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Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising (PA) is a multi-faceted term. Many market players use it as a buzzword, a label for the hype that has at times raised very high expectations among lots of market players, especially advertising customers. Others frequently use PA as a synonym for automation projects that are several years overdue, especially in so-called classic media, but in which nothing is “programmatic”. At mediascale, we generally define programmatic advertising as data-driven media-buying and as a process we are only just beginning.

Therefore, the disappointment that may have occurred with one or other advertisers is not a fundamental issue for programmatic advertising. Rather, it should be an incentive to take programmatic to the next level: on the one hand, by rethinking the set-up of service providers and technology; on the other, individual expectations should be reasonably calibrated.

In recent years, it has mainly been venture capital-financed players, who wanted to be part of the media value chain, who have fuelled the programmatic hype starting from their own interests, which has led to high expectations. And of course they have claimed “their” part of the supply chain. But those who worked more intensively with the market knew that the quantity and quality of the available profile data for programmatic campaigns is limited. However, only good data can increase the efficiency of campaigns significantly enough so that the additional costs for the additional members of the value chain are reintegrated. A possible disappointment was thus an announcement or based on unrealistic expectations.

In many conversations with our customers, we have realistically presented both the possibilities as well as the limits of data-driven advertising in order to rule out exaggerated expectations of PA from the outset. In doing so, the following assumptions were made, which our customers, sometimes against their initial will, have been getting along well with so far:

  • Programmatic advertising is not a new channel with completely different rules to traditional display business. Also when auctioned and backed by data, a content ad remains a content ad and will not develop the advertising impact of an instream pre-roll large format
  • Meaningful, validated data is the indispensable basis for programmatic advertising. Here it is important to look carefully and carry out comprehensive auditing of the available data offers. At first glance, the data market in DMPs seems expansive. But data segments that deliver what they promise (delivering a corresponding uplift to campaigns) are by no means abundant. And they have their price.
  • An impression that cannot be assigned to valuable data should not be bought programmatically. As meaningful as it is to uniformly track all advertising contacts and accumulate all campaigns and pseudonymous profile data in one system, it makes little sense to put untargeted campaign volume into systems just to have bought it “programmatically”. This results in costs and technical performance losses that are not offset by financial added value.
  • The open market, open to all, originally proclaimed by many to be programmatic’s central promise of salvation, has created more problems than it solves, as it has also opened up the market to a plethora of dubious players. The efforts of the large, open sell-side platforms to push the black sheep out are commendable, but unfortunately not always successful. That is why we only buy inventories that we can thoroughly test, both technically and commercially. Furthermore, whenever possible, we buy from partners (often in private marketplaces) that we know and have established business relationships with – including any sanction options which may be necessary in the interest of the customer in an emergency.
  • And we’re not forgetting the creation: What use is the most sophisticated planning on a profile basis, if only one means of advertising is available? That’s why data driven creativity is, in our view, the indispensable fourth pillar of programmatic advertising – alongside technology, media space and data.

Today, programmatic has already caused major changes in the digital media business. But we are sure that this transformation process is far from finished yet. And it will encompass more and more media types in the future: TV, out-of-home, audio, cinema and eventually also print. In five years at the latest, we will be able to plan, book and control more and more channels via programmatic. In addition, people’s media use is evolving, new, relevant platforms are being created at ever-increasing speed, and data protection requirements also require fundamental and sometimes new solutions. All these challenges keep us busy and agile. Staying at the current level of development is not a solution. Particularly as we are just scratching the surface with programmatic.

This article was first published in adzine.

media planung

Planning effective advertising campaigns has never been harder. The hundreds of thousands of additional media options we have compared to just 20 years ago make the planning process dizzying and often confusing. Our clients and our agency try to narrow down our process into a few clear steps to keep us all focused as we contemplate the current marketing environment and get ready to adapt to the changes that tomorrow will inevitably bring. Here are our top three planning tactics:

Low share of voice is no share of voice

There are many viable options of where to spend your media dollars, but we have always found that limiting your selection to a few core partners always yields best results. Every media plan needs to find at least one moment to “own” with enough reach and frequency to stand out from the competition. We like to use the saying that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. One can try and boil it at 80 degrees, but all that will have happen is a bath, typically one that the client’s budget and brand gets to take.

