Spotlight: Xaxis focuses on omni-channel experiences to drive better business outcomes

August 20, 2020 | 4 minute read
Derek Wise
Chief Product Officer, Oracle Data Cloud
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Ideally, all aspects of a marketing campaign should move the needle in achieving desired business outcomes. Global events underscore this imperative. Marketers are facing tighter budgets and a quickly changing content cycle means precision is necessary to stay on top of consumer sentiment and avoid unsuitable environments.

I sat down recently with Cécile Blanc, Senior Director of Global Solutions & Innovations at Xaxis, the programmatic arm of GroupM, to discuss why cross-channel marketing and relevance are key to creating meaningful connections with consumers.

The following is a snippet of our conversation. For more insight, tune in to this episode of the Xaxis People of Programmatic podcast.

1. 2020 has been a tumultuous year. In your opinion, what should be top of mind for marketers right now?

Cécile: Indeed, 2020 started with Google’s groundbreaking announcement that Chrome was going to stop supporting 3rd party cookies. However, it was quickly put into perspective by the pandemic spreading globally and, just as important, by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The elimination of 3rd party cookies will put pressure on tactics such as view-through conversion tracking. But there is a strong message that we should hear, which is that consumers are rejecting some of the intrusive ways we [marketers] have monetized the internet over the past decade. Proxy metrics such as clicks have incentivized poor practices like aggressive 1st party data retargeting, which in turn have damaged the user experience.

Marketers should move away from these metrics to focus on optimizing media investments toward their desired business outcomes. This will incentivize better relationships with quality publishers, a renewed attention to contextual relevance and suitability, and efforts to improve the creative that we put in front of consumers—all contributing to a better user experience.

As for COVID-19, 2020 is and will be a tough year for marketers. eMarketer predicted that the US will fall back on pre-COVID forecasts by 2024 for digital ad spending, but we have learned by now to take forecasts with a pinch of salt. In this context, we should all focus on what we can control: tying spends to real outcomes, putting comprehensive measurement solutions in place, and being nimbler with budgets.

Finally, the Black Lives Matter movement is an opportunity to address our past and build a better industry and society on cleaner foundations. It is our collective responsibility to seize it. For marketers, it mirrors what we talked about earlier: better relationships with quality publishers and attention to contextual suitability. That way, ad dollars never end up funding hate speech, and efforts on the creative front push inclusive messaging because we know that advertising participates in shaping our culture and perceptions.

2. Omni-channel experiences and cross-platform marketing are surfacing as hot topics in the industry with the current climate. What does omni-channel mean to you and your clients? Has that evolved from before COVID-19?

Cécile: To me, omni-channel means finding the mix of channels that will help our clients achieve better outcomes. For example, digital out-of-home (DOOH) and mobile, joined up by location data, have worked well together to help our retail clients increase store footfall.

With the spread of COVID-19, media habits changed at a pace that was hard to follow. As consumption increased, video and e-commerce were strong areas of focus for my team in the first semester, generating more availability and opportunity for marketers.

Solutions that were in our innovation pipeline, such as in-game advertising, are now slightly reprioritized. We have seen an uptick of 30 percent during the first month of lockdown, and the audience has broadened well beyond male teenagers to be actually half female––a lot of them moms!

Marketers should be ready to follow their audience where it goes. Programmatic buying is not just display and mobile anymore. Over the past two years, we have onboarded new channels, such as audio and DOOH. Marketers should reconsider the benefits of programmatic buying in terms of flexibility to combine different channels, and to adapt to real-time signals like location data. This is important in a post-COVID-19 world where local lockdowns will start to lift.

3. Can you weigh in on the brand-safety and brand-suitability conversation? Where do you see the importance of Contextual Intelligence and relevant advertising?

Cécile: Brand safety starts with basic hygiene measures, such as inventory exclusion lists, pre-bid filtering, and ads.txt. With COVID-19, we took a proactive approach to exclude certain types of content. For example, this included anything related to fake cures. We were also careful to retain brand-safe content, and to continue funding quality journalism.

The same applies in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, where it is important to protect our clients from exposure to violent content, while also allowing quality publishers to monetize the coverage of these important events.

Beyond brand safety, I believe that Contextual Intelligence is an important ingredient to achieve the outcomes that our clients desire. Our industry perhaps got overly excited with audience targeting, regardless of where that audience was. This is changing as part of a refocus on real outcomes rather than media-delivery metrics. We know that the same message resonates differently depending on the environment it is displayed in, so tying the audience and the creative to Contextual Intelligence is key.

4. Xaxis is all about cutting-edge programmatic. What are you most excited about right now?

Cécile: Two things are gaining momentum that I’m really excited about because they expand the perception and purpose of programmatic buying: new channels going programmatic, and the fact that we’re getting more involved in creative aspects.

We’re pushing digital-first formats and exploring ways to quantify and predict what we know intuitively to be true: the creative that consumers end up seeing and interacting with works just as hard as sophisticated audience-targeting tactics when it comes to delivering outcomes.

The same goes with omni-channel executions: as consumers, we know that structural silos between channels do not make sense. So, as marketers, it’s exciting to build these bridges to close the gaps.

Derek Wise

Chief Product Officer, Oracle Data Cloud

Derek is Vice President of Product at Oracle Data Cloud where he leads product management for context solutions. He is a technologist at heart with a passion for people and process management. Prior to this role, Derek was the Chief Technology Officer of Grapeshot, acquired by Oracle Data Cloud in 2018. His background includes more than 10 years of operating infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings at various companies, including GNi, which he founded.
Derek’s extensive experience also includes building software teams in the areas of artificial intelligence in pharmaceutical research, online games, and open API platforms. His background in the U.S. Marines gave him insights into a wide range of communications security practice. Derek has a strong interest in Agile and product development processes that put the customer at the center of design.

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