Programmatic is not an excuse for poor creative

Programmatic is not an excuse for poor creative

Programmatic means different things to different people. Marketing automation. Campaign efficiency. Artificial intelligence...and now programmatic buying extends into TV and Out of Home. For others, programmatic signals the end of the IO. What programmatic is not, though, is an excuse.

In today’s marketing landscape, there’s a lot of “scaremongering” about programmatic advertising. Brands and agencies have reservations about it, possibly due to worst-case scenarios that they’ve seen or heard about (as any behavioral psychologist will confirm, you always remember the “bad stuff”). Here is what they might think:

  • Programmatic might offer efficiency, but it’s best suited to DR and performance campaigns, and it’s not the best place for “brand” campaigns. The brand message could be displayed next to poor or inappropriate content, as many brands and agencies found after trusting the Google display ad network.
  • You could be in the right place, but reaching the wrong people. If your location data is based on lat/longs scraped from exchanges, or your audience profiles aren’t enhanced with high quality third-party data, you could be missing your target completely.
  • You could be reaching the right people, but not in the right way. Mobile ads take an average of five seconds to load – double the time of desktop ads – according to the Media Ratings Council (MRC). This widespread latency problem, along with other ad serving issues, result in frustration and irritation on the user’s part.
  • There could be creative limitations, and for that reason your ads don’t deliver the same performance level that you get from traditional brand or performance campaigns.

While some of these fears are perhaps justified, given some of the recent press headlines around brand safety, the benefits of programmatic buying far outweigh the negatives. There is a reason why programmatic ad spend – driven primarily by mobile – is projected to grow at double-digit rates for the next several years and, in some countries, including the UK, will more than double by 2019.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common concerns.

Invasiveness: “I don’t want this.”

All advertisers – whether it’s a programmatic buy or not – must pay more attention to how the ad fits into the overall user experience. Nearly three-quarters of UK users ages 16-19 say they skip ads as much as possible, and if they can’t skip, they’ll just block: use of ad blockers has risen as much as 30% in the last year, says a PageFair report. While the primary driver is security concerns (e.g., viruses, malware), the next most-cited reason for getting ad blocker software was “interruption.”

That’s right, interruption. Users say that mobile ads disrupt their mobile experience, so it’s no wonder they want to skip over it. Interruption intersects the viewability problem, and even if they technically “see it” there are some mobile environments where the user flicks through content at such a fast pace they will likely miss it.

The answer to this is thinking through what is the user trying to do, and what state of mind they are in. Do they want or need something? Are they trying to navigate from one destination to another? Focus on how your ad is being displayed and how it can supplement the content and experience that the user is having.

Irrelevancy: “This ad has nothing to do with me.”

Another common fear is that programmatic advertising cannot effectively target users. But this isn’t a programmatic issue – or at least it wasn’t, until the Google brand safety issue surfaced. The real challenge is that brands are handcuffing their DSP’s by requiring them to run campaigns on whitelisted sites only, whereas the original purpose of programmatic was to provide incremental reach outside of that inventory. How can you provide incremental running on a handful of sites or apps, unless they have global scale?

We must stop assuming that all mobile inventory is created equal – it just isn’t. Mobile web, for instance, is typically search-based, or articles that are navigated to from links in social media feeds. Mobile app inventory is completely different; gaming, for instance, makes up the vast majority of apps outside of social channels. And has 18 different categories in the AppStore. Do you really know which your audience is in, or are you using outdated consumer profiles based on assumptions?

In an era of audience-based planning, where the most important thing is knowing your audience there’s should be no place for “irrelevancy” in your programmatic strategy.

Latency & lack of creativity: “Takes forever to load, it’s boring anyway.”

You know the term, the “spinning wheel of doom”? Mobile has its own version of that – it’s called buffering, and it’s no less deadly. In fact, it’s even worse because mobile users are far less likely to sit and wait for the duration of that load time. As a result, a lot of mobile video advertising is served only when the user is connected to WiFi, but that means you’re missing consumers on the move. To fully capture the attention of the mobile consumer, you must be able to make an ad call ahead of time and pre-load your video ad on their phone, but that is possible today with SDK integration.

Programmatic is also not an excuse for “poor” creative. If you’re delivering mediocre creative experiences that interrupts the user instead of entertaining or adding value, that’s not the fault of programmatic technology.

The “no excuses” mindset

When it comes to user experience, programmatic should never be a barrier or an excuse. Each and every one of the issues listed above is solvable.

There has been so much innovation in mobile, and if you know where to look and what to look for, you can find a trusted partner that solves for each of these concerns. Partners like Nielsen, comScore, Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and MOAT can ensure transparency and viewability standards, for instance.

As marketers our role is to make it as seamless as possible for a consumer to find what they are looking for and to take the appropriate action, purchase, explore, contact, reserve, share or simply enjoy! The answer lies in a combination of mobile lead audience planning and investment in a new breed of digital ad formats. So lets stop blaming the machines for poor user experience and advertising. Let the machines do their jobs, and lets get back to doing ours.

Jon Hook, VP Brands and Agencies, AdColony EMEA.