When it comes to programmatic technology, I am often reminded of the classic story of the tortoise and the hare. The hare – for the purposes of this convenient metaphor – is advertising technology. Fast-moving, sometimes prone to laziness, but ultimately owning the ability to race ahead of the competition. The tortoise is representative of advertisers. Slow to start but able to catch up through diligence and motivation. Eventually the two both reach the finishing line – with the hare learning that matching the traits of the tortoise reaps better rewards.
Over the past decade, the adoption of programmatic technologies fueled considerable growth for ad tech vendors. Nevertheless, marketers may still lack faith in programmatic technology, because of heightened focus on brand safety and fraud, and increased awareness of misaligned incentives and business models. With programmatic adoption forecast to grow, it’s vital that marketers improve their knowledge, decreasing the chance of being exploited, and increasing the chance of building a competitive advantage.
Digital marketing campaigns are perceived of as complex, which is why many businesses outsource a lot of the ad placement, data capture, and analytics to media agencies. But while it’s true that programmatic constantly evolves, it needn’t be so complicated that businesses can’t take back control of their digital marketing execution.
Marketers need to overcome their fears, embracing the fact that they can perform customer segmentation, data-driven testing, automated content targeting—and all the other valuable activities defining programmatic marketing. It requires confidence in your marketing platform and a commitment to simplifying your thought process around programmatic, focusing on the larger goals that advertising is meant to achieve without getting lost down endless rabbit holes of technical minutia.
There is a big knowledge gap when it comes to digital and programmatic advertising, specifically for marketers on the client side—and it’s creating a problem. Most clients have a good grasp on traditional media channels, but rely on agencies for digital.
This is changing, though. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) poll found that “41 percent of marketers surveyed said they plan to take greater control of their spending on programmatic advertising. ” Of these marketers “around one-fifth said they had started doing this in the past 12 months, while 24 percent said they starting doing this more than a year ago.”
In a competitive field, how can marketers know what to believe and whom to trust when it comes to investing in a strategy that truly serves the best interests of their brands? Whether it’s through a partnership with an agency, boutique consultancy, or traditional advisory firm, now is the time for clients to find someone they can trust to show them the ropes and help them leverage the capabilities available within a connected, diverse marketing platform. Software changes quickly, and there should be less focus on the micro details, and a renewed appreciation for the overarching strategy driving the advertising in the first place.
When evaluating partners, the following questions will help simplify the thinking about your programmatic spend.
1. Who are the vendors working across my digital media supply chain?
Identify who does this work, and how well they understand your overall strategy. Evaluate their commitment to your success. Understand how they make money. Identify vendors able to provide something genuinely unique
2. How am I compensating my agencies for managing digital media buying?
There are a million ways to structure compensation. It’ important to create a business model that is fair, transparent, and mutually beneficial, to create an environment for collaboration and success. Ask yourself if a move to a pay-for-performance model makes more sense. As the old saying goes, you can have cheap, you can have fast and you can have good – but if you want all three, you need to find the sweet spot in the middle. A client/partner relationship is no different. If you try and transition too rapidly or source the cheapest supplier, you’ll end up compromising too much on the ‘good’ part of the equation.
3. Can I measure the sales impact of my digital media investment with a high degree of confidence?
You need a comprehensive system for gathering and evaluating metrics against performance goals, tying advertising effectiveness back to key performance indicators such as sales figures or engagement. Question the media mix—who’s advising you? Do they have a vested interest in driving your spend toward one particular channel
4. How much exposure to fraud did I experience last year?
Fraudulent, or even poorly performing partners, can waste time and money, resulting in missed opportunities to capitalise on trends in the market. Be sure you understand your exposure to fraud. Ask who’s verifying it, and how it’s trending year on year. Adobe Advertising Cloud understand the concerns that advertisers have regarding fraud. That’s why we were the first to introduce automatic refunds for non-human traffic (or bots) to all of our platform clients – and why we encourage third-party verification of all ad buys using our independent third-party security partners.
5. How do I select vendors?
Your process for evaluating and choosing vendors influences the quality of subsequent decisions. Instead of asking vendors to present answers to hundreds of technical questions on an enormous spreadsheet—which only gives you a one-way information flow about their capabilities—a better way to approach this is by saying, “these are my primary challenges and use cases, how would you solve for this?” This creates a customer-centric solution as opposed to a vendor-centric solution.
As more businesses look to re-evaluate their digital advertising buying models, it is important to adopt a more holistic approach to technical innovation and the process by which it is achieved. By focusing on transparent, mutually beneficial vendor relationships, clients should be able to grow into digital self-sufficiency.
In the end, advertisers need to understand that the best solution is to be – or find a partner that is — both tortoise AND hare, combining the fast-moving capabilities of one with the determination of the other. Only a marriage of the two will allow you to reach the finish line.