“While tech tools can aid in generating greater efficiencies, what’s more important would be to adopt an organizational mindset that promotes flexibility and agility, which can facilitate marketers to make better connections between consumer insights and customer experience,” says Gowthaman “G’man” Ragothaman, CEO of Aqilliz in an exclusive interview with TalkCMO.
TCMO Bureau: What are the biggest challenges that brands and marketers are facing today?
Gowthaman Ragothanman: Brands are under immense pressure to ensure their MarTech stacks are ready for the looming demise of third-party cookies. With Google’s Chrome browser following in the footsteps of its peers in banning third-party cookies by 2022, digital marketers need to find sustainable solutions to replace existing approaches of targeting consumers through third-party data, which can be inaccurate, intrusive, and ethically questionable.
This has given rise to many industry players experimenting with various alternatives to third-party cookies. From shared identifiers to device fingerprinting—a method of assigning identities to users based on a set of features from their devices— such point solutions have merely served as quick fixes that fail to address the underlying issue: the digital marketing industry is in dire need of solutions that inherently prioritize privacy-by-design.
In line with this, a vast array of privacy regulations has only made the digital landscape even trickier to navigate. With approximately 100 countries having their own version of data privacy and protection frameworks with different terms and definitions, little consideration is given to the technical implications of their demands on marketers themselves. Yet, 60 percent of consumers still expect personalized interactions as a standard of service. Effectively discovering and engaging consumers while remaining compliant remains a key challenge facing brands and marketers today.
TCMO Bureau: How can blockchain technology help to integrate the fragmented advertising environment?
Gowthaman Ragothaman: For the longest time, the marketing industry has been reliant on third-party cookies for measurement and targeting. With shared IDs set to be eliminated, marketers are now faced with an increasingly fragmented advertising landscape, with an array of ID replacements and point solutions on the market looking to replace the cookie.
Despite the scramble to find viable alternatives, the industry has yet to find the answer. Given the stringent regulatory requirements around user data and privacy, what the industry needs is an open-source, interoperable, third-party platform that can be administered independently—and this is where blockchain technology can come into re-architect the industry and realign the existing relationships between member participants.
As a distributed ledger, blockchain allows information to be transparently shared across all network participants, eliminating the need for a central authority. With end-to-end visibility coupled with immutability, blockchain provides assurances that all data and transactions on the network are verifiably tamper-proof.
On the distributed ledger, data can only be modified with the owner’s consent and the agreement of all authorized network stakeholders. With its emphasis on transparency and accountability, blockchain provides a valuable incentive for brands, publishers, and vendors to participate in a unified network that enables efficient, secure data-sharing.
Simultaneously, one of the most remarkable innovations to arise out of blockchain that marketers can leverage are smart contracts—pre-encoded contractual agreements that automatically execute if predetermined conditions are met.
Smart contracts can be used to minimize the impact of existing administrative processes such as impression reconciliation and payment disbursement. As all participating stakeholders share the same records across a transparent ledger, reconciliation and disbursement can take place in near real-time, eliminating the need for intermediaries, traditionally required to consolidate records on behalf of advertisers and publishers.
TCMO Bureau: What other tech tools can brands and enterprises adopt to increase their operational efficiencies and marketing RoI?
Gowthaman Ragothaman: Amid cuts in marketing budgets throughout the past year, efficiency and ROIs have become more of a priority than ever as marketers continue to employ cost-saving measures. As brands enter an era where digital transformation has taken center stage, tech tools have also become critical in enhancing operational efficiencies and maximizing returns.
As brands witness an increasingly privacy-centric future, adopting innovative models of customer data platforms and customer relationship management tools will be critical to ensuring that identity management processes are fully streamlined and compliant across all your operations.
Yet, today’s MarTech landscape is over-saturated, today known more infamously as the Martech 5000, due to the plethora of options available at marketers’ disposal. Instead, brands are faced with an impossible amount of choices that can lead to poor investment decisions and duplication across one’s tech infrastructures. When assessing new MarTech tools, organizations need to remember that an efficient, productive tech stack is ultimately characterized by its interoperability and ease of use, allowing for seamless integration with existing systems.
While tech tools can aid in generating greater efficiencies, what’s more, important would be to adopt an organizational mindset that promotes flexibility and agility, which can facilitate marketers to make better connections between consumer insights and customer experience.
The key to capturing greater ROIs and enhancing operational efficiencies is agile marketing, which the majority of CMOs, have stated that they are already adopting some elements of. The concept of agile marketing draws on a framework of speed, quality, and flexibility that enables organizations to adequately react to changes in the marketing environment while also leveraging emerging technologies to build their digital toolkits to better support their marketing campaigns for more meaningful customer engagement.
TCMO Bureau: How does blockchain technology enable brands to provide transparency to their customers?
Gowthaman Ragothaman: While data is no doubt an important source of insights for marketers, this has historically come at the expense of consumers’ privacy and regulators have been quick to take note. With heightening concerns over data breaches and privacy infringements, frameworks such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act have prompted marketers to adopt a new standard of operations.
With its emphasis on transparency and immutability, blockchain enables brands and publishers to comply with documentation requirements as stipulated in Article 30 of the GDPR, Records of Processing Activities (ROPA).
ROPA demands that all processing activities—spanning categorization, the purpose of processing, as well as the list of data recipients—must be properly documented and presented to authorities upon request. Given such stringent requirements, the use of blockchain fulfills a critical requirement of data compliance, as the ability to produce data processing records is a focus of data compliance inspections.
At its core, blockchain technology provides a fully auditable ledger of transactions, storing information in a way such that it cannot be altered. While much has been said about blockchain’s ability to provide greater transparency, this will ultimately depend on the network’s governance structure and in-built rights of revision.
To mitigate concerns, network participants can opt for a hybrid blockchain system that combines the security and scalability of a public blockchain with the accountability and decentralization of a public blockchain. This ultimately aids in reconciling privacy with transparency while simultaneously serving brands in need of privacy-compliant solutions.
Gowthaman “G’Man” Ragothaman is the CEO of Aqilliz, a blockchain solutions provider that looks to address issues across the platform economy. Affectionately known as G’Man across Asia’s advertising community, his career spans over 20 years across the continent, having held multiple positions during his tenure at the WPP group of companies. Recently, G’Man was the Global Client Lead at WPP and Global Blockchain Solutions lead at GroupM, where he looked to introduce blockchain-based solutions and distributed ledger technology to WPP clients worldwide.