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Seven tips for selecting a new programmatic display partner

10th Aug 2016
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Today’s online display advertising ecosystem is littered with new areas of innovation and investment, and is providing more advanced technology than ever before. This advertising landscape is crowded with agency and brand marketers, ad networks and exchanges, retargeters and demand-side listing platforms, all of which are trying to find ways to increase their ever-dwindling shares of the marketing pie.

With such a busy online ecosystem, many marketers are left wondering what criteria they should keep in mind when selecting a potential partner to help them achieve their goals. Here are seven crucial points every marketer should consider:

1. Programmatic display is much more than just sizing up buyer behaviour

Real-time bidding platforms are just one small segment of the much greater land grab that is the programmatic technology ecosystem. In order to place an informed bid for a potential ad impression, marketers and their technology partners must take into account the many hundreds of data points which range from user on-site behaviour to historical CRM data; but now there is so much more to consider.

Buying isn’t the only role for programmatic technologies in display advertising – some programmatic partners also make it possible to automate the optimisation of the display creative itself. Known as ‘dynamic creative optimisation’ (or DCO for short), it can mean user-level optimisation of everything from the call-to-action you display, to the very products that feature in a display banner.

2. It’s not about Big Data, it’s about ‘smart’ data

Programmatic runs on available data sources, and whilst analytics has the potential to bring a lot of value to this channel, it takes a lot of work to make unstructured data - the bulk of big data today - usable for the purposes of online marketing. That said, many marketers are already sitting on other core sources of data that are structured and ready to be put to use in programmatic and other marketing channels - we like to call this ‘smart data’.

Data is what fuels personalised display advertising. And personalisation is what cuts through the noise amplified by irrelevant ads, which has paved the way to an increase in ad blocking. If ads are personalised, customers will see ads catering to their specific needs based on their online purchase behaviour and CRM data.

Smart data can be anything from existing CRM profiles to revenue and yield management data about products or offers. However, before investing in untangling big data, make sure you take the time to leverage existing structured data assets you have in-house.

3. Leverage segmentation to treat individual user groups differently

Marketers can increase the efficiency of programmatic buying using segmentation. It allows you to assign different performance targets (e.g. cost-per-action, ROI targets) for different user groups, based on the potential value of each group.

When discussing your initial engagement with a programmatic partner, identify your most basic grouping first: new versus existing customers. Most advertisers would be willing to invest in acquiring new users and programmatic can make that possible in real time. Existing customers can then be further segmented - for example, using the same CRM logics that are used to segment email campaigns - to fine-tune investments based on variables like customer lifetime value (CLV).

4. Give your programmatic system time to breathe

Programmatic display platforms are often described as “self-learning,” but in this context, “learning” only describes a machine’s ability to aggregate data and then recognise and act on patterns within that data. In order to best identify user behaviours and make intelligent buying and messaging decisions, programmatic systems need to aggregate data over time, so make sure you have given your campaign adequate time and volume pre-start to do a proper analysis of the results.

The amount of time or volume needed for a “ramp-up” period can vary depending on the size of your campaign and the performance targets you aim to reach, but in general you should wait until you’re able to achieve a stable performance (barring major external influences) before judging a campaign. 

5. Look above and beyond the lower funnel

While programmatic might have earned its stripes as a performance and retargeting channel, today’s most advanced marketers are also leveraging the benefits of programmatic for reaching users through the entire path to first purchase, and beyond. The most intelligent bidders on the market are using automation to adapt messaging and investment strategy as each user passes through different stages of the customer lifecycle, from acquisition to conversion to retention and even on towards brand advocacy. 

6. Adopt the right attribution model

In our connected world, a competing brand is never more than a mobile search away. So, it’s important that advertisers understand how the different points of contact (desktop, mobile web, in-app, etc.) influence the decision to buy - or not to buy. Most advertisers know they need to crack the multi-device conundrum in order to maintain a sustainable marketing budget, rather than spend inefficiently across the different channels and devices.

By adopting a ‘customer journey’ attribution model, which takes into account numerous touch points rather than simply the one closest to conversion, advertisers will get a deeper and clearer understanding of their customers’ paths to purchase - and where to spend their marketing dollars. 

7. You still need a human touch when it comes to programmatic strategy

For all the reasons listed above, it’s clear that no programmatic strategy is complete without the experience and expertise of seasoned specialists with a knack for data-driven strategy. With so many potential variables on the table, it can be difficult to know where to start. Even the world’s most “intelligent” programmatic platform is useless without the knowledge of how to leverage the technology, so don’t forget to also invest in people.

Ultimately, what’s most important is to do your programmatic homework first, in order to differentiate your business and drive incremental revenues from this powerful data-driven channel. Businesses that do so effectively will find themselves reaching a wider audience in a more relevant, positive way, and that can be the impetus for real change in their marketing and a better relationship with their customers.



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