Social Advertising is Getting Less Antisocial

October 16, 2017 — by Sara Skrmetti

Marketers have woken up to the fact that their communication with consumers needs to be consistent across every touch point. There’s just one problem: Some touch points remain resistant to becoming part of an omnichannel solution.

Take social networks. While video and mobile advertising have mostly folded into a 360-degree view of the consumer, social as a channel remains siloed. Mainly, that’s because the largest social networks are walled gardens, meaning they don’t make their data available or their auctions open. This makes everything about campaign execution hard – separate platforms, discontinuous and manual optimization and incomplete pictures of performance and attribution.

This situation won’t last. The market demands that social becomes more of a standard component of an omnichannel solution. In time, the market will win.

Forrester’s view

The latest proof that social is not exceptional came in the Forrester Wave Social Technology Q3 2017 report in August. The report portrays a market divided by small players with DSPs and marketing cloud solution providers waiting in the wings.

Forrester counts 144 vendors, which range from agencies to pure-play tech companies. As the report notes, “most are small fish managing microscopic media budgets.” Most reported less than $80 million in social ad spending running through their platforms in 2016.

Forrester predicts that social adtech won’t be its own category for long. There is already consolidation and although U.S. social ad spending will increase from $4.1 billion in 2016 to a projected $21 billion this year, the amount of ad spend managed by the top players in the space didn’t even double. Where’s the rest of that money going? To the social networks themselves.

Social ad buying has remained immature because the tech involved has remained immature for a long time, aside from the tech provided by the social networks directly. Many social ad companies are managing campaigns on behalf of advertisers, while the rest of the adtech ecosystem has leaned toward self-service. That indicates that many marketers are still figuring social advertising out. As the report notes, DSPs including MediaMath are beginning to offer social ad inventory alongside their RTB inventory. Eventually, social ad buying will be standard in DSPs, and ultimately absorbed into marketing cloud solutions, Forrester predicts.

My take

I couldn’t agree with Forrester more on this subject: Social can’t remain its own category for much longer. Currently, consumers spend about 50 minutes a day on Facebook properties alone out of a total of roughly 12 hours of daily media exposure. Marketers now realize that they need to coordinate their messaging during all of those 12 hours.

That said, the social networks won’t make it easy. It is in their best interest to remain walled gardens for a number of reasons, but this desire to stay separate won’t withstand the market’s demand for an omnichannel solution that includes social from activation to optimization, all the way through to measurement.

Market demand caused Facebook to partner with Visual IQ and the Neustar-owned MarketShare last year to provide third-party attribution. Similarly, they have partnered with a number of firms on third-party viewability measurement. I predict we will see more of this – the market will push walled gardens further toward transparency and independent verification.

I don’t expect the social networks to abandon their walled garden status any time soon. The siloed nature of social advertising will remain a challenge for marketers a bit longer, but I am confident the market will work out a solution that allows social to be one component of a 360-degree view of the customer.

Sara Skrmetti

Sara Skrmetti is the Senior Product Director of Social at MediaMath, where she manages the product teams that are integrating MediaMath’s platform with the media supply on the largest social media networks. Sara is an expert in applying algorithms to the advertising industry, and helped develop and commercialize MediaMath’s Optimization and Attribution products. A member of the MediaMath team since 2012, she has helped build the product, product strategy, and customer yield teams as the company has grown. Previous to MediaMath, Sara wrote algorithms for an engineering firm, and earned her undergrad and graduate degrees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she specialized in applying mathematical models to decision-making.