Four Steps to Ease Marketers into Programmatic Buying

Written on
Oct 7, 2014 
Or Shani  |

If you’re confused about all the commotion surrounding programmatic advertising, you’re not alone. ANA/Forrester found that only 23 percent of marketers in a recent survey had a good enough understanding of programmatic advertising to execute campaigns. Yet Magna Global projects worldwide programmatic ad spending to reach $32.6 billion by 2017. That’s an awful lot of money to be spending on something the majority of marketers have little to no knowledge of. Over the next few years, many marketers will make their first foray into the world of programmatic advertising. Their success relies heavily on how efficiently this process is integrated within their overall marketing strategies. Marketers who embrace programmatic and implement it correctly will reap significant benefits. Here are four steps to help make the switch seamlessly.

Step 1: Get informed.

So what exactly is programmatic advertising? In short, it’s an automated process of purchasing ads in real time using machine-learning technologies. For marketers and advertisers, this means that gone are the days of going through spreadsheets line by line to manually optimize campaigns. Machines handily outperform humans in this capability, since they have the power to collectively analyze massive amounts of data sets in an instant to continually build on what’s working. It’s this demand for stronger return on investment (ROI) of ad spend and a need to measure performance that’s driving the rapid adoption of programmatic strategies. This is the age of big data, and there is so much at your fingertips that we can use to make campaigns more efficient. But processing and analyzing all that data far surpasses the capabilities of human intelligence, and so we must turn to artificial means.

Step 2: Identify your goals.

Once you’ve done your research on programmatic advertising, it will be easier to figure out what you want to achieve for your campaign. But don’t simply try out a programmatic strategy because everyone else is doing it. (Didn’t your mother teach you better?) Not all campaigns are created equal, and each will require a different strategy.

Say you want to target affluent adults in San Diego for a store sale, or male teens in the U.S. to download a game. There are literally billions of different combinations from which you can choose to reach your target audience. While programmatic advertising relieves marketers and advertisers of the burden of optimization, the machine still needs to be given directions in the form of key performance indicators (KPIs). It’s crucial that these are well-defined, as they will be the benchmark against which you measure your campaign.

Knowing what you want will also serve to identify your technology needs, as providers offer varying levels of automation and integration. Choose the solution best fits you and your team, whether it’s fully automated or less so. Different providers will have different results, so don’t write off programmatic just yet if it didn’t go as planned. Finding the right partner doesn’t always happen on the first date.

Step 3: Trust the process.

A little-known truth when it comes to buying media in general is that you may not see the results instantaneously. Machine-learning technologies need time to evaluate which particular channels are delivering the best leads to meet the pre-set KPIs. The right approach to programmatic advertising starts off with a much smaller pool of potential publishers, sources and segments and grows from there based on what’s working. This is one of the biggest differences to traditional methods, which saw marketers and advertisers investing the bulk of their budgets by casting huge nets and cutting it down from there. The end result with programmatic is that by the time a campaign has been optimized for maximum ROI, there is a much bigger budget left over to keep the momentum going.

Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest barriers to programmatic. Relinquishing control can sometimes be one of the toughest challenges to overcome in switching to programmatic advertising. What it really boils down to is trust. Need reassurance? Set up a test to see if programmatic optimization outperforms manual optimization. The results will speak for themselves.

Step 4: Maximize your resources.

Programmatic shouldn’t be used as just a tool that your marketing team uses, but an extension of the marketing team itself. With optimization taken care of by your newest team member, programmatic buying allows you to be more proactive in refining your overall campaign strategy, rather than defensively reacting to what’s not working. How can you improve the creative to appeal to your target audiences? What other campaigns can you launch simultaneously to reach new consumers now that you have something else to do the heavy lifting? For agencies, how can you give better customer service to your clients?

Big data is creating immense opportunities across all aspects of business, and this is especially true when it comes to advertising. It’s the gas that powers programmatic buying to help marketers and advertisers get to their goals quicker and with fewer wasted dollars. As with any significant change, it will take time to adapt and evolve. Gradually ease into the process by preparing and planning accordingly, not blindly rushing into it with the pedal to the metal. Taking the right steps at the right pace will help programmatic reach its true potential and become a trusted member of your team.

Or Shani, CEO and founder of Adgorithms, which combines the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to maximize returns on ad campaigns. He is a seasoned online advertising professional with deep experience in programmatic buying and predictive analysis.

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