Industry News
Opinion: Brands can bring down walled gardens, but only if they want to
Antonio Tomarchio
December 11, 2019

Once upon a time, “walled gardens” brought with them visions of splendid, sun-drenched, hedge-lined gardens set against the historic castles of Britain or conjured scenes in our minds from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic English children's novel, “Secret Garden.”

Today, the ad industry paints a very different picture of walled gardens, otherwise known as closed ecosystems, and laments about the lack of transparency in a place where platform owners have control over applications, content and media, while restricting easy access to content and applications that they don’t approve of.

Advertising Research Foundation President and CEO, Scott McDonald, has highlighted the need for unified, autonomous, third-party measurement across the advertising ecosystem to attain a holistic view of the consumer across all channels, with full transparency, accountability and unduplicated reach metrics. McDonald said that if these big walled-garden players would, for the common good, support unified third-party measurement, the whole industry would benefit from much more comprehensive measurement of media and advertising exposures.

He’s right.

My company, Cuebiq, recently commissioned a study that found that marketers’ No. 1 concern is the inability to effectively measure cross-channel. Evolving from walled gardens to an open framework for data is the only way to guarantee that all channels can be measured and allow marketers to have a complete view of how marketing decision-making impacts behavior.

The walled gardens are hindering cross-channel advertising because they remain a locked black box. No matter how much money brands pour into them, everything is still a deep, dark secret that we cannot unravel.

Why do those with the power to create change, accept this? Advertisers invest billions of dollars into walled gardens and have the muscle to exert pressure companies like Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and Google to cooperate in cross-platform measurement. Brand leaders can flex their wallets and aptly argue that transparency can’t happen with walled gardens and demand a scalable, cross-channel solution and better access to data and portability. All the while, importantly, ensuring that safeguards are implemented to protect the end user via privacy, consent, data provenance and verification.

In determining how to best execute on true cross-channel measurement, I think mobile should be the catalyst for the new marketing infrastructure. Why? Because mobile sits at the core of 1:1 marketing, and, by design, allows us to put the user at the center. By beginning with mobile measurement, you can then expand across all channels effectively, with the right framework in place.

What’s more, mobile can be controlled and is privacy-compliant, which means it can ensure there is a proper value exchange created between the marketer and the consumer.

Regardless of how we decide independent cross-channel measurement will look like, it’s clear that marketers need a holistic picture of their efforts in order to understand and impact consumers’ lifetime value (LTV), which is imperative to take multi-touch attribution (MTA) to the next level.

Cross-channel measurement was a big topic of discussion at Advertising Week in New York this year as well. In a session hosted by the 4A's, industry leaders agreed that breaking down walled gardens is necessary for true cross-channel measurement, but maintain there are still challenges facing true cross-channel measurement coming to fruition. Jane Clarke, CIMM’s CEO, expressed concerns about the lack of technology available to support the new cross-media standards. Along with the lack of technology, privacy concerns are also an issue facing the new standards.

As the industry continues to work towards addressing these and any other concerns, ARF’s McDonald encourages marketers to support standards, such as those advanced by CIMM and the IAB Tech Lab, who are devising workarounds to fill in the blind spots in measurement. Those organizations have made great strides in measurement despite the hurdles of black boxes.

But to truly create change, advertisers hold the key to walled gardens cooperating to create independent, third-party, cross-platform measurement. Until then, we’re locked out of their splendid, sun-drenched, hedge-lined gardens and are missing huge pieces of information that would better inform and perhaps completely transform our marketing strategies and tactics.

 

Antonio Tomarchio is Founder and CEO of Cuebiq, a leading mobile location intelligence company. With over 15 years of experience, Tomarchio is an industry veteran and entrepreneur with expertise in mobile marketing and big data, location intelligence, offline analytics and attribution analysis with a deep understanding of the SaaS and DaaS business model.