Over the last several years, digital behemoths like Google and Facebook have worked steadfastly to keep users on their properties—in extreme cases, for the entire time they’re accessing the internet (that is, some critics say, the thinly-veiled motive behind Facebook’s Internet.Org).
Meanwhile, U.S. advertisers continue to spend the majority of their digital ad dollars with the Big Two—even as questions arise about transparency and standardization related to performance data.
It’s a tale of two walled gardens: one that users have come to expect—perhaps even enjoy (“thank you Google Knowledge Graphs!”); another that analytics managers have begun to question. The new year may prove to be a tipping point for both.
Digital Eden: everything you want, all in one place
Why click on a Google search result when the featured snippet has your answer—tidy, concise and mobile-optimized? Why venture outside of your Facebook app when you have access to Instant Articles from your favorite publishers? It’s a veritable utopia of personalized, easy to consume content; after all, Facebook knows what you want—perhaps even more so than your own spouse.
It’s not the only one—Snapchat, Instagram and others are close behind. And lest we forget the newest walled garden with which marketers must contend: virtual assistants (OMG, voice-enabled commerce!). As one Forbes article puts it, this convenience leads to a “Hotel California-esque situation where you can click out anytime you like…but you won’t ever want to leave.”
It’s a double-edged sword for marketers. On one hand, we have a highly captive audience and a treasure trove of targeting capabilities; on the other, we’re often creating content that lays another brick in the wall. This can be an even bigger issue for digital publishers whose business model depends on driving traffic to their sites to justify ad prices. The aforementioned Instant Articles are one example of this conundrum; for marketers, Canvas ads are another. Both—directly or indirectly—persuade marketers and publishers to communicate their message within Facebook’s walls, rather than push visitors to their own properties.
So what’s a modern marketer to do? The easy answer may be to simply adjust expectations, measurements and programs to make the most of our new reality. This year, for example, we’ll implement Facebook Lead ads for several of our clients. So rather than driving prospects from Facebook ads to our own dedicated landing pages to download a piece of content or submit a form, they’ll do it in just a few clicks, within the Facebook ad itself. These types of adaptations, while a growing pain for marketers, often enable a more frictionless user experience for our prospects and customers.
But what about that other walled garden—the barrier that some marketers say reduces their ability to compare metrics against other channels?
Breaking down the wall (or at least adding windows)
In 2017, news broke of brands like P&G and Fiat speaking out about their increasing reluctance to commit to digital channels they can’t fully quantify—due to questions surrounding measurement standards, brand safety and attribution. While the scrutiny from smaller advertisers is not as intense, marketers generally agree that there is room for more transparency and collaboration where Facebook’s and Google’s ad networks are concerned. And 2018 will be a year of evolution in this regard.
In fact, TUNE expects more cooperation between data gatekeepers (from social media and search to CRM systems) who haven’t always had history of playing nicely in the sandbox. This year, they’ll make it work to appease advertiser demands. TUNE points to the recent Salesforce/Google partnership announcement as evidence of the trend—which brings us one step closer to reconciling and interpreting cross-channel performance. Meanwhile, count on seeing additional products from within the walls that claim to solve the aforementioned attribution and benchmarking problems—Google’s Analytics 360 Suite, for instance.
Meanwhile, some advertisers will continue to sidestep the gates, taking matters into their own hands with third-party validations and custom analytics platforms.
Have you experienced challenges with the walled garden? What are your related predictions for 2018?