Brands' continued lack of programmatic knowledge is having an effect on their marketing influence

There’s no question that programmatic advertising has become a vital ingredient to brands and publishers that aim to reach audiences with interesting and relevant campaigns. Yet a panel of experts has claimed that brands continue to lack the knowledge to garner the most benefits from their data, passing the decision-making onto their agencies to act as the middle man.

The panel agreed that while programmatic allows brands and publishers to effectively target audiences in a more personalized manner than ever before, a lack of research means that marketers have a blurred vision of how the service actually works, leading to a less precise and more time-consuming process.

At The Drum’s programmatic breakfast, Ally Stuart, regional director EMEA at Sharethrough, confirms that a common myth surrounding programmatic is that it’s a replica of the operation of a computer system: “People think that you just switch it on and it works, but there is a lot of tweaking of data that is involved and types of technologies that need to be meshed together. While it is not as complex as some people like to make out, it is something that does need specialist knowledge.”

Andrew Buckman, EMEA managing director at Sublime Skinz, adds: “We’ve had some agencies ask us to run programmatic campaigns and yet the whole idea is that they do it themselves.”

This isn’t the first time an anaemic understanding of data has caused problem for brands. At the end of last year, marketers’ undervaluing of the importance of media knowledge caused them to be pulled into a pricing scandal. In the 11 months since the fudged figures were exposed, marketers’ progress with data appears to have remained stationary.

The panel suggests that filling the education gap is simple, self education through the array of whitepapers and seminars that marketers can attend to improve this knowledge. It is now easier for brands to access information that will allow them to utilise their data more efficiently, and it’s vital they knuckle down and start training their staff to make more informed and accurate decisions.

According to Rachel Arch, programmatic demand director at Teads UK, the education within agencies is also causing an issue as they are not talking to brands directly about the methods applied to get the best results. She also claims that utilising data is no longer a “right place, right time environment” and said that companies need to understand their audience and who they are trying to reach to ensure that the message that they bring to that audience is beneficial. “It’s not only [about] the advantages from getting the right user, but also getting the right message in and gaining a bit more understanding about that audience.

“[Think about whether] a certain segment is going to react better to price point or if it is meant to be in the environment. I think using programmatic in an effective way that actually allows conversion to reap better results,” she explains.

May 2018 will see the implementation of GDPR, and brands need to step up the game if they don’t want to lose out on important data. Educating the marketing team on programmatic is a key component to prepare for the change and apply persuasive strategies to access people's data.

The new regulation will see consumers have more control over the data they provide, but this shouldn’t be a set-back for the data-savvy marketers.

"In the very best-case scenario it means that we can let people opt in more to the way we target them and we can start to enable people to give more accurate content demographics and then get better ads served to them." Ally Stuart, regional director EMEA, Sharethrough tells the audience.

Customers may not want to be provided with adverts, but they will want to have access to relevant information that benefits them, the panel concludes. By educating customers on why they want their information and how it will benefit them to provide them with their information, they are being provided with trust.

"It's a challenge because we are not directly affected but our customers are. [It is about] educating them on what the impact is going to be and helping them to find solutions to that,” adds Buckman, once again showing a further need for brand education.

For the companies that learn how programmatic works and understand the audience behind their data, GDPR should be another stepping stone that is soon nipped in the bud.

Jessica Davis

Jessica Davis works with Drum Network members to create stimulating online content and grow their agencies.

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