Programmatic: can it really be a tool for branding? - The Drum Dmexco Debate

At a roundtable discussion hosted by The Drum in association with Quantcast at Dmexco 2016, our panel of experts discussed the remaining challenges involved in education, the outdated view of the branding/DR dichotomy, and the problems with being too defensive about programmatic.

Programmatic is increasingly being used as a planning tool. What needs to happen for it to be introduced earlier in the agency lifecycle?

Much more needs to be done on the educational front, believes Sébastien Robin, global programmatic director, Havas Media. “You often get a situation where the programmatic experts sit in one building and agency people in another. As a consequence, many agency people lack a basic understanding of programmatic. Not only do they need to get a definition of the technology, they also have to learn how to use it in practice.”

Agencies should be more proactive about the way in which they use programmatic argues Amit Kotecha, Marketing Director EMEA at Quantcast. Historically, programmatic data has been used retrospectively following a digital campaign to plot future campaigns. “Agencies need to move beyond this model and start looking at audience data before going into the planning phase,” says Kotecha.

Barry Lee, head of FAST Adaptive Hub, Mindshare Worldwide at Mindshare, says that agencies are overly focused on execution. “Far too often we end up in conversations where the client wants to know where the person in charge of pushing the programmatic button sits. It’s much more important to get programmatic hard wired into your business operation as a whole.”

We’ve been talking about the issue of education in programmatic for years. Why is it still a problem?

Six years ago there was no need to educate entire companies about programmatic, but now that it has spread across channels the need for education is growing rapidly, according to Robin. “This is why it hasn’t happened at a large scale within agencies up to this point. But the situation is now changing. In fact, we’re embarking on a large internal training programme that will involve 15,000 people at the end of this month.”

Kotecha believes that the problem lies in the sort of training that companies receive. “Too many courses focus on the technology and how the execution of media has changed over time. We actually need to prove that the technology provides real business benefit by using case studies and other real world examples.”

Training should become more interactive, but agencies also need to fundamentally re-think the way in which they plan media. “The construct of brand and performance marketing is fundamentally flawed in a world of programmatic. It should be about making data-led decisions about the right thing to show to a consumer at any one moment in time based on their interactions and what we know about them from first or third party data,” says Lee.

What industry structures need to change enable the potential of programmatic for branding?

While it is easier to purchase media now, most campaigns are driven by the same fundamentals as ten years ago – last click or last touch, according to Kotecha. “What we need to talk more about is how we put together brand and direct response-driven campaigns and measure them correctly.”

For programmatic to be used effectively for branding, clients will have to think differently about outcomes, says Lee. “We will have to put in place overarching business outcomes and use experts, planning processes and technology to drive the right mix of messages, format and environment to meet their objectives. But most importantly, clients will have to think more holistically about what they want to achieve in the first place.”

Robin adds: “Clients need to be educated about the process. It’s not just about programmatic; it’s about digital as a whole. We have to make sure that we don’t go back to the last click attribution model. For that to happen we need to get the client up to speed with the way that we think. As you know, the client is king and that isn’t always possible, but we do our best.”

How receptive are you finding your clients to programmatic in general and the need to change?

“I think everyone gets it, but they are still nervous about what they perceive to be a lack of control,” says Kotecha. “There have always been problems with adverts appearing in the wrong place. What programmatic provides is more control, visibility and accountability than we’ve ever seen in advertising. We just need to get the clients to overcome the challenges.”

Lee believes that agencies are often too defensive about programmatic and fail to advocate its use with enough confidence. “It’s not a media challenge. It’s not a question of whether programmatic should be used at random. The real questions are ‘should video be used at random; should display be used at random; should media be used at random?’ The answer is of course absolutely not – this is just a different way of us buying audiences.”

Robin believes that the terminology around programmatic will disappear as the industry becomes more familiar with the technology and accepts it is part of modern advertising. “It is just an automated way of computer-assisted audience targeting. There is no need to give it a name – that’s just the way we do our media and audience buying,” he says.

Is mobile being used as branding platform programmatically or is it still just a direct response medium?

Recent research shows that consumers go online five times a day to research products, according to Kotecha. “Everyone will have to think about the kinds of message we want to deliver on a mobile phone. Is it ‘buy now, click here’ or is that too intrusive? Today most of the advertising that brands engage in is way too direct response focused, so this area needs to be developed.”

Robin says that mobile should not be treated as a separate silo from other channels. “I would not talk about branding per se, I would talk about experiences. If you do a Snapchat campaign, the fact is that it happens mainly on mobile because that’s the way people use it. Our clients are already delivering content and experiences to their users through different devices, including mobile.”

“It’s about a moment in time, not a device,” adds Lee.“If I’m sitting at a desktop I’m stationary and probably have more time, whereas if I am on a mobile I’m on the move. But I’m still the same person.”

How should agency structures change to ensure that programmatic campaigns are properly implemented?

Lee believes that agencies should be baking programmatic into the way in which they do business. “There’s no doubt that data-led media buying is the future of our industry,” he says.

Kotecha believes that the challenge that programmatic presents to the advertising industry extends outside the agency world. “Everyone is very competitive, but I think we need to start working together as partners and figure out a way in which we can help each other.”

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