DMP Bootcamp: Adobe Audience Manager

Last week, Humix and our friends at iDA Mediafoundry co-organized a two-day boot camp to introduce some of our beloved clients to the world of Data Management Platforms (DMP). We invited Wouter Van Geluwe, Principal Solutions Consultant at Adobe and an expert on their own DMP: Adobe Audience Manager (AAM).


Simply put, a DMP is a tool that is used to capture and combine user data from multiple sources and to target those users with personalized content, through a range of online marketing platforms. User data can be collected from different types of sources: first party (collected directly by the organization), second party (collected by a partner of the organization) and third party (usually purchased, aggregated data from other sources). The DMP then uses a series of logical and organizational rules to combine and unify all data to individual user profiles. Based on these user profiles, the tool allows us to build segments based on certain characteristics that can then be targeted through a series of platforms.

The goal of a DMP is to enable an advanced user personalization and build experiences for the customers. By listening to your customers, a DMP can be used to translate the mountains of data that a company owns into a great user experience.

After the introduction, Wouter took us into Adobe Audience Manager to show us how simple it is do define these segments and put them to use in a marketing channel. Setting everything up in AAM was a breeze, and we had segments linked to destinations in a matter of minutes. However, if this boot camp has taught us anything, it’s that the technical implementation and setup is the easy part of working with a DMP. The hard part, and the most time-consuming, consists of strategic work and governance. Depending on the organization, it can take months or even years before everything is up and running and creating value for the company.

Everything starts with a dedicated and capable team, which Wouter called a Unicorn Team. There are four fundamental roles that should be covered within this team: a digital marketer, an analyst, a technologist and an optimization (CRO) expert. The workload for each of these roles will vary throughout the project, but a good understanding and cooperation between these roles is vital in making the DMP succeed.

The digital marketer needs to possess a good understanding of the possible business applications for AAM and will typically try to create a series of use cases to act on. These use cases will usually be focused on digital marketing (advertising) and digital sales (personalization). The digital marketer in a unicorn team has a primary role, and one of his key abilities will be to manage and lead business stakeholders, acting as the person that sets the foundation on which the DMP implementation is built.

Another primary role in the team is that of the digital or customer analyst. The analyst should have experience in developing customer and digital insights and using those insights to create multiple audience segments or personas to act on. A good analyst should have a multitude of skills. Performing research and the analysis of advertising and customer behavior are only a few examples. Typically, the analyst has the highest workload of all team members, acting as the liaison between all other members. Involvement will be high throughout the entire process, since new use cases can always be introduced and existing audience segments should be constantly optimized wherever possible.

Next is the technologist, typically a secondary role but also vital to the entire process. It is important to note that this is not necessarily a developer, but more of an architect. The technologist should of course have a basic understanding of web and mobile technologies like HTML, JavaScript or tag management, but practitioner experience is not mandatory in this case. Most important is that the technologist has the required basic knowledge to be able to communicate with the actual developers and guide the technical deployment process by laying out the architecture. The technical implementation typically follows the business and strategic process, but it is crucial that the technologist is involved from the very beginning, to indicate any blocking factors influencing the more strategic side of the story.

Last of the four key roles is the optimization or CRO expert, with a previous experience in optimization delivery. Most of his workload will be dedicated to programmatic advertising for advertising use cases, and conversion rate optimization for personalization use cases. Where the analyst needs more technical skills, the CRO expert will need to have more business skills, since he will have to work towards a certain business outcome. This role will be key in keeping the continuous flow going, since his insights will help in creating new use cases for advertising and personalization. However important, this is a role that many companies forget or neglect to fill in when creating their team.

Collaboration usually works in two phases. The image below is an illustration of how workloads for each role typically evolve in time.

For companies working with a media agency, the agency will act as a fifth role. Keep them close, keep them informed and let them know that a DMP is not a threat to them, but a tool to allow a better partnership where everyone can learn and increase performance.

The composition of the team also changes throughout the process, and grows along with the project. In the first phase, it will be just the unicorn team setting the foundation of the entire DMP project, where the analyst will act as the member that links the team together.

Later, in the second phase, every member will gather a dedicated team around them to perform day-to-day tasks, where the unicorn members will act as team leads in keeping the entire project aligned and on track.

The second day of the boot camp was focused around some interesting real-world business cases, showing us how other companies had put AAM to work. It was eye-opening to see how some of these cases used very simple segmentation tactics based on common sense to generate great results.

One of these tactics was the use of simple suppression segments. For example, so many companies are targeting users that have viewed a certain product page, with ads for that specific product. But they are not thinking about the money they are throwing away with useless targeting to some of these users. Many of them will have already bought the product on the site or will not have clicked on the ad after seeing it for the past two weeks. By simply eliminating (or suppressing) these users from the targeting segment, only relevant users will see the product advertisements.

Other cases provided insight into how data partnerships can be mutually beneficial for all partners involved. Many companies are already working together with partners, so setting up access to each other’s data (either one-way or two-way) is often a logical step. Credit card companies providing payment data to online retailers or betting firms exchanging data with sports clubs makes sense, yet there is still so much untapped potential.

Use cases have shown us that this simple user exclusion and other smart targeting tactics or the exchange of data between partners can lead to great improvements in click-through rates, conversion rates and budget savings.

There are many advantages to using a DMP that are relatively easy to achieve through the right tools. The biggest challenge is getting the organization and its members aligned, enabling dedicated teams and collaboration and convince everyone of the higher goal.

The boot camp gave us an excellent view of what AAM can (or cannot) do for a business, and we are very happy with the positive feedback that we got from our clients. A big thank you to them and Wouter for joining us.

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