This is the last of our blog series on what the 2020s means for advertising. In this blog we consider the decade of contradictions for those involved in buying and selling advertising.

Data will become more fundamental, just as consumers become more careful with their information – backed by increasingly robust laws such as GDPR and CCPA.

Media will become even more fragmented. The glittering galaxy we’re familiar with, augmented by VR, AR, voice assistants and who knows what else, necessitates data unification in response.

Google and Facebook’s hold on advertising may slip – thanks to eroding trust in both, from consumers and advertisers – just as they consolidate their data advantage.

This is not the place to dive into these trends. That’s what our whitepaper is for. The question here is – what can publishers do to navigate this decade of dichotomies?

1. Know your audience

As advertisers seek to target and personalise consumers with ever-greater levels of granularity, the better you know your audience, the better you can service that need.

That makes gathering 1st party data a priority. Website analytics, user accounts, purchase histories, customer surveys, CRM data – the more you can build up a 360 picture of your customers, the better able you are to monetise that audience.

Create unique audience profiles to guide targeting for ad buyers. Optimise your data so it is easily accessible, good quality, and not locked in silos. Ensure your team knows what to do with 1st party data to make it useful.

Armed with this information, you will be better placed to service clients, yes. But you’ll also be better placed to actively seek out brands that would be interested in your audience – selling more inventory and serving more relevant, personalised content in the process.

2. Cultivate brand loyalty

This is important in obtaining 1st party data in the first place. Consumers are increasingly reticent to hand over their information unless they trust the organisation they’re handing it to. But it’s just as important in ensuring the effectiveness of ads when they’re served. The more loyalty a customer has to your brand, the more interested they will be in the content you serve them – paid or otherwise.

How you achieve brand loyalty depends on your audience. Generation Z, for example, tend to favour brands that are vocal about issues like human rights, race and sexual orientation. They also value platforms that look after their personal data, actively combat fake news and shield them from offensive content.

The potential for reward is high. A 2014 study by neuroeconomist Paul Zak found that three out of eight people “love brands more than their spouses”, releasing more oxytocin when they think of their favourite brands than when they think of their spouses. Oxytocin is the hormone we release when we’re touched or hugged – popularly referred to as the “love hormone”.

If you can engender that kind of feeling in your audience, your brand will be incredibly valuable to your clients.

3. Collaborate – internally and externally

In this increasingly fragmented media environment, advertisers look to create more cohesive, omnichannel campaigns: either screen-agnostic or that accompany consumers between devices and media, adapting for every step of the customer journey.

To achieve that goal, advertisers need publishers to be able to offer a frictionless service that doesn’t put up barriers between channels, departments, and data silos. And to sell that kind of service, your whole organisation needs to be pulling in the same direction.

Collaboration should run externally, too. The cracks in Google and Facebook’s digital duopoly may be beginning to show, but they still operate at a scale other publishers can’t hope to emulate – with vast troves of customer data.

The Ozone Project is an excellent, sector-specific example of how pooling resources can create a better value-proposition for ad buyers. But that, too, will only work if all the systems in your multi-publisher alliance are in harmony.

4. Streamline your organisation

As advertisers seek to run ever more complex campaigns, it becomes more vital than ever that your organisation makes it easy to do so.

That means taking a hard look at your internal inefficiencies, tackling manual processes, data duplication and silos. Anything that may present an obstacle to seamless service for your clients. Then go one step further and identify improvements that may provide value your clients hadn’t thought of.

You might, for example, consider selling packages that include print. This ensures print continues providing revenue for you, while reminding clients of its efficacy.

Achieving that requires there to be no barriers between traditional and digital. It requires a hard look at what may by now be redundant processes – just because you’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean that’s how it should be done today.

5. Revisit your technology

If the heart of your business is the company culture – and the people that embody that – technology is the arteries. 

Technology has undergone step-change evolution in recent years, and many publishers may be intimidated by the scale of change required to adapt to the coming decade. The key is to start small and scale up, implementing forward-thinking technology that can develop along with you.

The three major areas that require attention are: data and analytics, systems integration, and automation.

Achieving a 360-degree view of customers will become increasingly important, as will robust tracking of campaign performance. Integrated systems are essential for achieving the kind of frictionless, holistic model we’ve discussed – as are adaptable systems, perhaps able to add modular functionality over time via open APIs.

And automation is a crucial plank in boosting efficiency, so as to widen your margins without increasing costs. Even simple automations like rules-based alerts can make a huge difference. These will surely be eclipsed by more powerful, AI-assisted functions before long.

Adapt to evolve

The most important point is to ensure your organisation is ready to continually evolve through a period of unprecedented change. 

To find out more about the trends shaping the new decade – and how you should respond and prepare – download our new whitepaper, The New Rules of Advertising: Surviving the 2020s as a Publisher.