So, what exactly is today’s “Mad Man” (or “Mad Woman”)? Data-driven marketing communications and customer management have permanently changed the ad profession. But in the future, who’s going to do the actual work of marketing, and which institutions will dominate?
For most of the 20th century, ad agencies played a number of roles addressing the communication problems of brand marketers, and as information technology (IT) evolved, professionals in that field took care of the IT area in client firms. But now, as Harvard’s John Deighton observed in the Journal of Advertising Research’s Speaker’s Box column: “The two kinds of problems are converging, because marketing problems increasingly are addressed by IT solutions.”
Deighton asks, “What is the effect of this convergence? Which professional values get to dominate?” And, “in more practical terms, because values live in institutions, which institutions will dominate?” Deighton listed the contenders:
Deighton cited studies he co-authored showing the “remarkable growth of the commercial Internet in the U.S” and that in the U.S. as of 2016, “about $260 billion, or about one-third of all marketing spending, is spent on services that could not be performed without personal consumer data.
“The transformation of marketing, in the sense of customer acquisition and retention, from reliance on broadcast methods to addressable, interactive methods, is well underway,” he wrote.
These studies identified four layers of the personal-data supply chain:
“In our 2016 study,” Deighton wrote, “we tracked eight U.S. companies that did not fit tidily into the four layers of the data-supply chain. Each pursued a leviathan-scale vision that …. would make advertising agencies historical relics…. These eight companies pursued integration from three directions:
Apple was absent from the list because unlike these “walled-garden integrators” Apple seemed to be uninterested in personal data.
“The rest of the Internet, the so-called open Internet, depended on the flow of data among firms in the ecosystem…. These eight companies either are setting or have the potential to set the dominant design for all of Internet marketing and to be the platforms on which all marketing runs” (See Table 1).
JOHN DEIGHTON is the Harold M. Brierley Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is an authority on consumer behavior and marketing, with a focus on digital and direct marketing. His research on marketing management and consumer behavior can be found in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, and the Harvard Business Review, among other journals.