The New Media Buying Formula: Upfront + Programmatic

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How marrying the longer term buy and real-time executions can work for a brand.

As the tenor of this year’s Upfronts has made clear, the media marketplace has evolved dramatically and the inventory landscape is shifting. As a result, the way we plan for our clients and our brands is quickly changing too. Even as we transition from Upfront to NewFront season, the brand marketer’s attention continues to be focused on the longer-term planning cycle, direct buys, and/or the premium sponsorships to which they are so accustomed. Yet, amid this activity, agency folk increasingly find themselves simultaneously evaluating the programmatic opportunity for their clients. To those clients rooted in legacy approaches, this can be a tough sell. But it’s well worth it.

In the old days, the marketer equation of choice was Upfront + Scatter.
In most cases, Scatter simply amounted to a heavying up of dollars at a particular time, not a strategic data driven response to changing market behavior. Now, increasingly, marketers are considering an Upfront + Programmatic (the “New Scatter”)” approach, which includes a highly targeted use of real-time data.

In reality, programmatic is the natural complement to the Upfront mindset and planning processes.
Programmatic gives advertisers the option to target audiences across channels, wherever they are, based on data signals. As many of us have already come to appreciate, programmatic buying surfaces real prospects and reduces the waste of those who have never expressed any interest in a given product or brand. But it also gives marketers the opportunity to stay quicker on their feet and respond to trends, seasonal shifts or competitive forces, in a flash. It can be a powerful competitive weapon that allows marketers to unfurl a new campaign to reach their precise target at the drop of a hat—or the sounding of a new competitive bell.

The aggregate power of longer-term planning combined with a dynamic programmatic layer is evident when you consider a couple of categories. As we know, the Upfronts, and the buys they yield, can drive broad awareness at the top of the funnel for a large—sometimes too large—target audience.

Now consider adding a timely, targeted, and dynamic push to customers that complements that first layer of attack. That’s what happens when marketers earmark and deploy programmatic dollars in conjunction with their Upfront planning—the leverage media strategy, imagination and automation all at once.

For mobile carriers, this can mean starting with broad network buys—establishing plenty of awareness to draw a brand into a consideration set. But then, once a competitor moves and triggers a new price war, using programmatic as the weapon of choice to respond in real-time—when customers are actually contemplating a move to a competitor. Generally speaking, we see advertisers in this segment, such as Verizon, favoring data driven approaches to marketing, so that they could reach their target audiences in real time, with the most appealing offers possible, besting the competition. These companies are often also taking into account real-time intent-based data that incorporates those people most likely to considering the category and/or product at that time. Programmatic is gaining favor here.

Another examples are the fast food wars. We all know how intense those can be. Last year we saw Taco Bell take on McDonald’s, over breakfast. With the TV and video spots created by their agency Deutsch, “The Routine Republic,” the spring 2014 campaign went directly at its rival with traditional marketing and media that framed the Golden Arches as passe, and proclaimed Taco Bell as the next generation of fast-food breakfast. We saw TV ads with Ronald fawning over Taco Bell’s morning fare.

Over the coming months and into 2015, Taco Bell upped its investment in programmatic as well as its mobile play too, wisely tapping into the tastes and mobile preferences of their on-the-go consumer, executing much more on the fly, on top of their popular TV spots. With a programmatic layer, they could target frequent breakfast QSR audiences, offering handy mobile order customization options and more, as a wise and immediate tactical move to further support the new marketplace salvo.

Certainly, marketers will continue to plan and commit to the longer-term play but they will also increasingly reserve more funds and more imagination for the programmatic accompaniment. As we continue to navigate the new inventory picture and the planning environment that comes along with it, that’s very much the new equation.

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