Real-Time Media Buying is Just the Tip of the Programmatic Iceberg

Programmatic advertising is still not used to its full potential. In this piece, Chris Le May (pictured below), SVP and MD Europe and emerging markets, DataXu, specifically addresses marketers and explains how they can make the most of their programmatic spend by breaking down silos and using advanced attribution models to create meaningful data and make informed decisions. 

As the popular myth goes, humans only use 10% of their brains. Imagine, if this were true, what we could achieve with 90% extra brainpower? Would we fully realise our capabilities… or be content using a mere tenth of our potential?

Unfortunately, some marketers are doing exactly that with programmatic: using a fraction of its capabilities instead of harnessing them to the fullest extent. The term ‘programmatic’ is used most commonly in its simplest sense: real-time media buying via a DSP. But that’s just a box-ticking hygiene factor that keeps you in favour with the CEO.

With 60% of display traded programmatically in the UK last year, accounting for £1.60bn in spend, what’s certain is that real-time media buying is no longer a differentiator. But fully exploring the possibilities of programmatic can make you stand out – and get you ahead of the competition.

How can you make more of programmatic?

Put a stop to the silos

Rather than wholly focusing on individual tasks, hidden away in individual cubicles, the whole marketing team should sit down together and work collaboratively. After all, channels are irrelevant in isolation – they must be considered in context and in combination, establishing a single view of the consumer. That’s why it’s ineffective to have a separate planner and budget for mobile, display, and TV: marketing needs to be people-based, not channel-specific.

Chris Le May DataXu

Chris Le May, SVP & MD Europe & Emerging Markets, DataXu

While we’re talking about physical silos, let’s talk about breaking down the barriers between departments. The marketing team is arguably best positioned when it comes to understanding the customer, meaning marketing data is invaluable to better inform the decisions of other areas of the business. But our latest survey, ‘Modernizing the Mix’, shows 30% of UK marketers are keeping their data to themselves. That really needs to change.

Equally important is breaking down external silos between you and your platforms. Nearly a quarter of UK marketers (23.7%) identify the biggest threat to their team’s success as being stretched too thin due to working with and managing too many vendors. But selecting one omnichannel partner is less time-consuming, and they can be used for emerging channels too.

What might seem like an insurmountable silo is the one preventing marketers from seeing how their efforts are working within walled gardens like Facebook and Google. However, the growing demand for transparency from brands and agencies may well change this situation sooner than we expect. As an industry, we must call for an independent party to shine a light on the ROI of currently-opaque media investments, in order to lower these walls – if not bring them down completely.

Once all of these silos have been confronted, the holy grail of omnichannel marketing – one of the greatest advantages that programmatic can bring – is truly possible.

Let data be the decision-maker

As you’re reading, there are vast amounts of data being generated, making it harder to hone in on what information will truly help you reach your marketing objectives. Emerging channels, new tools and innovative systems can end up clouding your view of the data you have, what you can use, and its potential, rather than clarifying it.

Inevitably, some of your data will not be helpful and, if used, will have no material effect on your overall objectives. But, as an industry, we’ve become obsessed with unnecessarily expanding our own workloads, peering at and measuring data from every touchpoint, even when it’s unlikely to have had a tangible effect on any conversions.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is unit sales data – concrete, reliable, and relevant. This kind of information can help you interpret important customer behaviours and establish the chain of causal effects that eventually led to a conversion. Ultimately, you can join the dots between marketing efforts and actual sales, to make sure the next campaign sees even more success.

Historically it’s always been difficult to quantify the effect of marketing on sales – but this isn’t the case any more. If necessary, seek external advice on what data you can and should use, and how you can improve your team’s data literacy.

Demonstrate success by measuring meaningfully

The way our industry traditionally measures success needs revolutionising. Success should be measured during and after every campaign; and must be defined by your overall objectives: sales, revenue, or classic brand metrics such as awareness or lift.

There is an ongoing debate around which KPIs are best, with agencies tending to prefer actions that demonstrate campaign success, such as brochure downloads. But producing a brochure actually costs the brand money. What’s more, linking this to a conversion is a correlation, not necessarily a causation. By measuring unit sales instead, you are aligning marketing investments with overall business goals, and establishing links between marketing efforts and sales.

When it comes to analysing your cross-device efforts, it may be easy to divide the spend on one channel by the number of conversions from it to obtain your CPA, but it’s also meaningless. The way marketing influences the customer journey is so much more nuanced than that. While an advanced attribution model can be a good first step to analysing the customer journey, a media mix model can truly help you understand the causal effect each investment has on sales, resulting in accurate measurement of your marketing ROI.

Real-time media buying is the new normal; but utilising the advanced capabilities of programmatic isn’t – yet. Customer-centric strategies, data-born decisioning, and meaningful measurement – all these sophisticated practices come under the definition of programmatic, and are within reach to any marketer who wants to gain the most from it. They are also the stepping stones to better supporting your overall business goals.

The term ‘programmatic’ still encompasses the best practices and tools that marketers have at their disposal today, and harnessing that extra 90% of programmatic power really is achievable, if you know how.