Last June, Australian telco giant Optus did something unusual to promote the launch of a new phone. The company wanted the heavily brand-focused campaign to be advertised on super premium, top-tier news sites, and so media agency VivaKi elected to automate homepage and section takeovers across publishers while guaranteeing quality.
Optus’ principle targets were around reach and awareness. The campaign ran across the tech and entertainment verticals of www.news.com.au for over a week.
According to Lynn Chealander, director VivaKi, Australia and New Zealand, the digital campaign exceeded the client’s targets and achieved three times the uplift on results, compared to the rest of the campaign.
News Corp Australia’s head of platforms and products, Cameron King calls this “a great step forward” for automated advertising. “Sponsorships are a crucial part of our business and we welcome anything that makes the implementation of campaigns more seamless,” King says. “We’ve already witnessed programmatic becoming more of a premium channel with the growth of private marketplaces — but, longer term, programmatic sponsorships hold the promise to redefine the channel completely.”
Traditionally, high-impact formats are designed primarily for brand advertising and their purpose is to create brand engagement beyond just a click. As such, they need to stand apart from the standard banner and text ads, which, to date, have generally been used nearly exclusively for performance advertising.
However, this remains difficult to execute and co-ordinate, and is operationally expensive. By automating high-impact formats and standardising the execution, media execs argue that these formats will become more accessible to advertisers and publishers.
“We see programmatic as a means to help our advertisers access media inventory more easily while deploying campaigns in a quicker and more efficient way once most of the operational kinks are worked out,” says Chealander.
Research by market analysts IDC predicts that real-time bidding spend in Asia is set to reach US$1.1 billion by 2016, one of the highest growth rates in the world. The Australian market in particular is taking the lead. The speed of innovation and transformation is so high that global platform companies are building out capabilities specifically for Australia.
Cadreon, Mediabrands’ programmatic offering recently implemented a full homepage takeover, which appeared on Mi9 for Industry Super Australia. Yean Cheong, Cadreon’s vice-president of market solutions for Asia-Pacific, says that although it’s early days for the rest of Asia, the agency is in a position to take the capability across markets.
Important strides are being made in Japan and China, where major publishers are enabling such inventory this year. “Not everyone is on board yet and some advertisers want to take it case by case, but we’re certainly pushing the market to consider it,” Cheong said.
Private exchanges are fuelling part of this growth. These marketplaces give control to both the buyer and seller with minimal noise from the open market, while allowing allow advertisers to buy a particular audience or predetermined volume of media at a set price.
Rubicon Project, which developed the Optus campaign, is looking closely at what can be done to automate the entire advertising stack in order to better support the continued trading of the high-impact, premium inventory.
“I would say that even traditionally late adopters like Southeast Asia are beginning to realise and see the benefits of greater efficiency,” says Jay Stevens, Rubicon Project’s international general manager. The ad tech firm is now focused on developing technology to fuse audience management with dynamic creative. “Optimising real-time will help us do a better job meshing creativity to desired actions.”
Helping drive the shift to automation are considerable cost and operational efficiencies for both buyers and sellers. Industry insiders say it leads to better co-operation between trading desks and agencies. It also gives them a better handle on performance media, data aggregation and remarketing, consequently allowing quick creative rotation.
Automated buys also create a single buying point resulting in a simplified reporting process that can be customised as the client seeks. Media agencies also guarantee client transparency, comparable to a traditionally sold deal.
Still, there are plenty of challenges holding back adoption in the region. For one, marketers and agencies are reluctant to adopt ad-serving. On top of that, publishers have been slow to automate high-impact formats, mostly due to lack of necessity — such inventory is usually limited and often sold out and therefore doesn’t lend itself available on open and private exchanges.
Given the rapid expansion of premium inventory, Cheong hopes that things change quickly. “I see programmatic evolving the way that search did,” observes Cheong. “Not everyone was sure of how it worked but they eventually realised the benefits. This is something that will keep progressing just like the way other channels evolve.”
Our view: Asia-Pacific has just started to deploy branded advertising and creative executions programatically but things are expected to move fast. Please email [email protected].