Programmatic (and digital marketing) has been under severe scrutiny in 2017; fraud, brand misplacement, incorrect measurement, non-viewable impressions and non-transparent buying practices all mean that if you’re an advertiser you’d be forgiven for thinking that programmatic was creating more problems than it solves, however, programmatic isn’t going away.

Whilst some of these challenges are somewhat existential and difficult to mitigate against there are still some brands who are successfully navigating programmatic and using it to drive bottom line results (verified by sophisticated in-house analytics). I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with a number of these brands over the years so wanted to provide a couple of tips to deliver ‘good programmatic’ campaigns.

1 – Select & procure your own technology

Marketing has never been more important for brands than it is today, the need to gain share and drive results within competitive verticals is a very real challenge when barriers to entry for new-to-market competitors are decreasing. The way to drive business results is increasingly through marketing, getting the right products & services in front of people. The way in which sophisticated marketers facilitate that process is via technologies and as such many want to go through the technical due diligence themselves or they want to work closely with a third party (consultancy, agency, managed vendor etc.) to really understand if their tech partners are appropriate for their business needs.

This due diligence spans across the whole of their marketing stack; analytics, CRM, demand side platforms, data managements platforms, dynamic creative, onsite personalization etc.

In many cases when I have been responsible for the technical decisions for brands I’ve shown under the hood of the decision making, or now running a consultancy, we’ll provide them with our methodology, requirements and ensure the brands are involved in the scoring themselves.

Brands should know why certain tech partners are in place and ensure they are the best fitted for their needs across key categories such as; technical ability, product innovation, support, commercial and much more.

2 – Create a bespoke brand safety approach for your brands

If I was a CMO I would be terrified that my brands could appear against poor content at any point. Firstly it reflects poorly on my brand, secondly it is likely funding some really poor activities and thirdly it’s just wasted investment.

I’ve written about this before and had some disagreement, but brands should take greater control of how advertising is placed on their behalf. Every advertiser (literally every single one) should have their own documented approach to programmatic brand safety that is accessible by key stakeholders, this document should have a timeline for how regularly their approach is reviewed.

Yes, the third parties advertisers work with are responsible as they should be closer to the detail than the advertiser, but they aren’t the ones with the logo’s on poor placements or who’s money is going into fraudsters bank accounts – advertisers must ask the right questions and have their own approach.

3 – Push a 100% programmatic agenda

Like any business initiative a clear vision is essential. Brands sort of fell into programmatic, some would say because their agencies wanted to create a new service model which retained margin, others would say because programmatic is a much better way to do business, but whichever way you think it rose up, ultimately it’s an important piece of the marketing puzzle.

Brands which are pushing the agenda internally, upskilling their staff through customized training programs and generally having a greater interest in programmatic are reaping the results. This agenda should be central to all plans for 2018 and beyond.

4 – Hire great people

Whenever you distill all the factors to successful marketing you can link it back to the people, the people who bring together the right tech, data, inventory and who come up with the ideas for creative, targeting and messaging. If you want to hire people internally ensure they have the right level of knowledge for your needs, if you want to outsource through an agency or third party then make sure you get access to their best people. They’re the ones who should care enough about your campaigns to make them work.

5 – Work closely with publishers

Publishers produce the content which your messages are served against, they are the last point in the value chain. They are customer facing and are hugely influential in how your brands perform. Don’t take the mindset of ad impressions being commoditized, think about each impression and each publisher separately. Work with them to understand how they can promote your ad placements in a better way, either through the data at their disposal (particularly important in a post-GDPR world) or their media properties (increasing viewability or content options).

Realistically, many marketers don’t have the time to do this internally but if you are working with an agency then you should certainly be quizzing them on their relationships with influential publishers for your brands.

There are many other factors to consider but by prioritizing the above simple steps you will have some of the correct foundations in place to start going from ‘good’ to ‘great’.

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