AT&T has made a significant move to bolster its AdTech capabilities by buying AppNexus. The deal, estimated to be worth in excess of a billion dollars, is not just a big deal for the company itself but represents a significant shift in how seriously tech companies are taking AdTech.
The telecoms company hopes that its acquisition of the AdTech giant will take its ad platform to the next level, and first-party data will be at the heart of this drive. AT&T already has an enviable range of resources to push content to its consumers across multiple devices, channels, and locations. But the buyout of AppNexus shows that, for AT&T, the future in advertising is all about AdTech.
A shift into digital advertising
Although it's not fair or accurate to say that AT&T hasn't dipped its toe into digital marketing, it certainly isn't making the most of it. Joining together with AppNexus exposes the brand to a world of digital advertising that it's never discovered. From the AdTech giant's connections to other providers and clients, to its global footprint and array of specialist tools, AT&T hasn't just bought a company, it's bought its ticket to a whole new realm of advertising.
Multichannel and omnichannel campaigns are becoming a crucial part of marketing and, as more weight is placed on the user experience of brands and their collateral, this is only likely to increase. This means more than ever that businesses need to be able to predict and anticipate the behavior of their target audience and find a way to deliver the right message to them at the point when it matters the most.
With AppNexus, AT&T has the chance to gain more customer insight and learn how to use this data to develop effective and authentic advertising. Research shows this is difficult for brands of all sizes, despite the fact that positive consumer ad experiences are changing the perceptions - and behavior - of users. The telecoms company will be able to buy and sell against its high-quality data across a number of channels with connections that are already established.
Why is it important for AdTech?
Problems caused by a reliance on third-party data have come to a head for a number of brands this year, forcing many to look into other options. First-party data removes some - not all - of these issues, allowing companies to have more control and influence over the information they're receiving. In the age of GDPR and the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, being responsible for your own consumer data is paramount.
This has seen brands, like AT&T, embark on new drives to uncover the potential of first-party data marketing strategies. With regulations like GDPR insisting that companies must have a purpose for any data collected, showing that consumer information is being used to fuel marketing strategies is a major benefit for organizations of any size in any sector. It's arguably also a more ethical use of personal data, as it ultimately services the consumer by delivering a more personalized opportunity.
It's not just regulatory crackdowns that are changing the appeal of first-party data in AdTech for companies. The rising use of ad-blocking has forced brands to find organic ways to target consumers, which can only be reliably done by finding out as much as possible about the motivations and pain points driving a target audience, as well as their behavior online.
The changing digital marketing landscape has created the ideal stage for AdTech. Highly adaptable, it allows marketers to collect their own data without having to invest in expensive in-house solutions. For many brands, this has been a liberating - though challenging - shift in the ecosystem, allowing them to have much more control over what data is collected and how it influences campaigns.
The start of a revolution?
It's no secret that AT&T is trying to use the first-party data to revolutionize the future of advertising, and have a hand in determining it. In fact, Brian Lesser, AT&T's Advertising and Analytics CEO, said:
Innovation is core to the heritage of both AT&T and AppNexus, and we have an exciting opportunity to chart the future course of advertising together.
When the telecoms giant bought Time Warner, it sparked a sudden drive in M&A activity across the sector, as experts regarded AdTech businesses as the flavor of the week. But can it have a more lasting impact?
Marrying AdTech to first-party mobile data means brands have much more control over the consumer insight they gather, and how they use it. However, this will only change the way the industry acts as a whole if organizations use both AdTech and first-party data as part of a wider marketing strategy.
First-party mobile data gives marketers the opportunity to track users across a variety of channels, platforms and devices so it's crucial that there is a plan in place to utilize this large amount of quality data and transform it into a meaningful, personalized strategy.