Quality vs. quantity

In the age of programmatic where the focus is buying cheap media in bulk, advertisers are starting to lose sight of the fact that where your ads show up matters. Even programmatic’s biggest advocates agree – If editorial and contextual adjacency didn’t matter, every men’s shaving razor brand would advertise only on porn sites, for example, finding the perfect demo at the cheapest costs.

It is the need to attract an audience willing to engage with your brand with the proper headset that has driven the resurgence in traditional media. All of the women reading Vogue have at least one thing in common (current fashion) and could pivot to see your brand in a similarly positive way. Additionally, traditional media can clearly scale to support the best performers.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure

Goals need to be established at the start of a digital campaign, because a missed impression caused by the lack of a placed pixel is a missed opportunity to make a sale. More importantly, the net financial objectives need to be set at the beginning as well, so that all partners can work towards solving a business problem with communications, not just looking at interim KPI’s used to track media vendor delivery.

Data is perishable and a real time dashboard is a minimum requirement to participate effectively in digital media. Depending on your industry, data collected during a campaign may not be relevant to extrapolating or retargeting in as little as a month after the campaign runs.

Starting with a simple list of “advertising commandments” is a great way to retake control over your marketing process and budgets. You can add amendments anytime as the environment changes.

Content marketing is not a 21st century invention. In spring 1897, long before the first “http” was typed into a browser line, John Deere – at the time an inventive manufacturer of plough machines, today a global market leader for agricultural engineering – published an early “Sponsored Post” in the agricultural magazine called “The Furrow”. In the ad, the manufacturer explained how farmers can increase their yield by using agricultural machinery. John Deere thus created the link between his product and the needs of his customers. The message: We are convincing you with substantial arguments! Even 120 years later this goal has not changed: Only companies that provide additional benefits for their customers will achieve this goal. Marketing is relationship development! And you can particularly strengthen the connection with your customers through relevant content:

This, in turn, requires a sophisticated system to create targeted, user-tailored content. The basis for this is a deep understanding of the various impact levels of content marketing. The process can generally be divided into four phases:

Phase 1: To grab the people’s attention, the contents have to be created in an informative and/or entertaining way, which adds value.

Phase 2: So that the contents can be viewed and used by people, you need to ensure sufficient reach. Media support also plays a large role here because virality only works with certain types of content.

Phase 3: As people use the respective content, they establish a deeper relationship with the brand.

Phase 4: As they have established this relationship with the brand, they prefer to buy products from this brand.

It sounds very simple in theory. Of course, in practice, there are some predetermined breaking points, e.g. between phase one and two: Just because a brand produces good contents, does not mean that enough people use and see these products. And just because I like a brand, does not necessarily mean that I will buy their products. At predefined breaking point number one, a sophisticated media plan helps as it guarantees a basic reach in the desired target group. Predefined breaking point number two is the result of a simple equation: Customers usually shop in places where they can find the simplest solution to their problem and they need to know that it is the simplest.

If you take a closer look at user behaviour, you will see that: Today’s users are rushed, “always on”, have a very short attention span and take in a lot of information in a very short space of time. At a time when smartphones are the favoured devices, it is mainly visually processed contents that are used and shared. The rapid rise of Instagram is proof of this. In addition, users are very self-determined in what they want to use. The good news is: There is at least one solution for all these challenges. For example, by being “always on” with communication as well. And snackable content provides short and easily consumable content, which consistently fits to the brand. The value of recognition is particularly important, especially in a highly fragmented market: Contents must be divisible, multimedia, segmented and personalised.

How can you produce content for such a fast-paced and mobile world? By working dynamically! Paul Adams, Head of Brand Design at Facebook, gets straight to the point: “To be a successful advertiser on the web in the future, you will need to build content based on many lightweight interactions over time.” Short and simply put: If you don’t let go then you won’t be current. Many, small interactions – combined with few, but big highlights.

At the office, we call this agile brand communication. To achieve this, you need many different disciplines within an agency or an agency group to be involved: Insights, content strategy, media strategy, concept team, editorial department, creation, paid media, community management, influencer management, PR and account management. All departments of the agency have to work hand in hand with the customer.

Content is king! The customer is king! But where is the king hiding?

Currently, many companies produce “their” content primarily from the perspective of the sender. They are stuck in the broadcaster or sender trap, which they are familiar with from their previous classical advertising. A more promising approach is content analysis for content production: Based on valid data, it examines what people actually talk about and in what form (social listening). These findings are then compared with the topics and messages that the company or the brand wants to work with. Residual topics are then conceptualised using storytelling. Similar to the way Snapchat and Instagram stories work – individual images and individual parts are strung together to make a story. These stories are then reused on various channels that are suitable for the target group and the content. For logical reasons, the user is divided into different segments and also addressed with various versions of the contents – for example, regarding their gender or where they live.

