Staff Writer
Aug 15, 2017

The programmatic window of opportunity

Miaozhen’s consulting director provides sparknotes for measuring and pioneering China’s growing programmatic industry.

The programmatic window of opportunity

Despite this year’s strong growth in ad spend in China, 80 percent of retail sales still occur offline, observes Lu Heng, senior consulting director at Miaozhen Systems. He believes invalid traffic is to blame, with many small publishers in China causing issues of brand safety.

In fact, Lu has seen clients so afraid of invalid traffic that they revert back to traditional advertising. Estimating that 20 percent to 30 percent of traffic could be fake, he laments: “It’s a serious obstacle for publishers and brands. If we do not resolve the issue of invalid traffic, programmatic will die.”

As China’s leading third-party data marketing technology firm, Miaozhen Systems has met this problem head-on. “We’ve put clear return on ad spend [ROAS] and transparent KPIs at the top of our to-do list. The clearer you measure, the faster the market will grow,” observes Lu. Case in point, due to accessible end-to-end measurement and ads-to-sales conversion, Chinese advertisers dedicated budget to ecommerce platforms.

“This combination of big and small data, the new and the traditional, it really gets clients excited”

Lu Heng, consulting director at Miaozhen Systems

But there are still many advertisers who have yet to discern the industry’s digital rulebook, and turn to media agencies without any expectation of measuring campaign effectiveness. With this disconnect in mind, Miaozhen shaped a ready-to-use methodology, VISA, which stands for viewability, invalid traffic, brand safety and audience.

The step-by-step practice works to clean client data, mine to pick out value, and measure audience reach and response. Ultimately, the strategy alleviates misconception, and in an industry with an often daunting learning curve, a simplified approach is crucial.

Leaps in strategy

“Miaozhen was initially focused on maximising reach,” recalls Lu. “We just provided advertising tracking services, and now we have added IT services and audience analysis and insight for our clients.” More specifically, the company combines traditional survey design data with the internet’s organic data to drive more meaningful insight.

For example, traditional survey data previously offered only a flavour of what movies and shows an audience showed interest in. Now, Miaozhen aggregation systems can categorise massive variable sets gathered from several data sources, providing a more nuanced strategy than the oversimplified ‘if you like this, you’re sure to like that’ approach to recommended content. “This combination of big and small data, the new and the traditional, it really gets clients excited,” comments Lu.

Another recent breakthrough that bridges the old world of advertising with the new is the company’s KOL optimisation solution. While they observed strong momentum from KOLs with social media standing—and high ad spend on their platforms—they also sniffed out a tendency for media agencies to pair KOLs with clients based solely on publishing size.

In response, Miaozhen works with clients to accurately measure audience, then splices that data with KOL impact. As this customised list is not merely based on a simplistic KOL hierarchy, meaningful overlaps are observed across subgroups of client target audiences.

The currency of collaboration

Miaozhen isn’t going it alone in these ventures, the ability to connect data points is rooted in the company’s core belief that—no matter how big a data player you are—partnership is key. By collaborating with the BAT giants, Miaozhen has worked to open up China’s digital marketing sector to much more transparent and effective marketing solutions. Advertisers are now afforded the ability to check complete performance indices and see their budget’s full impact on search, customer view and purchase behaviour.

Lu believes more Chinese advertisers will gain confidence in the wide world of data technology. He also sees audience measurement evolving into full-scale performance management, with many more parties lending a hand. He projects: “Soon, clients won’t just be satisfied with audits and data, they will want more comprehensive solutions and more complete transparency. The response to these wants is third parties—the supervisors of the data and audience measurement process.”

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