Programmatic Is Not a KPI

theexchangelabTalking to the CMO of a well-known retailer earlier this year, I heard a familiar viewpoint; “I guess we’ll have to look into doing programmatic soon. Everyone else seems to be doing it.”

Well, she wasn’t wrong. With over 80% of display ads traded programmatically this year and spend expected to reach $65 billion by 2020, the majority of brands are utilizing this technology, but is following the crowd reason enough to invest?

In short, the answer is no. If a company’s programmatic goals extend no further than adoption, it is highly unlikely that subsequent advertising efforts will produce strong results. Deploying automated technology should not be a tick-box exercise or KPI; firms need to carefully consider how they can use programmatic effectively to boost campaign impact.

Let’s take a look at how they can do so.

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Automated integration

To start with, programmatic must be treated as an integral part of overall marketing plans, not a separate entity. Putting automated advertising into its own silo where a distinct team manages execution is an unwise decision. Not only does it raise the risk that messaging will be disjointed across channels, but also increases the likelihood of fragmented and inaccurate performance analysis — creating one consistent view of advertising results isn’t easy when data is stored in different systems.

Fortunately, awareness of the need for integration is rising. Three-quarters of agencies are in the process of uniting their direct and automated advertising departments, although at this stage only 17% are fully converged. Brands are also starting to see how programmatic can be leveraged throughout their multi-channel marketing plans, and are increasing spend not only in desktop display, but also in mobile, video, advanced TV and digital out-of-home.

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Overcoming challenges

When technology evolves as quickly as programmatic, it’s inevitable there will be growing pains. It could even be argued that because automated advertising is more accountable than traditional formats, both the expectations and scrutiny of it are higher. So, it comes as no surprise that programmatic tech has come up against challenges: most notably brand safety issues — particularly ad misplacement — and ad fraud. The good news is that solutions for the majority of these issues exist and can be applied relatively easily. For instance, content verification is tackling brand safety concerns by providing objective validation of audience and media quality, while real-time impression blocking is helping to mitigate other risks such as ad fraud.

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Cohesive data

Today’s brands have access to vast volumes of first, second, and third party data from multiple different sources such as web, mobile and offline. In principle, this should be positive — programmatic thrives on data; using it to match audiences with brand messages on a massive scale. Yet the quality of in-house data is often a challenge, suffering from being out-dated or unrepresentative and held in siloes across differing devices or channels. Programmatic — which requires unified and accurate data to bring real scaled benefits to an organisation – is frequently prevented from reaching its full potential because of this, but clients driving in-house data improvements see efforts amplified when able to leverage quality data programmatically.

To address this problem, marketers need to build a robust data stack where insight from an array of sources is collated, normalized, and unified. This will not only allow them to translate the information they hold into the same language and make it functional, but also lay the foundation for building a holistic 360-degree view of each individual audience. An integrated, objective, and accurate source of insight will allow programmatic to take a leading, and complimentary role in driving brand goals across the entire marketing plan. One of its strengths is speed to execution, enabling brands to test and learn quickly and efficiently and apply those insights in other channels, improving results throughout the funnel.

When used well, programmatic empowers marketers to use granular data to precisely target audiences across multiple content types, platforms and devices. It does this efficiently and at scale — with personalized and engaging messaging — and remains highly accountable: using real-time performance insights fed back into the campaign management process to continually optimize, and guide marketing dollars. If marketers want to realize these benefits, they need to take care with implementation; merging programmatic with cross-channel activity, applying appropriate safety and quality measures, amalgamating data and above all, remembering that purely spending programmatically it isn’t a KPI for driving digital success.

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