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Programmatic doesn’t have to be confusing: 8 steps for getting it right

Many marketers are still confused about programmatic. It seems that most feel it is a complex landscape of new companies and technologies, acronyms and, of course, debate about transparency, fraud and brand-safety.

One thing universally agreed on, however, is that those marketers who have fully embraced programmatic get great results – an average of 21 per cent in improved ROI. The harder the objective and target audiences are to reach, the greater the improvement.

Here are eight things you need to know to get programmatic right:

1. Understand what it is: A method to buy media

Programmatic is not a new media channel – it is just a new method of buying media. Rather than buying pre-configured media packages, you can buy each impression separately in real-time, using technology and data to cherry pick the right user and the right placement.

2. Understand what it does: Consumer Centric Marketing at scale

The core benefit of programmatic is not automation, it is the opportunity to make a smarter media buy. It boosts your ability to show the right message, to the right consumer, in the right context and at the right time.

Programmatic can now be used to add new forms of data to trigger or alter your message, whether it’s recognising Porsche drivers in Australia (and saying hello to them) or detecting when the weather is horrible in Norway for Ikea (and telling consumers to update their décor).

It makes your messages more relevant and – done right – leads to a significant improvements in ROI.

3. Understand how to buy it: Products and Services

There are ultimately two basic types of Programmatic offer: Programmatic Products and Programmatic Services.

Programmatic Products combine media inventory, technology, audience data and specialists in a bundled offer with a clear promise and fixed price. This is low risk and a good entry point. What you gain in ease by using the Programmatic Products you lose in terms of control because the components such as media, tech and inventory are preselected and integrated into the programmatic product.

Examples include Criteo, Quantcast and Rocketfuel as well as packaged agency offerings like Xaxis or many agency trading desks.

If you want to take more control over the selection of components, you move to the Service Model. This involves selecting the buying tool (DSP), deciding how to manage your own data (DMP), adding third party data, verification tools and a team of specialists – often provided by an agency. You can add more flexibility by integrating multiple DSPs and data and constantly benchmarking your tech partners.

4. Ways to get it right: Control quality and outcomes

You can minimise the risk of buying fraudulent impressions, non-human traffic or placing ads within inappropriate contexts by switching on ad-verification and pre-bid blocking for each impression. This gives you greater control and security than was possible in the pre-programmatic age.

Another technique is to only buy from sellers you trust via private marketplaces. This not only gives you access to quality inventory, ad-formats and data segments not available on open exchanges, but also helps to maintain a quality publisher landscape.

Measurement should be as close to business outcomes as possible – impression and clicks can be faked; transactions can’t.

5. Plan for viewability: Make sure your ads are seen

Setting a viewability metric is key for both brand and performance campaigns. An ad that is not able to be seen cannot have any impact but you can optimise for viewability.

The right KPI is cost per viewable impression or eCPM (viewable), not the viewability rate. You can get low-priced viewable impressions by buying low-cost inventory, which may have lower viewability rate – or buying on higher viewability rates but usually paying more.

6. Use data to optimise messaging: How to make a better connection

Consumer centric marketing is not just about getting access to the right consumer but also delivering the right content for that consumer’s behaviour at that particular time.

You don’t have to understand the whole customer journey   ̶ you just have to use the intent signals you receive to determine the most appropriate message.

A user coming to a travel site, for example, might be greeted with an ad about low-cost flights to New York if they have previously searched for them. Another user might be greeted with Honeymoon offers if they have visited wedding planning sites.

7. Respect the consumer: Don’t become a stalker

Being consumer centric means remembering not to shout at the consumer, not to stalk them and, importantly, to know when to back-off. Being too precise in your message or being too aggressive with the frequency will make the consumer feel stalked and ultimately make them less responsive to your messaging.

8. Don’t get overwhelmed: Crawl, walk, run

Programmatic media can be quite complex, but you can also grow the complexity. When we started search 15 years ago, we did not start with thousands of keywords and hundreds of ad-groups.

Spend time with your programmatic partners and teams, ask lots of questions, follow your common sense – and enjoy continuously increasing media effectiveness.

Deirdre McGlashan is global chief digital officer and Oliver Gertz is head of programmatic EMEA at MediaCom. 

First published on The Drum, 18th April 2016

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