Why the perfect programmatic dream relies on a partnership model

by Bruce Falck, CEO, Turn

In 2013, a survey of 1,000 CMOs showed that 76% agreed that the title had changed more in the previous two years than in the preceding 50.

If you ask those same executives about the next two years, I bet that most would say they just went through another half-century’s worth of upheavals. That’s because in technology, change doesn’t happen incrementally.

In the advertising industry, we don’t see these changes day-to-day all that often. Instead, technologies like programmatic become part of the environment and you begin to take for granted that data-driven targeting has made your marketing spend more efficient. At the same time, the growing complexity slowly engulfs you.

That’s where our brains often get stuck. However, I’d like to take the long view now and suggest that we’re just at the beginning of a new advertising renaissance in which all these steady incremental improvements are leading to a more unified view of the customer and ultimately more fruitful interactions.

It’s Early Days in Programmatic

Last year, for the first time, programmatic accounted for the majority of digital display ad spending. EMarketer estimates that by 2017, 75% of such spending will be programmatic.

While that’s a victory for those of us who have been pushing programmatic for years, complexity remains the norm. Consumers spend most of their time on mobile devices these days and getting a consistent view of a customer who flits between her smartphone, desktop, connected TV and tablet is tricky. To complicate things further, IoT devices like Nest, Amazon Echo and smart appliances are just hitting the market.

A Unified Customer View

The good news is that, taken together, all of these devices provide a detailed picture of the consumer. But we all know that this is not the reality in the marketplace. As consumers, we are bombarded with the same ads on desktop and mobile with no rhyme or reason. Ideally, a series of marketing messages with a consumer should be like a conversation. When we keep having the same initial conversation on a battery of different devices, consumers justifiably get annoyed.

For marketers, the search for a unified view of the customer is also frustrating. Instead of dealing with one partner offering a single solution, they are confronted with a pack of specialists offering point solutions. The result? Confusion, and ultimately, redundancy and waste.

Unlocking Value with Data

The solution to this problem is a centralized data management platform where brands can work with their agencies and tech partners. This will help us to refine targeting and move away from a generalized approach aimed at groups and toward one that’s truly directed at eliciting one-to-one conversations.

Agencies and brands can work together not only to mine data, but to create content that elicits even more data which can be used to discern consumer preferences at a granular level. For instance, Kraft Heinz has more than 3 million recipe interactions a day. That tells the company a lot more about its customers and their specific needs than standard advertising would.

Programmatic is the key to unlocking these insights, because in order to prompt those interactions, Kraft Heinz has to distribute content in the right place and at the right moment. This creates a virtuous circle in which better targeting prompts better data.

As this example demonstrates, programmatic is about more than just advertising. It’s about managing interactions with consumers and being able to assess what worked and what didn’t.

The end result is that marketers are better able to manage moments with their consumers, on any device, in the smartest way possible.

A Partnership Model

This vision depends on fostering a partnership model. Though there has been some tension between agencies and technology companies, especially as relationships with trading desks shift and more brands seek direct connections to their technology. I think it’s the agencies’ role to suss out the technology on behalf of marketers and those who do so are going to win.

Very few brands will ultimately bring programmatic technology completely in house, but most brands will bring some aspect in house. The triumvirate of brand, agency and tech firm is required if the industry is going to thrive and avoid getting mired in complexity. As you can read here, I have a lot of faith that the rewards will be great for those that are able to navigate this rapidly changing environment.




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