A lot has happened in agriculture too. Although John Deere’s ad was revolutionary 120 years ago, it would not have the same effect today as an advert in the “top agrar” specialist medium, for example. Among today’s farmers, the smartphone is the dominating source of information. What is searched on the go? Today’s farmers are not only searching for a wife, they also spend plenty of time looking at the weather report and the weather forecast. According to a study by the Kleffmann Group, with 46% of farmers using it, the weather app is by far the most used feature. The study also showed that agricultural machinery manufacturers such as John Deere now combine their products with mobile real time content regarding the weather.

Many e-commerce strategies focus on excellence in design and optimum tailoring of shops for the mobile world, exciting campaigns as well as media planning that will attract a great deal of attention and ensure extensive coverage. There is no doubting that all of this is important. Yet even the best planned marketing euro is wasted if the product detail page that customers eventually reach at the end of their journey throws up more questions than answers. What are the product features? What does the material look like exactly? Are the details correct?

The user is often just presented with the most basic information: height, width, depth, size, material. Such information would not be adequate to sell a product in brick-and-mortar retailing. We want to experience products and grasp them in the truest sense of the word. And this is precisely where a large gap exists all too often – despite all connected commerce efforts – between store-based and digital retail or between aspiration and reality. Carelessly designed product detail pages – and we are not referring here to usability or design, rather the main product information – are the final blow to the successful outcome of the user journey. No purchase is made, because the customer simply does not find adequate information about the particular product. An even more bitter pill for the online retailer is if the customer decides to purchase – despite poor or inadequate information – but then is not satisfied on receiving the goods. Expensive returns, negative reviews and dissatisfied customers are the result. We therefore recommend following the four steps outlined below to optimise the product content and thus prevent precisely these negative consequences.

1.    Address the topic of content early on

Preparing high-quality and unique product content takes time: time for coordinating internal processes, time for consulting with manufacturers and time for preparing, enriching or refining the content. Texts have to be written, attributes maintained and photos taken as well as edited. These processes have to be done and dusted before good content can be produced quickly in large quantities. In the meantime, you avoid the error of relying on a service provider just before the go-live that, despite not knowing your product range, promises to caption 100,000 products virtually overnight and enrich them with attributes. This cannot go well. You should therefore place the topic of product content among the top items on your agenda.

2.    Do not rely on the manufacturer

“We will get the product details from the manufacturer” is a widely held belief. Yet many manufacturers only have very basic product content at their disposal and sometimes not even any product photos as yet. Moreover, you have to transfer the information from the manufacturer to your system. Non-standardised interfaces and different formats often require laborious manual reworking and end up costing you time. And don’t forget: the same manufacturer will be supplying its product details to different retailers – your competitors. This is far removed from unique content.

3.    Invest in unique content

Product content is primarily intended for the visitors to your shop. It should inform and encourage the visitor to make a purchase. But getting to the product detail page is a long journey. That’s why good editorial product content has to be prepared optimally for the search engine. Search engine-optimised content promotes the right keywords, is detectable by bots and above all is unique. Duplicate content is penalised in the rankings by Google and others. An investment in unique content is therefore an investment in the performance of your shop. Regardless of whether you have product texts created in-house or by an agency, you invest time in sensible briefings, engage authors who are competent in the most important SEO requirements and familiarise the authors with your product range.

4.    Think user-centred – not in channels

The mantra of “media-neutral content” applied for years. The same product content should work in all channels. However, the quest for the smallest common denominator results in content that is then suboptimal in all channels. Print content has to be prepared differently than web content. Product detail pages accessed on mobile phones have to look different to detail pages opened on tablets or on the desktop PC. While customers perform extensive searches on the desktop at home and check every detail, they primarily want to see all key details at first glance on their smartphone when on the move. At the end of the day, what is important is to generate the ideal content in each case for the user to suit their respective usage situation. Therefore, take on board the views of your customers and answer the question as to when which product information is interesting for whom and where. “Media-neutral” content on the other hand patronises your customers.

Top-class product content is not rocket science and – admittedly – not exactly the topic the CDO or Digital Manager will tackle first. But experience shows that it is what concerns your customers. The topic has therefore deserved more attention.

This article was also published on internetworld.de.