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AdAge Thinks Marketing Tech Is Just “So Damn Confusing!”

October 20, 2016 | By

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I quote: “It’s just that marketing tech works so hard to be boring.”

That is one of many myopic conclusions AdAge’s Ken Wheaton came to in a recent piece aptly entitled, “Martech Is So Boring — and It Should Stay That Way.”

Fortunately, he admits his bias right off the bat, acknowledging in the second paragraph that he is a “creativist (sic) at heart” who still loves good commercials. So already we can proceed knowing that he doesn’t really want to give martech a chance even if it’s necessary. His fluffy discussion with Neustar’s CEO included her conclusion that marketers just want to know, “How do you create the machine that’s super elegant, you hit the button and the answer comes out?”

Scott Brinker already defended the not boring-ness (look, Ken, I too can make up words!) of marketing tech but I take a slightly different approach. As with any class you may have found snooze-invoking in college or company financial disclosure that makes you go bleary-eyed, quite frankly, that’s a you problem. Just because you don’t find it interesting doesn’t mean that it isn’t and just because it’s not your thing doesn’t mean it’s not someone else’s.

But here’s my bigger issue with Ken’s conclusion that “The smart marketer isn’t going to get bogged down in [technology] details.” He’s completely wrong. And I actually laughed out loud that he bought into Lisa Hook’s conclusion that we’re just waiting for our magic “make it so” button, presumably tied with a bow on top. It’s nonsense. Marketing is undeniably more complex than it ever has been with forever-changing goal posts and morphing consumer behavior. And Ken’s concession that his dislike of martech is “based partly on [his] resistance to technology taking over everything and partly on the fact that it’s all just so damn confusing,” is reductive.

Constructive criticism of martech vendors and the space more broadly would include:

  1. Pitches that are too buzz-wordy and abstract
  2. A lack of coherent paradigm to approach the market that supergraphics and Lumascapes don’t resolve
  3. Failure to simplify aspects of the solution so that traditional marketers feel comfortable and confident with the tools

I’m guessing (hoping?) that Mr. Wheaton was being gratuitously whiney in this piece because, as a leading voice of what’s going on in the marketing world, it’s discouraging and counter-productive for AdAge to write such intellectually soft pieces, opinion or not. The companies that are thriving today are the ones who have successfully combined brand building with digital marketing with rich consumer insights. The ones lagging are those still sitting on their proverbial hands waiting for a machine to answer their questions.

If you’re interested, Ken, I’d be happy to tell you about how BlueConic is trying to solve for the actual issues in this space. And if I bore you – nay, if I don’t totally excite you – I’ll eat my words.

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