In this exclusive “Masters of Media” series, Integral Ad Science (IAS) speaks to the Movers and Shakers of the ANZ advertising industry, on all matters digital.
Nathan Brown is the Global Paid Media Manager at Fonterra. Nathan is responsible for relationships with media agency, vendor and technology partners to drive efficiency and effectiveness of marketing spend across the global Fonterra business.
Integral Ad Science (IAS): Nathan, tell us more about your digital advertising journey.
Nathan Brown, Fonterra (Nathan): I’ve always loved advertising from a young age, but to be fair my journey has been determined more by fate than design. I stumbled into digital advertising, back when we were hard coding ads into our sites and ‘measurement’ was how long it had been up for and an estimate made for site traffic. Yeah, those days!
My day job included managing client websites so it was a pretty steep learning curve and adding to it was the complexity of an ad server. This was followed by a move to the media agency world and was marked by both the sophistication of the AdOps function as well as stepping through the planning and client service hierarchy, which on reflection make me feel quite old now! One of my highlights was running an amazing team of AdOps and programmatic specialists building and growing the Publicis trading desk in New Zealand.
In the years since, I made a move towards the client side to help guide organisations transform their digital media strategy, tackling issues such as in-housing, agency transparency, and Adtech/Martech investment and infrastructure.
IAS: In your experience, how has the digital advertising industry changed in the recent past and what does the industry of the future look like?
Nathan: At times I dislike the catchall ‘Digital’ term, particularly as we see more traditional or offline channels become digitised too. I hope the future sees the retirement of the term ‘digital’.
The recent past has really shone a light on the murkier areas of our industry and I think it’s brilliant. Transparency and honesty in the way we operate from all sides of the equation are critical for the continued growth of ‘digital’. Whilst I’m not convinced (yet) of the ‘blockchain’ (or whatever buzzword is current) will solve transparency, I am convinced that we’re moving in the right direction.
Regarding the future, these are challenging times for everyone in the industry right now it’s sometimes hard to look beyond the short term, however, the future is exciting! I feel the consumer behavioural shifts happening during lockdowns will have an unknown long term effect on media consumption, commerce, and interaction. Digital media practitioners have always had to learn and adapt rapidly so we’re all very well placed to ride this wave of cultural evolution.
IAS: What are the key initiatives pertaining to digital media quality your company is prioritising right now? E.g. ad fraud, viewability, brand suitability
Nathan: Being in a globally focussed role we certainly have some very different priorities in different regions and markets. We’ve been doing a good job with the quantitative measures like viewability and brand safety that when we’ve agreed on the appropriate parameters we’ve been able to get things locked in. Our focus will be in defining what is suitable for our brands from a global perspective with subtle variances in local definitions. It certainly starts to introduce qualitative measures to advance efforts in this space.
IAS: What are some of the key innovations your team at Fonterra is spearheading to keep ahead of the digital transformation?
Nathan: The single biggest change for Fonterra has been taking a lead in the ownership of our marketing data and platforms. We’ve been working closely with internal stakeholders and our agency partners on the approach, design, platforms and required outputs. Brands need to take ownership of data and not leave it up to a single partner to own or define your approach.
IAS: What are views on digital advertising in the cookie-less world? What role will contextual targeting play?
Nathan: We’re seeing these changes as a result of privacy concerns and consumer demand so it’s going to be positive in the long term. We’re not going to be completely cookieless, First Party data will quite rightly take its place of prominence if it wasn’t there already. We’re up for some huge challenges in identity management and consent seeking but we will continue to evolve as an industry. I don’t buy into the narrative of we’ll lose all personalisation of ads.
As a bit of a sweeping generalisation, we’ve probably gone too far down the targeting rabbit hole, particularly with 3rd Party Data. Contextual targeting should never be overlooked in a media schedule or targeting matrix, with appropriate optimisation of campaigns and clearly defined outcomes the data will always tell us what is right. I think in the short term, advertisers without a solid first part data set or identity graph will need to lean on contextual targeting until they find their feet in the brave new world.
IAS: Any books or podcasts you’d like to recommend to our readers?
Nathan: I’d love to take more recommendations myself! I can never find enough time to read, but I’m a huge fan of podcasts. Adexchanger Talks is always top of the list with Advertising is dead and yeah, that’s probably an ad. There is so much content that I’m constantly meaning to get to but failing to get stuck into. My area of focus at the moment is around marketing theory (Mark Ritson, Les Binet, Peter Field, etc.) so catching up on all the webinars that have been pumped out during lockdown.
IAS: What is your advice to the fresh talent entering the digital industry?
Nathan: #Fail. There are a ton of inspirational failure based quotes from much more eloquent people than me. Failure is also a part of what we do. It’s ok. Managers need to embrace this too. If we don’t learn and change then that is the only true failure. Someone else probably said that.
That really leads to Ask questions and Be brave. Everyone started out not knowing something and there’s always the next time.