vision for brands’ use of data. “The longer term vision is the Experience Platform we’re building, which is this idea of a structured, use-case driven data that sits below Analytics, Audience Manager, Ad Cloud, Campaign, Experience Manager, Target etc,” said Eadie. “So your customer behaviour interactions with your brand, regardless of interaction platform, would be captured in this profile which sits in the Experience Platform. That would then be a signal to drive decisions over whether you’re delivering a display ad, an email, a mobile push-notification etc.”

Breaking down advertising silos

Of course, to make this unified data-driven strategy work, brands need to have strong first-party data in the first place, but Eadie says many companies in the travel, FSI, retail and e-commerce sectors already do. “And then the verticals that don’t are trying,” he said.

When it comes to direct to consumer (DTC) brands, Eadie believes that these strategies are here to stay. While the number of DTC companies popping up in some of the smaller sectors might prove to be unsustainable – “Do any of us need six mattress companies to choose from?” asked Eadie – he believes the experience in many cases is ultimately better than the traditional retail model.

“Maybe it’s Casper or Saatva, two mattress companies that win in the end versus going to the retail store,” said Eadie. “Those experiences are way better than the historical experience, but maybe the customer acquisition costs when you’ve got ten players in a particular micro-vertical get out of hand, and then you get consolidation.”

And some of these DTC companies are starting to work with Adobe too, especially as they move into TV to reach customers they can’t find on the social platforms, or to run brand-building campaigns. “DTC companies have been completely data driven in their customer acquisition and media investment, and primarily digital so far,” said Eadie. “But they see the benefits of data-driven TV, whether that’s on linear or advanced TV like Roku and others.”

But whether it’s established traditional brands or DTC startups Adobe is working with, Eadie’s big hope is that Adobe can encourage brands to be much more creative with how they use whatever first-party data it is that they have.

“The idea is we could make advertising part of the customer journey in a consistent way, because it’s completely siloed at the moment,” he said. “The media team at a brand rarely even uses analytics data, let alone structures rules for ad decisioning around what someone did with an email. And that I think is the next five to ten years of marketing and advertising.”

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