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Targeting is Taking Us Back to the Future

When Marty McFly declared to Doc Brown, “I know you just sent me back to the future, but now I’m back,” he was climbing out of a time machine dressed up as a flying DeLorean. The theme of the movie and its subsequent sequels is about time and how the world interprets the same realities in the past, the future and, of course, back again…a virtuous circle of sorts.

In online advertising, internet identities have also become part of a virtuous circle of sorts. It started with direct mail. The use of direct mail was first used in 1835 to rally voters as part of the American Anti-Slavery campaign. Back then, it was stuffing handwritten letters under the door of every home. Since then direct mail has taken many forms including circulars (think about those grocery flyers and AOL disks that used to fill your mailbox).

But over time the concept of postal area junk mail evolved into life style and persona mailings with the idea that this simplistic segmentation scheme of age groups and affluence would cut the cost of the mailing in half with little loss of response. What followed next, however, sent direct mail down a path to more personal engagement.

The use of database marketing for direct mail turned lifestyle and persona mailings into target outreach. Consumers and businesses were pre-qualified by intent and demographic profiles for credit card mailings and local services. Pre-qualified credit-based mailers and personalization became required for direct mail to deliver better results for marketers and more value to consumers. Even though postal marketing has been in disruption for years the existing standard is based on personal engagement.

The digital disruption by direct marketing online started in 2004 with the adoption of the personal computer and email. In historical terms email became so popular – so fast – that the unsolicited emails and junk folders filled immediately. With negligible barriers to entry, email quickly became a regulatory morass to limit overuse and abuse – rendering email truly only useful for marketing to existing customers. Display advertising based on publisher site content followed and, in marketing time, had a long run until the challenges of reach and unique viewers required other options. These options first took the form of pre-packaged audiences based on faux ad networks, personas, and lifestyle matching. The marketplace eventually admitted that blocked cookie pools and duplicate user impressions were diluting the value of display and not delivering the required reach or ROI.

Then came programmatic. Programmatic Ad Platforms and Exchanges turned the uniqueness of a spot publisher inventory buy into a buy against all the inventory any user could ever visit or consume. Programmatic allows marketers to bid on audiences in real time. With this change “people” became the key asset in every marketing mix.

The next step in the virtuous circle of direct marketing has the potential to be as transcendent as email. It will undoubtedly include more robust digital IDs, personalization and distribution of your preferences across multiple platforms ranging from the mailbox, in-the-store visits, the desktop, devices, addressable TV and even your personalized life management utilities based on Internet of things. There will be good and bad, breakthroughs and challenges as all this evolves.

So, as Doc Brown said in the movie, “The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

If you're interested in bringing your organization to the future, contact us today.

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