Digital Transformation Has Come for the Ad Sales Business

The right technology can streamline efforts to better serve your customers

The complexity of today’s advertising landscape would make Don Draper’s head spin. What used to be just print, TV and radio has morphed into an endless number of channels where audiences encounter ads, all served up by a sophisticated maze of technology. Getting your message in front of as many eyeballs as possible is great for advertisers, but how those ads end up where they do is a disjointed, convoluted process for everyone working on the back end.

Despite digital always-on ads surging in the last several years, no one has really come up with a universal platform to help manage ad placements on these emerging channels. Instead, ad operations teams need to work with multiple ad-tech platforms and systems to execute and measure campaigns on display, video, audio, social media, print and out-of-home channels. Add to that the hundreds (or thousands) of ad campaigns that run every year, and it’s a nightmare, frankly.

Digital transformation is a buzzword

Nearly every industry is talking about digital transformation, but what does it really mean and how can it impact ad sales? Digital transformation is about changing the way business is conducted, and it forces companies to ask big questions like, “Can we change our processes in a way that will enable better decision-making, game-changing efficiencies or a better customer experience with more personalization?”

In terms of ad sales, these are five areas with the greatest opportunity to transform the industry:

People. We are moving from placement-centricity to people-centricity. Advertisers want to reach specific audiences, so capturing those targets through personalization on the channels they prefer will take priority over specific placements of their ads on the publisher’s properties.

Walled gardens. Advertisers expect campaign transparency and accountability from publishers. Publishers need to provide advertisers with transparent analytics and access to independent and unbiased vendors within the ad-tech ecosystem, unlike walled gardens such as Amazon, Google and Facebook where access to data is limited and reporting is opaque.

Automation. Ad sales teams want to offload non-value-added tasks that take up their bandwidth. Instead, they want to focus on developing and fostering advertiser relationships to grow their ad business instead of spinning wheels on transactional chores like sending reports on ad sales performance, checking availability of ad inventory, and other manual, time-consuming processes that drown people in spreadsheets and email.

Data strategy. Third-party cookies are dead, forcing advertisers and the ad sales ecosystem to undergo a new wave of innovation much like how the introduction of cookies enabled innovation in advertising years ago.

New entrants. Every company that depends heavily on advertising—beyond media, into retail, consumer packaged goods and more—is trying to grow their ad revenue as a result of new opportunities in direct-to-consumer. 

Tapping into the opportunity

Personalization is driving the future of advertising, but it’s difficult. A little over two years ago, I decided to make the move over to Vlocity, which was then acquired by Salesforce last year. I was excited about the acquisition because I believed Salesforce had the vision and infrastructure to truly deliver personalized experiences. And the acquisition signaled Salesforce’s commitment to doubling down on Vlocity’s efforts to create compelling, industry-specific solutions. Beyond that, I was excited to take Salesforce’s vision and bring it to media and entertainment companies and explicitly address the challenges those in the industry face as they think through and build out their technical infrastructure to support a dynamic environment.

Chief among these efforts is helping media companies maximize their end customer’s lifetime value. We do this by integrating revenue streams and organizational processes onto a single platform that easily scales to their business. Unifying everything onto a single platform allows companies to expand more easily, whether it’s the number of campaigns they’re supporting or growing into new markets.

We’re also innovating in the areas where digital transformation can make big impacts for publishers. For example, our converged platform automates more mundane tasks to free up bandwidth on teams so they can focus on selling. The platform’s flexibility allows teams to think strategically about reaching core audiences on the channels where they spend the most time. We’re also working on ways to use the data that we gather to extract more meaningful insights and transform the roles of salespeople into more consultative roles as trusted advisors.

Competing with the juggernauts

Media companies are in the throes of yet another shift where they need industry-specific know-how and technology to save time and reduce costs while supporting their growth. In a world where over 64% of digital ad revenues are gobbled up by Facebook, Amazon and Google, implementing the right technology infrastructure to capture as much of the remaining share is no longer an option—it’s a necessity.

The right technology will help not only streamline processes and create cost-saving efficiencies, it will also set up organizations for success in the future. That means having a converged platform that provides a single view of available products and ad inventory so that sales reps can maximize revenues. It means using automation and pre-built workflows so that teams can focus on selling and not be bogged down by time-consuming administrative tasks. And it means having the data and insights that uncover deep consumer insights to forge better relationships between publishers and brands so they can all deliver the greatest value to their customers.

Christopher S. Dean or “CD” is VP and GM of Salesforce for media and entertainment industry cloud efforts, setting strategy and managing operations for solutions that help media companies accelerate growth, agility and differentiation through industry-specific cloud and mobile technology.