Programmatic is an amazing tool for branding. Here’s how to use it.
If you've been reserving programmatic display for your performance campaigns, contributor Grace Kaye encourages you to expand your horizons.
Programmatic is not just for conversions; it’s also a valuable part of your branding strategy.
Historically, brand awareness strategies have been above-the-line advertising activities: TV, radio, print. These have a wide reach and so are great for upper-funnel marketing strategies.
Thanks to its highly effective targeting possibilities, programmatic advertising has fallen into the below-the-line category — it’s seen as a conversion driver.
Within digital advertising, the branding focus tends to be on PPC, SEO and social media. But to take advantage of the opportunities for branding and optimization that programmatic display offers, it’s essential to adapt strategies from direct display to use in programmatic.
Brand awareness strategies tend to be associated with above-the-line advertising because they have the widest reach possible to share brand messaging.
However, programmatic’s forte is actually very effective for branding — a focused targeting strategy is more budget-friendly for small and medium-sized businesses and is highly effective at reaching audiences with the potential for engagement and conversions down the line.
Get real-time learnings that can be implemented immediately
Traditional above-the-line advertising offered little potential for usable insights, especially in the short time span that programmatic offers.
However, any marketing activity, whether concentrating on brand awareness or conversions, can benefit from real-time audience insights that immediately feed into optimizations and the development of future strategies. In fact, I’d encourage you to go wider than you normally would with programmatic targeting, as prospecting audiences without relying on legacy information can allow you to gain insights and inform your future targeting approach.
Here are five key ways to take your branding campaign and prospecting to the next level:
1. Agree on the right KPIs for your brand.
The first step is to agree on the right KPIs to zero in on so that you can focus on driving them in a quantitative way. There’s a tendency for branding to be associated with vague performance metrics, but a methodical approach is key.
Reach is obviously important, but the principal metrics to track from the beginning are CTR, viewability and site visits. Google’s Brand Lift Surveys are very useful for measuring uplift, but manually measuring the right metrics is sufficient (and a lot cheaper) to understand how you’re doing at driving up engagement and reaching the right people.
2. Focus on a top-down and bottom-up audience approach.
Everyone knows programmatic is great for targeting audiences and driving conversions as a result. For branding, however, you need a more proactive method. I recommend starting out with a top-down approach: considering the client, the audiences they could target and which competitor sites people go to, narrowing your targeting down to the most engaged audiences.
Then, shift to a bottom-up approach, picking the most engaged audiences to build segments around and allocating a dedicated budget to them. Using this approach, an insurance client saw CTRs more than 300 percent above the industry average and a 60 percent reduction in CPA.
3. Use new targeting techniques.
This is an obvious one, but it’s worth repeating. Making use of fast-evolving ad tech should be at the top of everyone’s priorities. Experimenting with new features is really what allows you to harness the potential for using programmatic for branding.
DoubleClick’s custom intent audiences feature lets you employ a blend of keyword targeting, URL targeting and app targeting to build hyper-concentrated audience segments. For example, this lets you target the sites that your top-performing audience frequents, overlaid with keywords that target them specifically.
4. Invest in creative development.
Even while focusing on branding activity, it’s important to keep an open mind about testing creatives and forming new supplier relationships. It’s easy to have a tendency to keep the old ways if they’ve been working well — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — but as in utilizing new ad tech, creative development should be an ongoing process.
One area we’ve been exploring recently is high-impact formats such as home page takeovers and skins, which work incredibly well for branding. Just listen to the numbers: comScore research showed that creative quality drives more than half of the sales changes for the brands analyzed, four times higher than the impact of the specific media plan involved.
For rebranding strategies, it’s especially important to find out which audiences engage with the new brand identity, so experimenting with creatives is key.
A client in insurance undergoing a change in brand identity and messaging needed to raise brand awareness in a multichannel approach. They tested very personalized creatives in their campaign and saw that portraying business professionals in different sectors had varying levels of engagement. Their test revealed lots of information about their ideal audience and allowed them to inform their video and social strategies as well.
5. Make the most of cross-channel learning.
A cross-channel outlook is obviously great for any marketing strategy, but it’s particularly important for below-the-line (re)branding strategies, where clients need to develop an overall understanding of audiences while having a high reach to communicate brand messaging.
If your agency is running a cross-channel campaign for a client, I want to stress the importance of sharing insights and letting those feed into your programmatic strategy. We’ve found that collaborating with the social team has been exceptionally fruitful for testing high-engagement audiences on different formats and for understanding and capturing clients’ best-performing audiences.
There’s much more data that will help us learn how to serve the right creatives to the right people. Programmatic campaigns tell us about what time of day and which day of the week people are engaging most, and can, in turn, inform social strategy for further optimization.
Moreover, programmatic branding is much cheaper than some of the traditional advertising channels and is hence very suited to be used as a testing ground. For example, you could try running a few ads on YouTube to see which is the most engaging, then use that data to determine which should be used on TV. Few marketers use digital learnings for non-digital channels, which is a huge missed opportunity.