It’s Time For The Digital Ad Industry’s “Great Reset”


Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Peri Shamsai, media and entertainment industry lead, NE at Accenture, based on a sales leadership workshop co-run with the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The digital ad ecosystem is undergoing seismic shifts in an environment that is unlike any we have experienced before.

The looming death of the cookie, the blurring of media lines and COVID-19 marketing disruptions have challenged the core capabilities for all players in the ad ecosystem. Ad sellers, in particular, are facing intense pressure to change not only the kinds of skills they employ in their ad sales workforce, but also how sales teams are structured and operate.

The leaders who are succeeding in this emerging marketplace are the ones transforming their end-to-end businesses to adapt to the new landscape.

These challenges were top of mind among ad sales executives during the most recent IAB Annual Leadership Meeting earlier this year.

As a follow-up to that event, Accenture, the IAB and IAB members further explored these issues and came up with three key strategies that ad leaders can adopt to not only survive these changes but go on to thrive in the future.

Reimagine trust

Trust and transparency are critical for users and advertisers. Both groups need to know the companies they deal with are honest and deliver what they say they will.

When it comes to digital, users want a company to “know them,” but also feel confident their data is being handled securely and properly – and that the trust is there on a daily basis. 

However, a lack of standardization across third parties in data and consent collection remains a big challenge, as is the lack of transparency in how media content proliferates through various platforms.

Moving forward, ad sellers have an opportunity to earn trust. In the short term, while cookies still exist, they should test and learn new approaches to identify consumers and their preferences. In addition, organizations that sell linear video impressions need to find ways to establish trust in their measurement and reporting metrics.

But this capability can be difficult to develop in-house, which means they should consider looking for opportunities to partner, invest in and/or buy established capabilities. Doing so can help give advertisers comfort and confidence in the accuracy of the data, thereby creating legitimacy and a faster time to market.

Longer-term, ad sellers must build trust into their products if they want to create a more robust first-party data set. Think about how to offer users multiple opportunities to receive value through personalized offers and discounts or exclusive content.

Address salesforce work challenges

The ad sales workforce needs to change through reskilling and training.

Ad sellers must make their sales resources more versatile so that sales teams can share their knowledge, sell across all inventories, educate clients and create ties with product and operations teams. They must learn the art of storytelling, especially on social platforms, as it will make it easier to bring consumers through the sales funnel.

Finally, they need to master the art of building relationships internally and externally with ecosystem partners, since it’s likely that remote working and less face-to-face contact is here to stay.

Rethink sales tools

Underpinning all of this transformation is technology. Now more than ever, it’s critical that ad sales teams invest in the right tools, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to improve processes, ensure data is used correctly and, importantly, free up time for employees so they can add more value into the sales process. 

When one door closes, another opens

While today’s environment is filled with uncertainty and new challenges never faced before, it’s also filled with opportunity.

The change we’re all experiencing could serve as the “Great Reset” for the digital ad industry. Don’t squander it. Ad sales leaders have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild trust with their users, transform their workforce and build new tools and capabilities.

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