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A Whistle-stop Tour of Programmatic Advertising

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“Programmatic is advertising’s newer, better mousetrap.” –  Peter Naylor

One of the fastest growing trends in digital ad space, programmatic advertising uses sophisticated algorithms to buy ads online. It effectively means leveraging audience data and technology to purchase ads that target your communication to the right audience, at the right moment, in the right context. When done well, it ensures brands delight customers with content that hits the bull’s eye. The flipside — if done badly — this can lead to a nasty surprise!


How Does Programmatic Advertising Differ from Direct Ad Sales?

For the uninitiated, here is a quick overview of how programmatic advertising differs from its manual counterpart:

A few stand out examples of campaigns that leveraged programmatic advertising are briefly captured here:

1. Optimizing Ad Spends 

Missing People is a UK-based non-profit organization that helps to find missing children and adults by partnering with the Out-Of-Home industry. Running on a £10m budget, their advertising could support only one missing-person ad per week across the country. Now, with their move to programmatic advertising, their ads are more location-specific and targeted. As soon as a child is found, the ad gets replaced with that of new missing child. The most heartening outcome was their response rate for their ads — it went up from 50 to 70% which translated to save more lives on a shoestring budget.

2. Using Programmatic Creatively

The holy grail of any targeted marketing is to reach the right customer at the right place and at the right time, even better if done creatively. Topman, a UK men’s clothing brand, has been acing this with their ads for their Khaki line. According to Lancaster, senior creative manager at Topman, “Programmatic allows you to run segmented work that will appeal to all of your audiences. It then optimizes the creative to the version that best suits a media channel’s audience”. They promoted their Khaki line by creating five different personas to match their different customer segments. Lancaster looks at creative programmatic advertising as a goldmine with untapped potential, but cautions on the expense incurred on these.

3. Enabling Disruptive Marketing

Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG), which owns Holiday Inn and Intercontinental chains, is trying to transform the travel industry and move away from middle men and the price-comparison sites.In IHG’s words, their campaign has helped “tidy up” the hotel industry. They have used programmatic advertising to target the audience who are searching for hotels with a banner ad to book directly with the guaranteed cheapest price details. This has helped bust the myth that price comparison sites offer the cheapest rates while in reality it is about 15-30% more than direct booking! Hilton and Marriott have taken a page out of the IHG book to copy their strategy — after all copying is the best form of flattery.

4. Reposing Customer Confidence

AirAsia is a shining example of prudent use of programmatic advertising with CRM data. Customer confidence was at its lowest post the airlines’ Indonesia mishap in 2014. AirAsia employed technology by intelligently using their CRM data along with programmatic advertising to segment their customers and target them differently using Facebook-based creatives to rebuild their customer base. The three identified customer segments were — those who shied away from booking the airline post the crash, those who flew AirAsia post the crash, and lastly the loyal customers who stood by the brand. Frequent flyers ended up with ads on rates for their most traveled routes. Website visitors who searched but did not book were re-targeted on Facebook. Lastly, high-value customers were candidates for brand advertising, including video. Results —  30x returns on ad spend, 20% improved video viewership, and a steadily increasing customer confidence!

While all these stories might want you to take the plunge right away, look before you leap. Programmatic advertising isn’t magic – skill and expertise are still critical.It is only as good as the creative — creative with strategy is called ‘advertising’, just a strategy with no creative means dollars down the drain! Most successful campaigns look at programmatic advertising as a complementary tool rather than a cannibalizing strategy to the direct sales method to redefine their dialogue with the customer. Staying abreast of the best practices in digital ad ecosystem is a must for any successful marketer and programmatic advertising is definitely one of them!

Marketing Maximus Magazine by Pink Lemonade


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