Ad tech is the secret to engaging the lucrative consumer in an increasingly crowded market, writes Colin Barnard.

“I love this online ad!” isn’t something consumers say very often. Online advertising has hardly garnered consumer appeal in recent years and even less so when consumers are looking for relevant, non-intrusive marketing and a seamless user experience across the different touch-points.

Consumers are no longer accepting ads that don’t fit these demands, and marketers have started to see this first-hand through their shrinking ad performance.

Does this mean the end of online advertising is on the horizon? On the contrary, there is good news for marketers in the form of state-of-the-art Ad Technology. With the help of Ad Tech, marketers can create appealing ads that inspire shoppers with the right product at the right time, while reflecting the brand’s vision and achieving complex marketing goals. The secret recipe to achieve this consists of just two ingredients: the right data and the right technology.

Data is the new oil in marketing. For years, Big Data has been the talk of the town, but even more important are the real-time insights that can be extracted from data. Up-to-date commercial data is the basis for meaningful ads to attract consumers at any stage of the purchasing journey and sophisticated Ad Tech is the required technology to process this data for the best possible advertising results.

The first step in delivering hyper-relevant ads to consumers is the ability to match users across different devices and platforms. Without cross-linking a user to its different devices, whether a smartphone, tablet or desktop, it’s almost impossible to serve up the highest relevant ad at any stage of the consumer journey.

Imagine a consumer visiting your online store on a desktop and a smartphone and ending up purchasing from the smartphone. Without knowing it’s the same user, you risk showing him ads for a product he’s already bought, which negatively affects the user’s experience. A deterministic identifier technology is thus the basis for any sophisticated online ad, which requires collaboration with other players in the industry.

Once you can address users across platforms and devices, the next step is to determine which ad to show to a particular user. The aim is to show each individual consumer the most relevant ad at any time, without risking over-exposing the consumer to your ads. In the programmatic world, cutting edge Ad Tech companies can use Predictive Bidding, which involves developing and using algorithms to predict the likelihood of each user interacting with a specific ad, based on the user’s shopping data. The decision to show this user an ad at a certain moment is made in real-time before the ad gets displayed. Therefore, Ad Tech enables advertisers to show consumers the ads they are most interested in at that point in time.

When deciding whether to show an ad to a user, a powerful product recommendation is required to define which products will be shown. Forget about the old Retargeting model with the famous red pair of shoes that are following you through the internet for weeks after looking at them on a retailer’s website. Modern Retargeting process more complex data to calculate the most appealing products – which are not necessarily the ones the user has looked at before.

In addition, Ad Tech today is much more than just retargeting. It supports marketing goals from generating awareness and driving conversion, while also recommending the products that fit to a user at each stage of the purchasing journey, be it a best-of selection, a new collection or a customised product.

Finally, an often forgotten but very important feature of Ad Tech is real-time creative optimisation. Some users unconsciously react to red call-to-action buttons, others to blue ones. Some like more text, others prefer less, or some prefer certain ad formats over others. Real-Time Creative Optimisation defines the right mix of colours, elements, ad styles and formats that users will most likely react to, and billions of creatives are possible while keeping in line with the corporate identity of the advertiser.

Ad Tech has the capabilities to cover all the above elements, thanks to sophisticated algorithms that can process huge volumes of data. As Artificial Intelligence increasingly becomes an integral part of Ad Tech, it’s expected to drive more innovation and achieve the most complex marketing goals. The overall aim is to turn ads into a shopping experience that users love, so they start saying: “I love this shopping assistance!”

By Colin Barnard, Commercial Director at Criteo ANZ