Debunking the myths surrounding programmatic for branding

photography by Sean T. Smith

Demands by advertisers that 100% of their online ads should be viewable are unrealistic and contribute to the myths surrounding programmatic advertising.

This was one of the conclusions from a panel discussion run by The Drum, in association with Tremor Video, at the Cannes Lions 2015 festival, on the myths surrounding the use of programmatic advertising in branding campaigns.

Moderated by The Drum’s Justin Pearse, the panel featured Danny Hopwood, Vice President Solutions & Platform Operations EMEA, Vivaki; Alastair Boyle, Partner & Head of Strategy at Essence; Jana Sievers, Head of Demand Partnerships, EMEA at mopub, Twitter; and Caspar Schlickum, CEO, EMEA, Xaxis.

The panel followed the launch of a white paper, created by The Drum in association with Tremor, which explores the rationale for using programmatic video in branding campaigns.

The report, based upon input from ten of the industry’s most influential figures, debunks some of the biggest myths around the use of programmatic advertising for branding campaigns.

These myths were discussed in further detail by the Cannes panel.

Myth 1: Viewability issues mean ads just are not seen by the intended audience

There was frustration among the panel experts on the current industry obsession with achieving 100% viewability of ads.

“There needs to be a bit of realism here. 100% is a complete fallacy,” according to Hopwood. He says the industry also lacks consensus when it comes to the definition of viewability. “What constitutes viewable? If we all use different methodologies, it leads to chaos” he says.

For Boyle this “issue” affects all media - online and offline. “This is yet another case of digital being a victim of its own accountability The main difference with programmatic is we can actually track and optimise towards viewability to measure things like viewable CPMs, which allow us to make investment decisions based on whether or not an ad is viewable. So in fact it is considerably less of an issue for programmatic than it is for other channels.”

Sievers points out that the mobile industry has currently no standard for mobile in-app viewability, and that the Media Rating Council (MRC) is working with the industry to solve this problem.

The viewable impression might be a somewhat new measurement standard for the industry, but Schlickum believes “as an industry we obsess over what is viewable and what isn’t. The only time it should really matter is if it was an objective in its own right. I see viewability as a more of an optimisation lever at which point its definition doesn’t’matter as much.”

Myth 2: Click fraud means ad budget will be wasted

The issue of click fraud is something that keeps making headlines in the press. Perhaps this is one of the biggest barriers in the minds of the advertisers - the uncertainty whether anyone is actually watching their ads that they paid for.

Both Sievers and Hopwood say the fraud industry is a very sophisticated industry “way ahead of the rest of us” and that it will need industry-wide participation to combat it. “But we have to realise, fraud is something we cannot remove 100%, all we can ever do is minimise it” warns Hopwood.

Schlickum adds that part of the solution relies on buyers and sellers building meaningful one-to-one relationships to leverage their unique strengths. “A lot of fraud is happening because of our over-reliance on technology. Fraud was already a problem when we sat in a room with the publisher. Now it is an even bigger problem when we don’t.”

For Boyle however the issue is not fraud but impression bots. “With programmatic, we tend to buy impressions, so impression bots are the issue here more than fraud. The benefit of programmatic is that it does give brands a lot more control over fraud than other channels. In programmatic we bid on people or cookies rather than on sites or content. So if fraud is a concern then programmatic is a more sensible option than other form of digital advertising,” he says.

Myth 3: Branding requires premium inventory lacking in the programmatic space where pricing models are a race to the bottom with little control

The panel agreed there was a problem with the actual definition of premium inventory in programmatic space.

“The standard definition of premium seems to be huge websites, big brand names, bespoke creatives. But I could get a premium audience for a technology advertiser from a forum discussing laptops just as much as I could from a big website like Wired,” says Hopwood.

Sievers also says she is trying to get advertisers to understand that they need to understand their market and identify where they can find a valuable audience. “It doesn’t always have to be the New York Times for brands to reach a certain audience. For instance, we all play Candy Crush and we could still be buying a Porsche,” she points out.

Schlickum believes the view that programmatic is a tool largely for direct response advertising is a fallacy. He says 50% of his clients are spending brand money through programmatic.

“Branding is about changing consumers’ perceptions or knowledge of a brand. We’ve done a lot of robust studies to explore whether programmatic advertising can shift that needle and those studies show it certainly can,” adds Boyle.

Myth 4: Programmatic is about engendering an action so best suited to driving conversion in direct response advertising

This is perhaps somewhat of a problem for mobile ad formats, according to Sievers, though she has seen a shift since last quarter with brand money suddenly pouring into the mobile ad space.

However lack of standardised metrics to measure brand awareness on mobile remains one of the top concerns for marketers.

Hopwood says: “Maybe a few years ago this was true because this space started with direct response – the low hanging fruit. It’s definitely only a myth today. Some of the biggest publishers are making fantastic inventory available programmatically for us to run brand campaigns.”

Myth 5: Branding is about immersive, emotive experiences without a call-to-action and depends on consistency of environment that programmatic can’t deliver

How do you define a consistent environment?

"For instance if you were to talk to luxury brands which want to appear on the back page of a magazine or the front cover, for them the digital equivalent will be to be the only ad on a site for the duration of a campaign,” says Schlickum. “There are other definitions of consistency and a lot of those can be delivered programmatically, like certain types of ad units running for a period of time for a product launch.”

He argues that programmatic buying has the creative potential to create personalised experiences that ultimately led to immersive, engaging experiences.

Boyle thinks it is important for advertisers to also understand the definition of environment in this context. “A brand might not be able to reach someone on exactly the same page or exactly the same site but could reach someone every time the pollen count is high or on their way to work.”

Hopwood concludes by saying that the industry has made huge progress and once creatives understand that programmatic technology has the power to create deeper connections with the consumer, the strength of programmatic will be leveraged way beyond direct response and call-to-action.

The Top 5 Reasons to Invest in Programmatic Video for Branding white paper is available to download here.

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