The sophisticated B2B marketers and advertisers I talk to are always striving to achieve some form of omnichannel reach with closed-loop reporting to refined target audiences at scale with a small number of vendors — no easy task, even with good audience technology.

The Beginning Of A New Era: Audience As A Strategy

Audiences have always been important to advertising and marketing. But the old ways of targeting audiences are destined to become child’s play with the proliferation of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing at scale. Technology is changing audiences into strategic assets for competitive differentiation. And that’s one of the drivers behind recent announcements from Amazon Web Services (AWS).

At this year’s re:Invent event, AWS announced new AWS solutions purpose-built for the advertising and marketing industry and a new AWS Clean Rooms solution. AWS also announced that it will be adding new identity resolution capabilities in the coming months. The announcement underscores the audience-as-a-strategy era and the fact that audience technology is leading the way.

Collaboration Is At The Center Of Audience Strategy

A lot of technology vendors want to be the center of the audience universe for their marketing and advertising customers. But marketers and advertisers should be careful not to let audience technology take the place of strategy: The center of audience strategy is collaboration, not technology. Building audiences with first-party and other attributes is just a starting point. Audiences must be activated, reached, selected with precision, wrapped in consent, collected with privacy, etc., and that requires a high degree of collaboration between audience sources and their destinations.

Security Underpins The Best Audience Technology And Strategies

Building highly refined first-party audiences and collaborating across vendors or audience technologies can be risky. Private or proprietary data can be exposed, which causes many companies to restrict audience collaboration or devise elaborate contracts to enforce data privacy policies between collaborators, rendering valuable marketing and advertising audiences underutilized. The problem is particularly challenging for enterprise marketers in regulated industries that have strict data handling policies that prevent them from ever collaborating with outside entities on data together projects.

Tim Barnes, AWS global director for the adtech, martech, and agency vertical said: “Our customers kept asking us to help them collaborate with clean rooms without needing to move and load their data into other platforms and with reduced heavy lifting and development time. So we listened to them. And the upcoming identity resolution capabilities that we’ve announced will make it easier for brands and media publishers to match and link customer records stored across disparate channels, without the need to build and maintain complex identity resolution workflows.”

Secure Audience Collaboration Isn’t A Substitute For Respect And Relevance

Resolving identities in a clean room or via any other privacy-safe method doesn’t mean that people think it’s OK to use that information for targeting their interests or other attributes. According to Forrester’s Media And Marketing Benchmark Recontact Survey, 2022, only 21% of online adults are willing to share their personal information to receive more relevant advertising from companies; the percentage is slightly higher in the UK and varies from country to country.

Take Meta’s recent headwinds from the European Union as a warning. Make sure that your audience strategy includes a strong stance on the balance of respect and relevance for the people reached by your marketing and advertising. Among other capabilities, AWS for Advertising & Marketing helps companies to process data — it assumes that all collaborators have consent-based data. The onus is on all collaborators to make sure that data is legally compliant with all applicable regulations and in line with the permissions and expectations within each audience.