Programmatic’s New Tenants: Brand Marketers
Programmatic isn't just for performance marketers. Columnist Melody Gambino explains why branding dollars are shifting to programmatic.
During the early growth period of programmatic digital advertising, the notion of automation and more precise, relevant targeting was mostly embraced by the performance marketing sector of the broader ecosystem.
Direct response-centric campaigns were a natural fit for programmatic methods, as they were awarded for such lower-funnel key performance indicators like clicks and conversions.
Define the goals that matter for your bottom line, down to transaction-level ROI, and optimize every media dollar spent against those goals. Integrate your offline and CRM data both to target offline audiences and to optimize to offline conversion events, from in-store purchases to hotel stays to test-drives to mortgage approvals. Rinse, repeat.
On the other hand, the upper funnel-branding crowd was standing on the sidelines, skeptical that programmatic would work for them. During this time, branding campaign budgets were kept parked in broad awareness vehicles like network television and premium display programs, negotiated directly with publishers.
Branding Dollars Are Starting To Flow
As programmatic has evolved and matured over the past year — despite all of the sticky challenges presented by fraud, viewability issues and ad blocking — branding dollars are starting to flow to programmatic in earnest.
With the growth of private marketplaces, better deal ID protocols and automated direct avenues, programmatic investment is growing in a cross-channel manner. In addition to display, adoption rates are rising rapidly in mobile and video, two hot platforms ideal for consumer engagement and branding.
While programmatic has a clear role to play in supporting a company’s performance marketing efforts, marketers are also finding new ways to deliver other types of brand messaging with a higher level of targeting and efficiency.
I think one of the key reasons why branding dollars are shifting to programmatic is that the education level, from the CMO level all the way to the trading desk, is increasing. It’s understood that quality inventory is available and that unique executions are made possible through data-driven marketing.
How Programmatic For Branding Works
Adoption and evolution of the algorithm, the foundation of programmatic media, has become widespread to the point where brands can now optimize to outcomes or KPIs that measure branding metrics like awareness and brand lift.
Branding optimization actually now works identically to performance campaigns insofar as comprehension of audience segment/media/creative execution combinations drives the desired outcomes.
As brand dollars flow into programmatic, agencies and marketers have prioritized brand-safe environments and viewability when buying ad space. They want good environments for their ads, but it’s equally important to them that their impressions aren’t wasted by never being seen. This is the concern for brand “economic safety.”
Scaling Up Creative, Publisher Management & Reporting
However, the time has come for automated guarantees to be combined with quality inventory and format choices. To become more programmatic, we have to move beyond “real-time execution” and “real-time bidding” and start focusing on how we deliver an automated campaign from start to finish.
This includes creative-build management, publisher management, process management, actionable data insights and, only after all of that is done, real-time delivery.
Beyond that, the growing application of first-party data and other consumer signals in programmatic will also allow marketers to more effectively measure branding KPIs. The one caveat for all data-driven marketers — performance- or brand-oriented — is that not all data partners are created equal; accuracy can be a big differentiator.
Verification of data partners is required. How do they collect data? Do they go beyond cookie-based tracking, which doesn’t work on mobile? Do they track offline activity, including sales?
How many times does a user have to take a specific action to be identified as a segment? How often is the data refreshed? Can their cookie pools be synched to your DSP (demand side platform)?
A strong data partner should be able to clearly articulate the value of their data and answer all those questions. Using your own first-party data with a strong partner’s data signals can help you find unique and valuable audience sets for your brand messaging across every platform.
Find your consumer in every step of the funnel in every channel, and provide an impactful creative message based on where they are and their experience in that moment.
If a marketer with branding objectives can bring all of these elements together — economic safety, useful data and creative alignment — that are all driven and intertwined by relevant branding KPIs and metrics, programmatic can be as remunerative for them as it has been for performance marketers.