PROGRAMMABLE: THE NEXT BIG STEP

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Big data, digital transformation and audience buying are changing the way marketers think about campaigns. Programmatic is no longer enough to help brands stay on top of everything in this rapidly shifting marketplace. That’s where programmable comes in.

In this white paper, Adage Content Strategy Studio and XAXIS, a programmatic audience company explores the defining qualities of programmable brand marketing and their implications for brands and agencies.

Today’s marketers are increasingly embracing programmatic technology for buying and selling advertising. Yet as consumer lifestyles become ever more complex and dynamic, even programmatic advertising struggles to reach the right audiences in the right way for optimal efficiency and impact. Fragmented media planning and siloed channel buys lack the agility to follow customers as they move from screen to screen and place to place. Those messages that do arrive are just as likely to be blocked by recipients weary of irrelevant ads. Devices, wearables and the internet of things generate tremendous volumes of data that could improve targeting and personalization —but marketers are unable to put it to work, leaving this invaluable resource untapped. There has to be a better way.

And there is: programmable brand marketing. Programmatic was only the beginning, enabling automation within channels toward the bottom of the funnel. Now, with 85% of buyers in the United States using some form of programmatic, according to Get Ready for the Age of Programmable Brands, a November 2016 IDC white paper sponsored by Xaxis, brands are taking the next step forward—and it’s a big one. “For the first time, technology has reached the point where it supports brand marketing,” says Karsten Weide, program VP, Media & Entertainment, IDC. Powered by big data and cognitive learning, a new generation of tools works across channels to deliver personalized experiences that engage consumers in more meaningful ways at every stage of the customer life cycle—and drive unprecedented value for consumers and marketers alike.

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Big data, Digital Transformation and audience buying are changing the way marketers think about campaigns—just in time for a rapidly evolving marketplace. “In a world where everything from digital devices to cars and home appliances [is] being designed to intuit and address people’s needs automatically, brands need to meet a higher standard of relevance and immediacy,” says Ekapat Chareonlarp, global VP and managing partner for WPP’s programmatic audience company, Xaxis. “That means reaching people with marketing that speaks to their individual needs.” Programmable brand marketing puts data at the front and center of campaigns to target audiences as precisely as possible, even all the way to individual users. “With ad blockers, consumers are telling us loud and clear that they don’t care about what we’re showing them. We need to move to a world where messages are targeted so well, and custom-tailored so precisely, that [they have] content that people truly want to see,” Mr. Weide says. Says Nicolle Pangis, global COO for [m]PLATFORM: “The industry is getting smarter about focusing on audiences, not just click rates, and folding learnings back into the consumer life cycle journey. That’s valuable from the consumer’s own perspective as well.” Automated delivery helps marketers maintain the necessary efficiency and scale while delivering a seamless and consistent experience wherever and however consumers receive messages. Powered by new investments and innovation across the marketing technology stack, programmable brand marketing is characterized by six key qualities:

Automated brand campaigns: To date, the benefits of programmatic advertising technology have been more applicable to direct response advertising than brand campaigns. While actions such as clicks and purchases are straightforward enough for marketers to track, the only way to determine whether a given consumer has seen a brand advertisement is to place a pixel on the publisher’s page. Otherwise, it becomes impossible to target that individual to continue their journey down the funnel. Recent partnerships between Xaxis and both Facebook and Google allow the company to place pixels on those publishers’ pages, making it possible for marketers using the Xaxis platform to bid for the specific individuals they want to reach, rather than having to rely on publisher brands as a proxy. This individual-level targeting allows marketers to move consumers more effectively from awareness to brand interest to brand consideration to purchase intent.

Buying audiences, not impressions: Traditionally, advertising has revolved around the use of media as a proxy for audiences; you buy the impressions you think your target customers are likely to see. Programmable brands eliminate the middleman and use data analytics to target consumers directly. This is especially valuable at a time when a single person might move across not only countless properties within a given channel, but across an increasingly large number of channels as well, often forcing agencies to overspend in hopes of catching the right person in the right place. “Having the ability to buy programmatically doesn’t mean that you’re doing so as efficiently as possible to reach client goals,” Ms. Pangis says. Mr. Chareonlarp agrees: “Rather than trying to guess where people might be, we’ve created technologies to unify an individual’s identity across devices. That’s a foundational capability of programmable brand marketing.”

Omnichannel Marketing: Omnichannel marketing complements unified identity management to break down the silos that have traditionally fragmented media planning. “You don’t care about channels anymore, or whether your brand advertisement runs on display, mobile, desktop, connected TV or wherever else—it’s who you want to talk to that matters,” Mr. Weide says. Individual consumers can be followed across devices or channels automatically for more coherent campaign delivery.

Programmability Today: the bidding algorithms provided by DSPs are a black box to marketers: You can’t know how it works, only—after the fact—whether it worked. With programmable brand marketing, vendors, agencies and even brands themselves are beginning to tailor their algorithms to specific campaigns and apply optimization along the way. “If you’re trying to reach a particular audience, doesn’t it make sense to have a tool that can program against that specific audience in the real world?” Ms. Pangis says. “The technology can make decisions throughout the buy, constantly feeding the data back through the campaign pipes to better optimize for the consumers we’re seeking.” Mr. Weide foresees the emergence of an open marketplace where marketers can buy or rent purpose-built algorithms, or even an open source ecosystem where algorithms are co-developed and freely traded. 

Dynamic advertising: Many marketers already use some version of dynamic creative optimization to show alternate versions of a given ad depending on the profile of the person who sees it—a hybrid car for a suburban parent, a heavy-duty truck for a contractor, each with a geographically determined local dealership to contact. The rich data and analytics of programmable brand marketing enhance the effectiveness of this tactic to determine the ideal mix of copy, visuals, offers and other variables for each customer, and to enable continual testing and refinement as the campaign progresses. A leader in digital retail media, Triad Retail Media, has partnered with Walmart and YouTube to put these principles into action for custom video spots. Sherry Smith, global chief customer officer at Triad Retail Media, says, “Our major focus over the coming year is to use retailer and advertiser data to enable innovation and optimization at both the brand and product level. In this way, we can reach the target customer with personalized product recommendations or offers in the most effective way, and bring back further insights to apply from the beginning to the end of the sales cycle.” 

Attribution: Attribution has long been a weak spot in advertising; post-exposure surveys with relatively small sample sizes and only approximate accuracy remain the state of the art. “From a design perspective it’s pretty clumsy; you do it because you don’t have a better way,” Mr. Weide says. Programmable brand marketing vendors are working to solve the key technical challenges in more direct attribution, in particular the ability to integrate back-end enterprise systems more easily with advertising platforms—a slow and costly process at this point. Adds Mr. Weide, “Attribution companies have made great strides in recent years, tracking more channels and even events. Give them a few years, and we should be able to achieve the real-time tracking needed to optimize campaigns on the fly.”

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