Growth in programmatic spend represents a seismic shift in contemporary media practice, with only 13% of display ad sales sold using such technology in 2012, compared to 70% in 2016.
What has helped drive this process is marketers’ quest for greater efficiencies, plus the promise of being able to better attribute media spend to actual business growth.
Although the pace of change itself has brought with it an unfortunate byproduct in that the unprecedented levels of complexity – in areas such as data and campaign management, tech selection, plus attribution – have led to a distinct knowledge gap in the industry.
And just one look at the complex web of companies in the sector explains why. Investment advisor outfit Luma Partners has performed arguably an unrivaled performance in mapping the space (see above for an example of its agenda-setting LUMAscape) but even this is puzzling upon first sight, especially for marketers tasked with a multitude of other responsibilities, besides digital media buying.
Such is the complexity of the sector, the ‘partner-led’ approach, whereby vendors (or ‘tech experts’) take the lead in their individual part of the process, has often become the default mode of media planning – an approach that often comes to the detriment of the overall marketing plan.
Ironically, this can result in areas of overlap. For instance, is it necessary to work with two separate demand-side platforms (DSPs) when they largely have access to the same inventory? This happens more often than not in contemporary practice.
Marketers need to think about the additive value of each partner brought to the equation, with other potential pitfalls of working with several (largely undifferentiated) adtech partners including: frequency capping; brand safety; not to mention fee transparency.
Oftentimes there are additional fees applied to a brand’s media budget, with the disclosure of this not always apparent – an ever-present area of concern, the full extent of which has crept up high profile legal disputes this year.
However, this is not to say that the use of adtech is without merit. A data-driven planning approach can increase effectiveness and insight, according to Blodwell, himself a long-time professional at the industry's major network agencies and judging panel chair at this year’s Digital Trading Awards, US.
For Blodwell, there are five fundamentals to planning, implementing and evaluating campaigns with the optimal use of adtech (see below) with clearly defined KPIs inessential in the pre-planning phase of any campaign, with each campaign treated on a case-by-case basis.
At the core of this planning, implementation and evaluation process should be data, with Blodwell recommending that the use of data sources (first, second and third-party providers should all be used).
“Knowing your target audience and how to reach them using data is fundamental to an effective programmatic activation,” he says. “If there are multiple partners on your plan, you should consider whether they are reaching a unique audience or whether this can be consolidated.”
Pay attention to frequency
Blodwell says advertisers should undertake the two above steps to hone their targeting with particular attention to frequency capping, a key concern for advertisers eager to limit duplication and limit unnecessary escalation of media spend.
“Frequency caps should not be set holistically across a campaign but you should instead work with your programmatic partners to identify optimal frequencies for your various strategies,” he advises.
This also ties in to transparency considerations, with Blodwell, advising that all marketers should demand transparency in particular when it comes to what inventory their adtech partners are suggesting they work with.
“With each plan that you execute, you should be comfortable explaining why each strategy/partner on the plan is being used and how these strategies are being delivered,” he explains.
Blodwell also advises that another question worth asking includes: “Are there any commercial agreements (such as rebates, preferential rates, etc) which mean that a particular partners is being used over another at the detriment of campaign performance?”
This year has also seen several high-profile issues around transparency especially when it comes to media placement, with several high-profile advertisers suspending automated media spend over brand safety issues to much fan-fare earlier in 2017.
Blodwell also advises that brands should also have full transparency over the inventory they have access to as well as their partners’ approach to whitelists/blacklists and how often those are reviewed.
He adds: “It is crucial to know and understand the brand safety and fraud controls that you or your programmatic partners have in place and to be comfortable that these provide the right level of protection for your brand.”
Remember that one size never fits all
These pillars should act as a checklist to ensure that advertisers understand the make-up and strategy of their programmatic plans and to ultimately increase the insight and efficiency they get back from their campaigns.
“It is important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to programmatic planning and each brand/campaign/strategy should be considered in its own right, but against the five fundamental pillars I have identified,” he adds.
Click here for a free-to-download whitepaper with further advice from The Programmatic Advisory on how best to plan and execute a programmatic strategy.
Ahead of The Drum’s Digital Trading Awards judging panel on July 26, Wayne Blodwell will host a panel examine ‘what is the role of an agency in a programmatic era’ at a breakfast event hosted in New York City, see here for more details