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How Rakuten Marketing plans to rebuild trust in the programmatic landscape

Advertising is a pillar of the Rakuten global business, with over 100 data scientists and data engineers.

To help connect brands with hard-to-reach online audiences, Rakuten Marketing has released an updated version of its programmatic Prospecting tool that relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The 'improved' Prospecting product will consist of an audience amplifier, an audience-creation platform, a demand-side platform, Rakuten ecosystem data and Partner Enriched Audiences, which the Rakuten subsidiary hopes will help brands acquire high-value consumers that will drive long-term growth through loyalty and repeat purchases.

“Advertising is a pillar of the Rakuten global business, with over 100 data scientists and data engineers dedicated to advertising innovation,” said Dr. Neal Richter, chief technology officer of the Japanese company's subsidiary at the launch.

“Rakuten Marketing technology and products are the result of this investment, and our tech stack is designed to use marketing dollars where they can drive the most value in conversions and sales. AI and machine learning, combined with a strong data strategy, is the key to bringing the relevance and authenticity to advertising that consumers want and value. We’re committed to strategically activating our technology and data to deliver these high-performing ad experiences at scale.”

During a conversation with The Drum, JJ Eastwood, managing director for Asia Pacific at Rakuten Marketing, explains that the AI and machine learning in Prospecting will also help media traders make better planning and buying decisions by moving beyond antiquated profiles, segments and demographics, to uncover and act on previously hidden dimensions and connections between brands and their customers.

“Transactions occur in milliseconds — faster than the blink of an eye — and our goal is to make every impression count,” he adds.

With transparency, viewability and brand safety at the top of mind for brands, the company claims that the AI and ML algorithms in the product will weed out fraudulent bot traffic because it works only with data on sites browsed, products viewed and purchases made, and ad placement data, which determines the right ad and price to pay for specific consumers based on their propensity to purchase.

“Engagement and campaign performance are measured and verified to ensure optimal delivery to real audiences such as in-market shoppers, specifically, those that want to be targeted. Individuals that have opted in are identified as real people and not bots, strengthening the integrity of the entire delivery platform whilst also capturing more significant real-time data,” explains Eastwood.

Preventing ad fraud and rebuilding trust

Generating and rebuilding more trust in programmatic and the wider advertising landscape is also a top priority that Rakuten Marketing wants Prospecting to do, stresses Eastwood, noting that the company offered its attribution and insights platform Cadence to all its clients at no additional charge in 2017.

“We believe marketers should have transparency on every touch point across every digital channel, that will allow them to make better informed decisions about budget allocation and attribution,” he adds.

How Rakuten Marketing Prospecting works:

- Audience Amplifier, a proprietary audience-creation platform, designed through shared expertise and algorithms of Rakuten Marketing and the Rakuten Institute of Technology (RIT).

- The proprietary Rakuten Marketing demand-side platform, DSP.

- Rakuten ecosystem data, representing the most brand-relevant and purchase-ready consumers from a data pool of over 1.2 billion memberships across Rakuten businesses worldwide.

- Partner Enriched Audiences, complementing Rakuten ecosystem data to find even more interested consumers, and drive incremental performance at an even greater scale.

A 2017 World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) report found around 70% brands are amending media agency contracts to bring clarity to the buying process as they tried to regain control of their media activity and prevent ad fraud. In some instances, brands have said they are revising their programmatic spend downwards altogether.

While he acknowledges marketers’ concern, Eastwood is confident Prospecting will bring clarity to marketers and provide them with the confidence to increase their programmatic spend because he argues that the Rakuten ecosystem data represents the most brand-relevant and purchase-ready consumers, who also meet global compliance requirements, holding promise for a more transparent buying process.

“By providing granular visibility into data usage, protecting personal data and supporting brand integrity, AI and machine learning brings clarity to marketers and gives them the confidence to increase their programmatic spend,” he explains.

Omnichannel programmatic experience

With new channels like connected television (TV), audio and digital out of home increasingly becoming part of the programmatic ecosystem, Eastwood says Rakuten Marketing has the data and the technology that supports activating seamless experiences.

“Technology is enabling the ability to predict the potential of every moment and can achieve this at scale with the data we have available at Rakuten," he says.

"Even though marketers still have challenges in connecting all of these new channels, this moment is a very interesting intersection in which access to unique data combined with powerful decision engines can create this sense of seamlessness and relevance."

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