2019: The Year Brands Get to Know Their Audiences


As an agency with an expertise and deep understanding of the ad tech, publishing and media spaces, we host regular events that examine the most pressing topics and trends affecting these increasingly integrated industries. Last week, we hosted our first NY AdTech Meetup of 2019 at dailymotion’s offices, welcoming nearly 100 guests who were eager to learn about the value of personalization in advertising and marketing.

Panelists included Caroline Blavet (VP, Business Operations, dailymotion), Josh Neckes (Co-Founder & President, Simon Data), Claire Mitchell (Director, VaynerSmart, VaynerMedia) and moderator, Ginger Conlon (U.S. Editor, The Drum), who broke down personalization as it applies to publishers, media and ad tech companies. 

As the discussion unfolded, a few keys components of personalization came to the forefront; How do you define personalization? How do you make it cost-effective? And what are the benefits?

How do you define personalization

“At the end of the day, personalization is about relevance,” led Josh Neckes, to which the entire panel agreed. However, the bar at which brands are now being measured, according to Neckes, is very high. And although our expectations as consumers are very high, the panel agreed that few brands other than Google or Amazon can achieve that level of personalization. There is hope though, using the analogy of the bear and the sprinter, Ginger Conlon joked, “as long as you’re faster than your friend, you don’t have to be Amazon or Google.”


Claire Mitchell then broke down personalization into three buckets. The first, and the one that most encounter, is your name appearing in an email or in an ad you see online. Followed by segmentation, or creating different creative assets for different groups based on interests, demographics or location. Finally, there is contextual relevance, not just how to personalize an ad based on information about the user, but meeting them where they are.
As is commonplace when discussing advertising and media in today’s tech-heavy landscape, data began to permeate the conversation. Specifically, how customer data is used by brands when it comes to personalizing experiences, and in turn, what consumer expectations are for their data. “What data is the consumer generating,” asked Neckes. “The data being generated is what creates expectations.” The gaps created when it comes to data and expectations for the user are responsible for the weird middle ground that Neckes believes we are currently in.

How do you make it cost-effective

Creating personalized experiences for users doesn’t come cheap though. There needs to be an investment made by the brands on both the creative and technology side. Those investments need to be carefully vetted and allocated however, or companies risk wasting money before they’ve even started. According to Neckes, one of the biggest mistakes brands make comes in the form of their data team. Having good, clean data is more important for your data team than having a good data scientist. An average data scientist with good data can do much more than the best data scientist with bad data.   
“Our bet, ultimately, is that it will be more cost effective in the long run to create something relevant for specific segments and individuals, rather than creating one piece of content and hoping it is resonant with the entire population,” argued Mitchell.

What are the ultimate benefits

“Consumers want it and it works,” stated Caroline Blavet. Blavet then continued by citing studies that showed that consumers prefer personalized ads, as opposed to non-personalized ads. Consumers are willing to give up their information, as long as there is trust involved and explicit disclosures are made available.

“Regardless of fears about privacy, users are open to personalization,” Conlon agreed. The key is making sure that you are able to stay on the right side of the creepy/cool line. A line, Conlon states, that moves depending on the person and the brand. A way to make sure you stay on the cool side of the link, according to Neckes, is to ask who are you targeting, why are you targeting them and what’s the explicit agreement. What’s the value proposition.

The bottom line, personalization is something that all brands need to be cognizant of. Not only because consumers want it, even with concerns about privacy, but because in the long run, personalization is the most profitable way forward. However, brands need to make sure that they are considering their audience, their product and the message, as well as establishing the value exchange. Doing so ensures that they are able to stay on the cool side of the line. 

- Michael Deleo, Senior Account Executive