At the time of writing, it’s 9am (CET) here and my Twitter feed is ablaze with the latest news from Google as it kills off DoubleClick and Adwords, two of its signature brands, just a day after AT&T confirms its acquisition of AppNexus, (following rumours at this year’s Cannes Lions). Just days before the annual ‘Oscars’ for the advertising, media and marketing world, all eyes were still on Google and their positioning vis-à-vis the IAB framework and the much talked about General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the biggest data privacy shake-up in history. Of course, let’s not forget the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal which set off political shockwaves in the US and UK as well as a media frenzy since March, shedding light on insidious entrapment techniques, psychological manipulation and fake news campaigns.
My foray into the adtech world started almost 10 months ago (though it can sometimes feel like 10 years) and it has been nothing short of entertaining and arresting at the same time. Having worked in PR for over a decade now in various industries including arts & culture, consumer tech, agrifoods and private banking across Asia and Europe – I must say, the adtech sector is unlike any other. With a dizzying pace of change, the prevailing winds constantly buffeting the adtech industry are seemingly unstoppable, and often with a colossal global impact. Thankfully, this gave me a quick ascent up the steep learning curve, especially in a sector that’s littered with industry jargon and buzzwords. Very quickly, I understood that I had to keep stride with a highly dynamic and rapidly evolving marketplace and be specific, but yet tactical on a daily basis with subject matter experts, talking points, editorial calendars etc. Think PR on steroids, and ‘newsjacking’ as the best thing since sliced bread. In the adtech world, there’s almost always something that needs to be reacted to: challenged, questioned and sometimes even refuted.
So where does PR really stand in all this and what does it mean to navigate through constant change and sometimes even unchartered territory?
Quite well, to be honest. What we do and say is held in even higher regard, and watched more keenly by others in the sector.
Why you may ask?
With the ongoing sensitive issues on hand, especially ones related to user trust, privacy and overall transparency, the bar is set much higher for adtech players to ‘walk the talk’ and break through the noise and clutter through genuinely informative, thought-provoking and compelling content. Blending originality, imagination and innovation, adtech PR certainly goes far beyond hype and spin.
As companies in the industry wonder where the next opportunity or challenge will come from – and it will come fast – the discipline of PR is ideally placed and continues to play an instrumental role in providing counsel on positioning and messaging to ultimately manage societal expectations – from employees, to customers, vendors and partners. This not only helps to put the house in order, but let’s face it, without the user, there’s no advertising, and without advertising, there’s no free internet.
A quick look at Cannes and other awards shows only demonstrate that creativity has been stretched beyond proportion and some say, limitation, compared to what the industry and consumers were used to a decade ago. There are almost no boundaries when it comes to influencing hearts and minds. However, beyond creativity, a thoughtful and honest approach still has its place, and is fundamental to PR and journalism. This coupled with the continuously evolving field of social media, which puts companies in good stead in being engaging with its stakeholders in a timely and accessible manner. This is particularly handy in an industry constantly rife with new developments and uncertainties.
In short, we have a lot to look forward to this year, post GDPR and everything else that has happened. Particularly with Amazon emerging as a third force in advertising, the potential of contextual targeting, first party data, semantics, AI, industry consolidations (as in the case of AT&T and AppNexus) and not to mention the ongoing debate on header bidding. If 2017 was all about fraud, 2018 will continue to be eventful and productive if we learn from past lessons and continue to push the envelope in communicating creatively, promptly and authentically.
Whatever happens, it’s going to be a thrilling ride and I’m pleased to be a part of it.