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Are Walled Gardens the Future?

Marketing Horizons Are Walled Gardens the Future?

Why do walled gardens exist in the first place? The answer is quite simple, because they can. When it comes to advertising, giant firms like Facebook and LinkedIn hold all their own cards. And with the demise of 3rd party data and cookies, the amount of data they have on users who readily allow access to personal information is unprecedented. But we are learning that this may spell bad news in the future for us marketers. Listen in to this episode with Heather Blank on how Walled Gardens will impact the future of advertising.



Ruth Stevens: What defines a walled garden and how does it fit in the marketing realm?

Heather Blank: In general, in the digital space, a walled garden means a platform or a website or an app where access to those users is guarded. Probably the best example and the one that people are mostly aware of is Facebook. Users are quarantined and segregated into the Facebook app and the Facebook website and advertisers must work directly with Facebook and Facebook tech to target those users. The measurement must happen within the platform of Facebook as well, and the data about those users and their interactions on the Facebook app or website are not accessible over the entire Internet.

Cyndi Greenglass: So, what we've seen is some of these giant firms, they have portrayed this as a way to protect their users and to provide privacy for their users, but it sounds like what it might actually be is that they're protecting it because this is a good monetary and business play for them and that we are going to have less access to consumer behavior information, less ability to optimize data. Is that what you think might happen Heather?

Heather Blank: It's certainly a risk. I think that Facebook, you know, is the most frustrating walled garden with marketers as far as their lack of transparency. They've also done a lot of good things around the privacy component too. So, Cyndi, to your question, they kind of are both. They’re doing more to make things transparent for the user, anybody who's just a consumer on Facebook can see an ad and click on the three dots in the right hand corner of that ad and see why you received that ad, what data was used to target, what the targeting methodology was and you can opt out of that as well. So, in that sense, the walled garden and the control that Facebook has put in the users hands is really good, but the flip side of that coin, you're right, they are locking down their users, their data and the eyeballs that they can offer up to a marketer. That makes it very hard for marketers than to have an omni-channel and holistic view of their marketing performance. You run a campaign and Facebook and you are targeting, say Heather Blank. You don't get to also then use Facebook data and measure how Heather Blank responded to your ads that they might have seen in other areas of their other walled gardens or the open Web. So, there's a lack of transparency and cross-platform targeting measurement capabilities in walled gardens.

Ruth Stevens: Is that because the other interactions we’re having with the Heather Blank of this example need to be matched up with our other marketing investments and sometimes we can't match them properly? Is that the problem?

Heather Blank: You’re right, if the Facebook ID doesn't match to any other standardized ad on the Internet and Facebook doesn't open their data to enable marketers to do that, it's hard to for all of us as marketers. We're constantly trying to be consistent in our messaging to the users, holistic across channels, give the right message at the right time, and it’s harder to do that when you're trying to put a walled garden as part of your media mix and then it's also hard to evaluate the performance of those campaigns and context of other areas that you might be serving ads.

Cyndi Greenglass: We’ve worked so hard to get better transparency and tracking and measurability and to be more relevant to the individual, right at the individual level and the pandemic made this more important than other times, where we were wanting to make sure that our communication with brands and around our marketing was very, very relevant and very personalized. If we start walling off content and we, as brands and marketers, do not know where our consumers are spending their time because they may not have visibility across the whole communication spectrum. What happens when we don't get that bi-directional data feed and we're not orchestrating a communication strategy that lets us know where our consumers are, if they venture into or spend time in these more walled gardens, is this going to hurt from a 360 conversational view in our customer?

Heather Blank: I think that there's two things at play going on right now. In the industry they are limiting the ability for marketers to do what they want to do as far as personalized and relevant messaging as walled gardens continue to pop up. Also, the consumers are shifting more to digital right now too, so think about, I don't know if you personally have experienced this, but, we watch a lot more streaming TV now than we did before, we're not going out as much or we're not going to the movies, so, you have a lot of consumers just migrating to these areas that are naturally sort of walled gardens that we weren't even thinking about yet and those are where the eyeballs are now, so that's where the marketing dollars have to flow.  You have this migration of the consumer to traditional walled gardens versus other areas that were more open and unlocked, so to speak, in the digital space and then you also have the other part of this, besides just the third-party cookie, there is a real play on how to give the ability to the consumer to determine who collects data and how much data you share and that's a good thing. In general, of course, we should have consumers that have their own control, but without the consumer being educated on what that data provides and the benefits that consumer gets from sharing that, they don’t know what they are opting out of. If you just think about your own personal experience, you get the pop up on your phone now that says hey this app wants to share data with people and the sort of visceral reaction to that is I’m not sharing my data, no way. But what that's going to cause, then, is marketers will have less access to broad scale data from consumer behavior across multiple touch points, which then results in consumers being stuck with having to watch a bunch of things and see a bunch of ads that's not relevant to them. If you think about going back to the old days of that AOL email and all of the irrelevant email spam you had in your inbox, and how far we've come as an industry to getting more relevant for the consumers. I worry about that being a risk, so everybody stopped sharing data, now marketers don't know anything about users and they still have to spend their marketing dollars, so the people with the biggest budgets will just be telling a loud story, and it will be a lot of irrelevant ads on our computer screens, on our phone screens and in our streaming TVs. I think moving to do some education around why you should share data and how data can be safe and how it benefits the consumer is really good, and I've seen some companies stepping up and doing that in general, so I think that's good.


Key Takeaways/Three Little Piggies:

  • Solutions seem to be potentially available on both the marketer side for interoperability and on the consumer side for universal consent, if only all the parties can figure out a way to get there, so that's positive and exciting.
  • If you have a unique community culture, a very vertically focused, niche audience and you have a portal or a data environment, maybe now’s the time to push that consent, maybe now's the time for you to develop that consent management and take advantage of that for a walled garden environment that makes some money because there may be lots and lots of advertisers and marketers who want access to your very targeted community and are willing to pay for it.
  • The problem for marketers and all of this is that we have been challenged with moving even closer to the omni-channel view of our audiences that we have been striving for decades, which is now challenged with walled gardens.

Marketing Communications Today presents Horizons, it’s forward-thinking, looking ahead, through the front windshield and beyond, into the marketing future. Join Cyndi and Ruth bi-weekly for new ideas, technologies, tools and strategies that are emerging to help marketers navigate over the marketing horizon.

Meet our guest

Heather Blank

Heather Blank has over 20 years of experience scaling and innovating the go-to-market strategies of digital enterprises. A background in both client-side and in-house technology roles gives her a unique perspective and solutions-oriented approach to product innovation. Heather started her data career running the first digital CRM program for PETCO Animal Supplies and has worked to build successful data businesses for Responsys, Oracle Data Cloud, Datalogix and MediaMath. In her current role as SVP Data Solutions at Revenue Vision Partners, she helps clients in retail, financial services and adtech develop data monetization strategies. Heather graduated with a B.A. in journalism from the University of Arizona and lives in San Diego with her husband and two children.



Meet the hosts

Cyndi Greenglass

Cyndi W. Greenglass is a founding partner and Senior Vice President Strategic Solutions at Diamond Communication Solutions, a data driven communications firm specializing in Healthcare, Financial Services and direct response solutions and an adjunct instructor in the Data Marketing Communications online master’s degree program from WVU.

Greenglass has twice been named into the Top 100 Influential BTB Marketers by Crain’s BtoB Magazine and was the 2012 CADM Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year. Greenglass is a member of the Executive Management team at Diamond Marketing Solutions where she is responsible for the strategic planning process, participates in strategic acquisitions, and manages the agency services division.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York.

Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City.


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