Flite's Guest Blogger series features the industry's top thought-leaders to share insights on display advertising, agile marketing, and innovation.

Louis Moynihan the Director of Advertising Strategy at DemandBase.

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When did data-driven advertising begin?  HotWired.com kicked off the first banner ad in late 1997.  Years later, Ad Exchanges emerged from the ashes of the 2001 dot-com bust and in 2003 a basic algorithm started running ad exchanges.  It wasn’t until 2007 that third party data sets were being used at scale.

With RTB commanding one of the more impressive growth curves in the ad industry, there have been many shifts in the supply chain connected to RTB. As we flight our way into 2013, the online ad industry is changing across the board. 

For example, what we called an audience segment ten years ago is nascent compared to what it is today. Online data segments back then were publisher specific.  If pets.com sold their audience, you bought pet owners -- maybe by location if you were lucky -- but the banner or email list you purchased was controlled by pets.com and ran as an isolated initiative.

Today, you can source pet owner data segments from multiple sources and apply those segments in various media sources.  In addition, offline and online data sources can be merged. The inventory is not only exponentially larger, it can be frequency-capped as one source of inventory.  As a result, our online advertising world today is much more efficient and scalable.  Of course data isn’t perfect, especially 3rd party data.  But the point is that these efficient data segments have transformed and fueled huge growth in display advertising.

As an advertising data segment becomes more defined, it affects:

  • The advertising message
  • The creative
  • The turnaround time
  • The need for templates that can accept dynamic changes
  • The need for more fresh data
  • Ad Reporting
  • Definition of ROI
  • Eventually a more mature online marketing strategy

While data-driven advertising is great, it highlights gaps in the skillset of our current workforce and the domino effect is alarming.  In the coming years, we need more robust data analysis in the following functions.

  • Ad Sales (hunter)
  • Account Management
  • Ad Creative Teams
  • Ad Ops
  • Ad Reporting
  • Renewal Sales (farmer)
  • Marketing
  • Management

The above are career paths paved with gold if anyone cares to dig into the data and test their assumptions.  Ad creative teams are one of the job functions most affected by a void in data skill sets.  Old school creative houses take months to work on strategy and produce creative.  That’s not a bad situation, because it's one part of our industry that will never be outsourced to a third world economy. The strategy piece will always need human intervention and human interpretation.

However, data driven advertising is the strategy for that portion of a client’s program.  The data, interpreted correctly, produces insights that allow us to make creative that responds dynamically and in real-time to a number of variables. We are injecting more data and more coding into the visuals.  Therefore, the skill set needed to produce ad creative in a data-driven ecosystem is different -- and dare I say it: more demanding. In short, it is highly disruptive.

These functions are not for everyone, but given the direction of the industry and the tremendous growth in data-driven advertising, they can lead to a rewarding and exciting career path ripe with innovation.