Gabey Goh
Oct 5, 2016

CASE STUDY: Tiffany goes direct for programmatic performance in China

The company used a direct programmatic buying strategy in China to boost brand awareness and deliver customised messaging.

CASE STUDY: Tiffany goes direct for programmatic performance in China


Chinese luxury brands have been cautious about how auction-based real-time bidding (RTB) might affect brand integrity, due to perceptions of low quality inventory as well as uncertainty on price and volume. Because of this, many have been reluctant to explore programmatic in their media plans.

However non-RTB buying has given rise to the potential for luxury brands to embrace the benefits of programmatic buying in terms of better target audience reach and a more customised digital strategy. As a result, non-RTB buying is finding increasing favour.

As an example of this, MEC and Xaxis China came up with a luxury programmatic strategy for Tiffany to improve its online television media (OTV) advertising effectiveness by utilising an alternative programmatic buying method called PDB (programmatic direct buy).

PDB, as defined by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), is a one-to-one sale with fixed pricing and reserved inventory that is processed automatically.

As a buying method, PDB is touted to enable engagement via prior inventory negotiation with publishers to ensure the following:

  • Quality of media inventory, which can be better managed, thus relieving advertisers of concerns on questionable quality of programmatic inventory
  • Volume of media Inventory, which is guaranteed for PDB, resolving the challenge of unstable inventory supply
  • Guaranteed price, resolving the challenge of unstable pricing.

Tiffany set strict conditions for this OTV campaign:

  • Only Tier-1 media OTV inventory
  • 60-second pre-roll inventory required
  • No irrelevant channels allowed.

The brand also wanted different and customised communication strategies for male and female audiences.


MEC and Xaxis used a used a Luxury Audience Buying Framework to approach the case.

The team ensured that the inventory was only from the top-tier media vendors such as iQiyi, Youku and Tencent for Tiffany to deliver its 60-second OTV, with majority of delivery falling into specific channels (American, British or Korean dramas, romantic movies, finance) while blacklisting inappropriate channels (war, kids, ancient costume dramas) for further brand protection. 

The agencies also designed the communication route and selected the right audience with data intelligence to create customised communications with both gender and frequency targeting.

The campaign included assets with two messages:

  • “Craftsmanship” supporting Tiffany & Co’s heritage proposition.
  • "Modern Love" which sought to resonate emotionally with the audience.

Through Xaxis’ audience intelligence capability, the team was able to identify gender and the number of prior ad exposures for the incoming audience before delivering the ad.

For the female audience, “Modern Love” was delivered at the initial contact, as it reinforced Tiffany’s original branding, connecting both emotionally and through familiarity. After three exposures, the team retargeted the female audience with “Craftsmanship” to communicate the heritage and quality message.

For the male audience, the “Craftsmanship” copy was delivered throughout.


Through a brand impact study, the customised strategy using the sequential approach significantly strengthened brand metrics amongst the female audience (significance tested in 95 percent confidence level).

Aided brand awareness increased among the female audience that was exposed to both “Modern Love” and “Craftsmanship” messaging.

Endorsement of the intended message “Craftsmanship” and “Premium” grew significantly among the female group exposed to both “Modern Love” and “Craftsmanship”, suggesting that this audience successfully picked up the intended brand credentials.

In terms of ad engagement, the clickthrough rate for the campaign outperformed, by 54 percent, Tiffany’s previous 60-second OTV campaign in 2015, which used normal buy only.

Secondly, the female audience proved to be more engaged with the subsequent “Craftsmanship” message after exposure to the “Modern Love” message.

On average across devices and media, the clickthrough rate for “Craftsmanship” ad jumped 39 percent compared to only watching “Modern Love”.

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