Innovator Insights: Undertone by Perion’s Daniel Aks

Innovator Insights: Undertone by Perion’s Daniel Aks

It may not be a term you’ll find in most dictionaries, but Dan Aks has an updated definition of “high-impact advertising” he wants more marketers to learn.

The president of Undertone by Perion is aware that to most industry associates the concept of high-impact advertising is a particularly arresting billboard, or creative that takes up the full page of a newspaper. As consumers increasingly shift towards digital channels, however, Aks says brands need to start looking at impact as the depth to which they connect on an individual level.

“High impact is no longer simply a matter of design and structure,” Aks told Brand Innovators in a recent interview. “Now we’re infusing incredible amounts of first-party data so we don’t have to show everybody more or less the same ad, but thousands or even millions of possible renditions of that advertisement, which makes it more relevant and more memorable.”

This, of course, is also a way of talking about personalization, which Aks suggested was an equally important marketing priority as we approach 2024 and beyond. A grocer who sends a weekly circular promoting meat products isn’t helpful to a vegetarian consumer, for instance. Meals promoted to a family of five could annoy a single person who only cooks for themselves.

“I would argue the definition is now the precision use of artificial intelligence to be able to deliver a very different experience,” he said.  

The power of one-to-few vs. one-to-one

That said, Undertone is challenging the conventional wisdom that requires striving for a one-to-one relationship between brands and consumers. Instead, Aks said developing well-defined segments with a combination of first, second and third-party data allows marketers to achieve a “one-to-few” approach, which may in fact be more palatable to consumers.

“One to one is creepy,” he said. “You’ll turn me off if you get one-to-one right, and it’s not always necessary. If I own a sports car, and I don’t need a one-to-one ad promoting a product that offers weather protection. You just need to know my demographic.”

The other risk from focusing on one-to-one personalization is that if brands get it wrong, target customers could miss out on being exposed to many products that might interest them.

“With too much targeting, you actually set back the value proposition. It’s a mistake,” he said. “There’s no one perfect answer for this. The advertising community has to experiment. Life is iterative. You try something and you learn and you keep moving.”

Introducing Total Incremental Impact (TII)

In a recent white paper, Undertone introduced the idea of an advanced metric that could help advertisers in these efforts. Dubbed True Incremental Impact (TII), it combines data with generative AI, high-impact units, cross-channel distribution and continuous improvement based on brand key performance indicators (KPIs). Aks said Undertone is already seeing clients use TII to get a clear, probabilistic, mathematics-based look at what will lift sales across a brand’s network of stores.

“Everyone talks about these multi touch models, but these things are not well done. They’re rife with error,” he said. “We are working hard to actually raise the bar throughout the entire industry.”

The big shift ahead

Undertone likes to say that “creative is still king, but data is the prime minister and AI is the government.” In other words, Aks said, brands will be looking at how to marry high-impact creative with tools that can fundamentally drive better, more measurable performance regardless of channel. This will likely mean consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands and grocers will not only use creative assets differently, but get more creative in how they use market development funds (MDF).

“Forget the basic movement from print to digital, or from linear to addressable TV,” he said. “This technology explosion that’s happening now is going to completely disrupt those MDF conversations. You’re going to see all kinds of change.”