Advertising Flow: Feeds, API and the Future

September 2015

Kris Tait, Business Development Director at Croud, traces the evolution of advertising as a way of introducing a new theory: ‘Advertising Flow’. Three factors – data ownership, the Internet of Things and the ‘emotional internet’ – mean this state may arrive sooner than we think. “We can see data feeds are available across all areas,” he explains, “but it’s about how we API into this data and use this in our quest for right-place-right-time advertising.”.

Naturally I’m going to start this article on feeds by talking about blood. We humans produce 2.5 million red blood cells every second, which is equivalent to the population of Greater Manchester. That blood flows through 60,000 miles of blood vessels, which if laid flat could circumnavigate the earth two and a half times. Our nose can remember 50,000 smells, and alongside the senses of sound, sight, touch and taste, humans actually have 15 more (including balance, temperature, pain, time, thirst and fullness). The amount of data we have to process in order to just stand up is crazy. In fact if the human brain were a computer it could perform 38 thousand trillion operations per second; the world's most powerful supercomputer can only do 0.002% of that.

It’s safe to say humans are the most advanced thing on this planet. So how does a computer, algorithm or bid management platform begin to understand how to market to us? It can try, but really when was the last time you saw a perfectly executed display ad?

I’m going to discuss how digitising some of the above elements could potentially have an impact on the way we execute our feeds within performance marketing.

Firstly, let’s look at the oversimplified model of where we have been in marketing and where we are now. 


We’ve emerged from the first age where brands just advertised at us, pushing their messages and products upon us. The benefit to users? Very little. Next up is a stage where we’ve been for a while, which I’m going to call ‘targeted marketing’. We use data and previous signals to target our marketing at various audiences. I say targeted and not ‘personalised’ as I don’t think we can comfortably say we’re really personalised just yet. But that will change, fast.

The third stage is something a guy called Andy Hobsbawn – founder of EVRYTHNG, an Internet of things (IoT) company – frames very well. He describes how products are going to start having a voice:

The product itself – as a dynamic, web-connected intelligent object – gets a say in how it is made, sold, and used

This isn’t a theory, it’s already started and the IoT is going to wrap itself around our lives quicker than we think.

It’s one of the three things I think we need to keep an eye on over the coming months and years, as it will undoubtedly have an impact on how we execute our digital campaigns and use feeds and APIs. Firstly, data ownership is going to continue to be a hot topic, and a world where individuals own their personal data and can control which services or brands have access to it may not be far away. The impact of this would be that the advertising experience for both brands and individuals would be a lot more relevant and ultimately useful.


Secondly is the Internet of Things. I firmly believe that personalisation will start to mean something much different when this kicks in. The ambitious Google-funded Project Jacquard aims to make connected clothing at scale, creating an invisible computation interface that we can interact with. Homes and cars are already connected, but imagine your tyre tread goes below the legal limit, so Ford pings you a notification with 10 available time slots to book your car in, right to your watch or phone. Products will become so ingrained in our lives that companies will be able to use the data from product interfaces for support and identify and fix problems before they happen. For example Tesla famously updated 29,000 Model S cars by identifying a charging problem and fixing it before customers realised.

Thirdly let’s consider emotion, and tapping into the ‘emotional internet’. More specifically we’re now talking about connecting some of the human’s body signals mentioned earlier and emotions to the internet. Wearables are currently doing a great job of tracking movement, heart rate and calories, but over the coming years we’ll see technology have the ability to track our anxiety, happiness or anger in certain situations. Alongside Hitachi, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – a psychologist who came up with the theory of ‘flow state’ (see his Ted talk here) – has invented a microscopic piece of technology that attaches to a name badge and can measure some of the biometric factors that Csikszentmihalyi and others have posited might indicate a ‘state of flow’.

I’d like to run with this ‘flow’ idea now and imagine a world where brands, organisations, governments and others have access to this emotional data. Let’s say I come up with a theory called ‘Advertising Flow’ – a state when a human is most susceptible or interested in being advertised to, by a certain brand. What does it look like?


Essentially you and I would be connected to the internet in a variety of ways including internet history, payment methods, home, car, biometrics and emotion. This data would be stored in a personal data management platform and you’d have the power to give access to it. For example you might want to give the doctor your health information or Sky your internet history, social feeds and emotion, so the company can API into it and serve you interesting offers at the right time.

As we can see data feeds are available across all areas, but really it’s about how we API into this data and use this in our quest for right-place-right-time advertising. Advertising has always had to elicit some emotion from the user being targeted to be interesting. Unless it means something to users, then chances are they’re not interested and won’t purchase. Advertising Flow may just get us closer to truly personalised advertising.

Is Real-Time Data Influencing Planning?