The volume of data available to advertisers presents a wealth of opportunity, and when woven together with programmatic buying, the right combination of data, technology and creative can deliver the holy grail of contextual marketing – but it’s essential that marketers take an audience centric approach to their data-driven strategies, writes Katie McQuater.
Data is the key component in a digital marketer’s toolkit, holding a wealth of insights, if you know how to drill down enough to extract their value. When combined with programmatic media buying as part of a strategic marketing approach, it has a powerful role in ensuring the approach remains audience and customer centric.
An intrinsic element of programmatic strategy, savvy brands are taking steps to ensure the data they use is as insightful and effective as possible, then weaving it in with programmatic media buying to reach consumers in more contextual, relevant and personal ways.
From e-commerce businesses to B2B brands, the common thread tying these efforts together is how brands can make the best use of their first-party data as part of a programmatic strategy to increase audience relevancy and reduce wastage.
But with a variety of different datasets, often from a multitude of devices and channels, how can marketers avoid getting lost in data? Firstly, understanding what exactly you want to do with the data, and which metrics you need to measure in order to achieve that, is key. There is a misconception that marketers need to look at each and every data point they are able to access, according to Anand Siddiqui, director of insights and analytics at Xaxis UK.
“The danger is that time and effort is spent on reconciling disparate datasets, which do not naturally have any synergy. This then results in the classic paralysis from analysis syndrome, where the marketers overanalyse the data trying to gain meaningful insights resulting in a failure to action.
“It’s a well-documented challenge, particularly when looking at omnichannel marketing where multidevice consumer data is increasingly required to be captured, stored, processed and actioned against.”
When it comes to third-party data in particular, which can be expensive and unreliable, being able to differentiate is key, says Siddiqui.
“There is a need, in many instances, to pull multiple functions together to fully have a view of the data. Not all data is created equal, therefore knowing how to differentiate is highly problematic.”
Beginning with an audience-centred perspective, placing the consumer at the heart of the process at the very start, is a means of thinking about data more broadly, according to Thaer Namruti, European strategy director at Acxiom.
“Keeping it simple by taking a very audience and customer centric perspective on this means that you can take more of an informed view on how you think about data and the data you have available. With a multitude of data sources, we could potentially get lumped with this maze of data, so when looking at how to extract the value and insights from that data, I think it’s important to anchor that back in audience understanding.”
Starting with such an audience-centred approach and using the data held on users to inform targeting strategies is key for brands looking to target audiences with programmatic buying. Integrating programmatic with a customer relationship management system (CRM), for example, can allow brands to target an individual more effectively dependent on their history with the brand.
Connecting the dots in this way is still proving a challenge, however. Karl Weaver, chief executive, Data2Decisions, argues that more joined-up thinking is required to adequately bring together online and offline data with a brand’s CRM strategy and creative to deliver the holy grail of programmatic delivered at the right time and place, with the right message.
“When you see great creative content going into a media environment where the joined-up programmatic piece is done really well, and that is connecting with a CRM strategy and an e-commerce strategy, getting those basic building blocks right – what goes in, how it’s processed and what comes out – that’s really powerful for brands in terms of driving the return on investment from their marketing strategy.”
Many brands are investing in data management platforms (DMPs) to address the need to leverage their own data, as opposed to buying third-party data. This has the added benefit of brands being able to control their own data. MoneySuperMarket is one such brand managing its own programmatic in-house with partner BlueKai. Head of digital Sammy Austin tells The Drum that this control has been invaluable for the brand in enabling it to use its data for more effective targeting.
“One of the main benefits of having your programmatic in-house is the ability to use your first-party data to really spear what we’re doing in that space. Having that control over our first-party data and being able to execute it over several marketing channels is of massive benefit to us. Our first-party data isn’t just used for programmatic campaigns, we can also use it across paid search as well. As part of that in-house strategy, programmatic and paid search obviously sit separately, as different channels, but the ability to have our first-party data all housed in one place is really beneficial and leads the strategies we deploy in display across programmatic.”
The opportunity lies beyond a campaign-by-campaign basis, with data having the potential to disrupt businesses at a brand level as opposed to simply driving short-term results. “When people talk about the advantages they’ve got from data, often when you dig down, it’s that data has enabled them to articulate their problem in the right way and to find ways to measure, understand why and improve.
“In a marketing context, that idea of testing, refining what you’re doing and repeating it again is something marketers are doing more and more of in a programmatic space,” says Weaver.
Getting into the context of an individual’s life allows brands to match that need with what a brand can offer – the application of programmatic can then deliver that match, but understanding the consumer must come first, argues Weaver.
“You’ve got to do it within the context of understanding that consumer to really drive that propensity to buy.”
As advancements in data and programmatic allow brands to move to a more contextual approach to their marketing, an audience centred approach will remain at the core of successful data-driven strategies. Far from simply driving efficiency at a campaign level, this allows brands to use the two in tandem with creative as a strategic tool.
Namruti says: “The next generation of programmatic will talk to a very much identifiable audience centric perspective on that. Programmatic has been a fantastic medium in terms of leveraging and using audience-platform data, but if you can add audience to that, you are going to unlock much, much more for brands in terms of the value they can get out of data.”
This feature was first published in The Drum's 15 April issue, as part of a special focus on data and analytics.