Inviting the wrong people to the party: Real-time bidding and the pitfalls of audience buying

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Audience buying might be a key success story of RTB, but it can also be its potential downfall says Essence head of planning and mobile Erfan Djazmi.

Real-time bidding and the pitfalls of audience buying

It was my birthday last month and I decided to throw a party. So naturally I got hold of some demographic data, identified some people around my age and income bracket and invited them over. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s something that no one in their right mind would do.

Network and holding company agencies are under scrutiny when it comes to transparency in real-time bidding (RTB). But there’s another dangerous trend that’s being overlooked in the programmatic process and it involves buying audiences, ignoring insights and, essentially, inviting the wrong type of people to interact brands.

The growth of RTB in media has brought with it efficiency, impact and control of advertising investment. But while audience buying is a key success story of RTB it can also be its potential downfall.

With programmatic worth over £1bn in the UK last year (according to the IAB), agencies and advertisers have rightly fast-tracked their RTB operations to try to keep pace. Simply buying ads against demographic data is the easy thing to do and that’s the thing lots of agencies are getting wrong.

Where many have blundered is by creating teams, functions, specialist agencies and separate business units such as trading desks that operate in silos. The risk is that RTB becomes an operational function as it automates media buying without any acknowledgement of consumer attitudinal insight. Essentially they’re forgetting about people in the whole process.

By being isolated, RTB teams are lacking the foundation of any great advertising campaign – proper planning. Whatever the channel, great advertising is based on great insight. As long as the trend for isolation continues, no one should expect anything great from the programmatic world.

How, then, do you avoid the pitfalls of treating RTB as a commodity buying method?

Firstly, integrating research, consumer insight and outputs from planning and strategy functions with RTB is key to ensuring that audience buys match the real world consumer. This may be challenging for silo functions, teams and specialist RTB agencies, but is critical to targeting the right audience with the right message at the right time.

Secondly, always focus on real people rather than demographics. Drill down into the audience segments and think about their real world behaviours and attitudes.

Finally, fuse attitudinal statements with automated buying. Panel based tools in the industry allow advertisers to understand consumer behaviour and attitudes. Without this, you’re essentially just taking a stab in the dark. And people don’t like being stabbed.

Today, the media landscape is overloaded with irrelevant, annoying and repetitive advertising. In response, consumers are empowered to block, skip or even pay to avoid advertising. The result is too many ads that have too little impact.

Only by combining insight with the automated tools available can we create communications that are more valuable. With this type of approach, programmatic can go some way to fulfilling its potential. And, next year, my birthday party should be a lot more fun.

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