Where will next generation digital marketing drive value in 2022?

It’s peak season for marketers to plan their investments for the next year. But how much of what is being talked about by future gazers is actually driving value? You may take a look at Gartner’s Hype Cycle and find the “trough of disillusionment” resonates, but the nirvana of “pleatuea of productivity” will probably be recognised by too few:

Source: gartner.com 

Successful digital marketing businesses are measured on the impact they can deliver for their clients today, not tomorrow. We see this first-hand as backers of world class agencies such as MiQ and Investis Digital, and through the digital marketing technology and services used by our portfolio companies.

The digital marketing landscape is changing more quickly than ever and investing for the future is important, but the best roadmaps deliver value at each stage of the journey. So, where are we seeing real-world impact from next generation digital marketing approaches?

Preparing for the cookieless future

With Google setting the depreciation date for third-party cookies in 2023, the cookieless future is fast approaching. What does this mean for personalisation and the ability to deliver hyper-targeted campaigns at scale? With an in-house data science and engineering team of over 350, MiQ has the capability to provide clients with the answers. There are several ways to prepare for the new world that also drive short term value: 

1.  First-party data. The value of first-party data is going to skyrocket in a world without third-party cookies, but many are not doing enough to collect this data and even fewer are harnessing its power. MiQ is helping clients to get ahead of the curve with MiQ Performance. By collating first-party data, integrating it with disparate third-party data sets and removing personally identifiable data, businesses can build micro-segments in a fully privacy-compliant way. This fully anonymous approach to contextual targeting will be a huge advantage for any business that wants to target their customers online, but to achieve this you often have to operate in big data territory – MiQ’s platform is capable of securely processing 10 terabytes of data on a weekly basis. But it’s ok to start smaller and get the basics right first. For instance, at ECI we’ve implemented Pardot, which means we can understand whether you read this article and provide you more of the content you like, at the time that’s relevant.

2. Cookieless channels. Another way to nail contextual targeting in a cookieless world: use cookieless channels. For example, MiQ is seeing a big uplift in programmatic marketing on connected TV. After all, it is no longer a niche channel – in 2021 39% of US adults in a TV household watched something on a connected TV daily. You can read more about the future in this space in MiQ’s excellent report, Programmatic Trends for 2022. But the opportunity extends to offline channels too. Our portfolio company Imagesound carefully curates music to represent brands in their store settings. This ensures consistent brand experience, boosts shopper mood, and allows for targeted ads to be placed between tracks. Through its online platform, ads can be optimised for the local context. For example, a major supermarket on a super-hot summer’s day can use a casual ad over the sound system to nudge shoppers to remember their sun lotion purchase. This achieves a meaningful uplift in sales and provides customers with a useful reminder, win-win.

Applied AI

Let’s think more about what it means to have a first party data advantage. Can you see something that your competitors can’t? How can you use that in the fight for clicks? Opportunity is created where a business has a unique data asset and the analytics capability to drive insight. Our portfolio company, Avantia, provides the perfect case study.

Avantia is a home insurer with a market-leading decisioning platform, powered by AI. In the 700 milliseconds a price comparison website gives them to respond, Avantia can return a quote based on customer lifetime value (“LTV”) and the likely cost of future claims. Avantia’s ability to do this for even the most complex homes and customer situations sets them apart in the underwriting market.

Avantia is using its decisioning platform to stretch the frontiers of digital marketing. Through connecting their technology to Google’s paid search algorithm, Avantia’s PPC strategy is now focused on acquiring the highest LTV customers, rather than basing it on margin or price. It has already earned them recognition at the Drum Awards and with machine learning, it is only getting more powerful.

ECI’s Commercial Team worked with Avantia’s management team to begin to commercialise LTV modelling back in 2015 – it is remarkable how far they’ve driven it forward since then. This innovation in PPC is just the latest step in Avantia’s vision to put data and automation at the heart of their business and use it to drive their direct to consumer offering. You can hear more from Mark Eastham, Avantia’s CEO, on our Building Successful Businesses podcast.

Connecting with your audiences

For your tech to deliver, your content must cut through. Ultimately the ambition is to ensure engaging content gets in front of the right people, at the right time and on any device. This concept is a guiding principle for our former portfolio company, Investis Digital, and their Connected Content™ approach. Investis Digital offers clients an end-to-end proposition across content creation, CMS, and performance marketing. Owning every stage of the process ensures your digital marketing is cohesive. For example, if you want to deliver great SEO positions, you need to ensure your keyword strategy, website architecture, and brand tone of voice all work in harmony, and create content customers actually want to read.

But it is also important to recognise that a business can’t be on the cutting edge of digital marketing in every way, nor can an agency be the answer to every problem. They key is to develop a bespoke approach that is sophisticated in the areas that really matter to your business model, but may be pared back and kept lean and efficient in others. That way investments in tech can be targeted at specific opportunities to connect with your audiences that align with your commercial goals and deliver most value to you as a business. 

Please do reach out – we’d love to continue the conversation. We are always keen to show management teams and advisors how we can help with digital marketing, and we are looking to back more market-leading digital marketing businesses.

Rory Nath, ECI

About the author

Rory Nath

"I am a member of ECI’s Investment Team, a former member of ECI’s Commercial Team and once upon a time, I was a strategy consultant at OC&C. Across my career, the most rewarding experiences have been about finding exciting growth opportunities and helping great management teams to deliver against them."

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