Postback 2018: OTT, the Importance of Thick Data and Other Takeaways

TUNE’s not-to-be-missed annual Postback conference this last week was another mobile event for the books. We spent two days soaking up the Seattle summer greenery and learning about the latest mobile trends with a healthy dose of extracurriculars mixed in, including a lively performance by Saint Motel and cheeky keynote from comedian James Vietch. Below we recount some of the major takeaways from #Postback18:

1. Most things can (and should) be automated

TUNE CEO Peter Hamilton kicked off Postback 2018 with a presentation about automation and the activities companies should start automating. These include operational tasks like reconciliation, invoicing and fraud detection and research activities, like undertaking audience analysis and creating lookalike audiences. Hamilton noted that even content creation would be automated in the near future, citing the fact that in 10 years machines will write novels. The lasting takeaway is that we must embrace technological advances and the opportunity to use automation to scale. Hamilton left with the advice: if you’re doing things every single day, you should be automating them. Free your time as a marketer.

2. That said, there’s no substitute for authentic human stories and relationships

While automation poses opportunities for scale, Hamilton noted that certain key aspects of successful marketing could never be automated, including partnerships and creativity. In this respect, Hamilton talked about the importance of human insight in certain research capacities since machines miss the context and complexities of culture. Automation could also never act as a substitute for the building of human relationships, which remains the key ingredient of the mobile marketing ecosystem.

3. OTT is where it’s at

OTT (over-the-top), or video transmitted via the internet bypassing traditional cable distribution, was a new channel talked about throughout Postback 2018, both as an avenue for growth, as well as a source of potential pitfalls.

By 2021, 58% of U.S. consumers will use connected TVs at least once every month. Already about 55% of the U.S. population, or 181.5 million people, consume content via connected TVs, representing a huge opportunity for new customers. Multiple panelists at Postback talked about the opportunities posed by OTT as an exciting new channel. Among the insights noted: the fact that already many media and content companies are jumping onto the streaming TV bandwagon, rapidly fragmenting the market (in fact, there are already over 200 OTT services in the U.S. market); and the evolving enhancement in OTT targeting, personalization, measurement and engagement. Today, savvy marketers are utilizing advanced analytics tools to buy the highest quality inventory, target the right audience and effectively measure the results. Opportunities aside, issues with multi touch attribution with OTT were discussed, with the recent acquisition of AppNexus by AT&T mentioned as an interesting case study of an attempt to construct an end-to-end compatible ad stack to deal with tracking challenges.

4. Get by GDPR with a little help from your friends

It’s been almost two months since GDPR took effect and, unsurprisingly, Postback was a buzz with the implications of what to expect going forward. Panelists discussed the importance of looking to other players in the mobile space to understand how GDPR would be enforced, since its interpretation will largely be based on how key players confront it. The idea of pragmatic compliance was brought up, or the discussion with peers about how they’re enforcing GDPR internally in order to understand whether your own enforcement is too lax or too severe. The key takeaway: GDPR is a complex law, so it’s important to maintain flexibility in the event you need to pivot to meet its regulations. GDPR also represents an opportunity for business success. Keep up with it and don’t enforce compliance in a silo.

5. It’s not about Big data but THICK data

In a provocative keynote from Dr. Tricia Wang, a global tech ethnographer, Wang made a compelling case for the limits of big data and its ability to apply human intuition to decision-making. Wang argued for the use of “thick data” to compliment big data, describing thick data as the aspects of the human experience that can’t be quantified.

Rather than represent a panacea to remedy all mobile marketing needs: including precision targeting and efficient budget allocation, data itself is meaningless unless one can effectively process the information. At best, machine intelligence is still at a stage where it can only augment human intelligence, rather than act as a convincing substitute. This poignant takeaway was a much-needed reminder of the importance of human insight in forging authentic human connections with mobile users. In this vein, Wang highlighted that the next stage of marketing will highlight the importance of insight-driven communication: marketers will be expected to understand their customers better and put the power back in their hands.