Rod Banner wants to take a different approach to advertising, because he appreciates when things work well.
As we’re setting up the equipment for our interview in an airy conference centre overlooking Chancery Lane, he stands to inspect a pair of LED lamps that we’re using to light the room. “They’re really good,” he says as he compares the small battery-powered lamps to the bulky units that he saw on a film set recently.
The ingenuity in the lamps is subtle; most people never notice the equipment they’re surrounded by, but Banner did. This appreciation of when something works well is indicative of the approach that at one time made him CEO of Europe’s biggest business-to-business agency in Europe (Banner Corporation), and now makes him a renowned marketing technology guru taking a different approach to advertising.
Banner believes that when things work well, they sell well, and there’s evidence to support his claim.
Look at Apple: back in 2012 Tim Bajarin, who worked closely with all of Apple’s CEOs at one time or another, wrote a piece for Time magazine giving six reasons why Apple products were so successful. Of his six reasons, five of them were focused around providing elegant solutions to the existing problems in the tech world.
iPods and iPhones weren’t designed to be the most technologically advanced products in the world, they were designed to be so good that people couldn’t live without them.
Instead of designing something complex, the Apple engineers were encouraged to develop something that they’d actually want, with Steve Jobs acting as their target customer.
Obviously the approach was astronomically effective as the iPod won the personal music player wars, and people even embraced (or at least stomached) the weighty price tag because iPods worked so well.
Like Jobs and Apple replacing the MP3 world with one obvious solution, Banner and his new company 3LA are taking a different approach to advertising, trying to provide an elegant answer to something that has become increasingly problematic: the inefficient world of online advertising.
Banner wants to turn online advertising into a helpful and logical space, rather than something that people try to avoid at all costs.
Banner’s agenda for taking a different approach to advertising will begin with programmatic ad-buying, i.e. the purchasing of adverts digitally in a bidding format.
Some people view the new buying process as a scatter-gun approach to marketing that has limited effectiveness, and Banner is one of them:
“Programmatic ad buying in my opinion was largely created by agencies to spend much more money, much more quickly in digital assets.”
“Programmatic doesn’t actually address the needs of the end-user, the customer, the prospect. They’re bombarded by ads, quite often you’re being spammed up the ‘wazzoo’.”
Turning off adblocker can turn online browsing into an arduous experience, with your progress being accompanied by adverts for a pair of trainers you looked at six months ago. And that’s not to mention the amount of spam you get from most retailers once you’ve made a single order from their website.
Banner agrees a different approach to advertising is needed: “Re-targeting drives me insane. After you’ve bought something people still keep on selling you stuff.”
So what is the solution to the inefficient approach to advertising that programmatic ad-buying can cause?
In an article Banner wrote for Hot Topics explaining MadTech, he explained that: “The slew of proximity and geolocation technologies mobile/smartphone advances, mean it’s increasingly easy to track your activity in the physical world. Where you go, what you do, who you do it with.”
“By overlaying this data on your social media history, your personal preferences and your buying history, it’s possible to build a behavioral profile of staggering granularity.”
The amount of data recorded by smart devices can allow advertisers to tailor adverts to consumers with incredibly specificity.
The collection of big data to tailor advertising choices, if used correctly, is an elegant solution to online marketing as the iPod was to the world of personal music players.
Banner continues: “To my mind, marketing should be about using that knowledge to serve really relevant, hyper relevant insights to you.”
“If I am approached by a salesman who gets what I am, what I do, they talk to me in a language that I will relate to. They immediately make a few jumps to the kind of person that I am. By doing so they wrap their sales patter in the shiny things that I want to know about.”
So instead of being hounded by multiple adverts which is annoying and intrusive, Banner’s different approach to advertising will give users specific content tailored to their needs. In theory, this won’t even feel like advertising, it will feel like friendly advice that you will be much more inclined to take.
Banner concludes: “What we’re attempting to understand, using AI and personal data, is much more about the individual. Not sell at them, but be there for them.”
The advertisers get their audience, the media get their money, and the consumer gets sensible recommendations that they might actually be grateful for.