Editor's note: To RTB or DSP, that is the programmatic question: An introduction to media buying in the data age took place on 10 April 2014. Access this webinar on-demand.
The panel session featured Nick Scott, associate media director for IBM Growth Markets at [email protected]; Anna Vuong, media marketing manager at Woolworths Australia; and Cindy Deng, managing director Asia-Pacific at Turn. Campaign Asia-Pacific managing editor Jason Wincuinas served as moderator.
Here are some highlights from an edited transcript of the discussion (the full webinar is available here):
Wincuinas: What are some working definitions of programmatic buying as it relates to your respective roles?
Vuong: Programmatic buying to me is essentially a process of buying media in an automated fashion through multiple digital platforms. Its core competency is to deliver ads to discreet target audiences based on audience profiles.
Scott: There is an assumption that programmatic is tied directly to digital and online, but that is not necessarily the case. We’re starting to see radio and billboards being bought through programmatic. Not purely about online media.
Deng: Programmatic is important and needed now because we live in a world where there is so much data and inventory out there that humans can’t process it effectively. Technology comes in to help with the automation process.
Wincuinas: What about all the other terms and acronyms? DSP, RTB, DMP?
Deng: RTB [real-time bidding] is a protocol. A way that each ad impression is evaluated bought and sold on a real time basis. The DSP [demand-side platform] and the SSP [supply-side platform] facilitates that. Operating on two ends of the spectrum. Both are technologies that enable programmatic trading. DSPs are used by advertisers, the demand side, to help them to decide which ad impression to buy, how much they should bid based on algorithms. On SSP side: this is the publisher’s end. It helps the publisher maximise the price they can sell for each impression generated on their site.
DMP stands for data management platform. A couple of key factors that I think true DMPs should have: it should tie different data sources together including online or offline, CRM data, POS (point of sale) data, online data, web traffic data, digital ad spend and performance. The next thing a DMP needs to do is to build different rules to segment data into different profiles. Provide insights and analytics on each of those segments.
Vuong: The easiest way to understand this space is to realise that these are the tech and aggregation tools that have arrived due to the abundance of inventory. When publishers started building hundreds of millions of web pages it resulted in unsold inventory. This in turn created an opportunity for ad networks to act as a sales rep that sells to advertisers and agencies. Easy way to buy huge amount of inventory.
Problems started when ad networks grew too numerous and efficiency was lost because you had to work across different ad networks. There was duplication across the networks of the audience you’re targeting. The increased need for efficiency is why programmatic buying came about which created the opportunity for buyers and sellers to trade audiences rather than inventory.
Wincuinas: What obstacles do agencies face on the client side in the adoption of this technology?
Scott: For me personally, it was shifting the existing mindset from traditional online days five to six years ago where you’re buying on-site and you hope the audience arrives. The tech and the data now allows you to really target your audience across multiple sites.
Vuong: From a brand standpoint, and let’s not talk about tech or telco companies, most marketers do know about ad networks and DSPs. But in most instances, marketers recognise the names but are less familiar with what they really are. It’s just a line-item that marketers execute without fully understanding how to use the data and leverage it to drive marketing.
Wincuinas: What big data is available and how can it be used?
Deng: There’s tonnes of data that can be applied to any given campaign. We always advise to start with the brand’s data. Online and offline—CRM and POS data is very important in understanding how do you get to those users in an online environment. Once you have that, along with website data, we look at targeting and retargeting in a very granular fashion. For example, frequency: What stage? Recency? What about velocity? If a user increases or decreases activity on a brand site, both are very telling points that can indicate stage of interest.
After this there is third-party data that’s integrated with our system, providing contextual data and search data. All those are various data points a brand could use to tie in and target their audiences more precisely.
There is an important caveat at this stage though. DMP partners and the data they provide is somewhat in its infancy here. It’s growing day by day. But from a brand’s perspective there may not be a direct set of existing data for a very targeted audience. There’s still a lot of adaptation at this stage in this market.
Wincuinas: What are the key factors that should be considered when optimising a programmatic campaign?
Scott: It’s all about the end goal which is conversion—turning users into customers. The key is optimising that conversion. For example, retargeting people who have dropped off at certain stages of the conversion process. One way we’re doing that is targeting the reasons they have done so. We have identified three or four stages of the conversion funnel and targeted different messaging to match each of these stages.
Vuong: A challenge we’re moving into now is how can we best use programmatic buying for brand campaigns? Purchase intent, brand awareness…how does that get measured? Are CPCs, CPR the best benchmarks? Lots of questions, and we’re still working through.
Deng: One way to measure brand campaign effectiveness on programmatic is running pre-and post-campaign surveys on awareness and sentiment. Brand campaign is specifically a big topic for us here because we already know that programmatic works for direct response.
Wincuinas: Should brands work with agencies or build in-house trading desks? What’s the best method for whom? Is it dependent on size?
Deng: It depends on the brand really and how involved they want to be on a daily basis. If they’re already on Ad Words, we have a platform that allows them to do that on their own but if they want someone to support some of the strategy to manage on a daily campaign basis. An agency and working with an agency is a good way to get started.
Question your agency and make sure they’re working with you on the visibility and support.
Brands can still get transparency and data points but have an agency to support that day-to-day campaign management process. Whether a brand is ready to move it in-house or not is up to the brand, but the tech is there.
Vuong: I don’t think it’s based on size. It’s based on whether the time is right. Cindy [Deng] is correct that the tech is there, but as a brand you need to invest in it. It takes a lot of resources to bring it in-house. You need to question the headcount you need in-house versus working with an agency. That change is not short term. It’s a long-term shift and won’t be overnight.
In the case of Telstra Australia for example. What they’ve done, I believe, is partner with their media agencies and create a DSP for Telstra housed in the agency. The client is sitting in the agency and staff have been recruited specifically for programmatic as well as the creative team from the agency. How efficient is this? I’m not sure. Money? Quite a lot! The process has taken three or four years.
I believe the best approach is to trial and test with a third-party DSP or work via an agency and see how important this is for your business then think about bringing it in-house.
Wincuinas: What does the future hold?
Scott: With the continuing growth of available data will come a lot more customised messaging aimed at getting the right message in the right environment all the time.
Vuong: In Australia, demand for programmatic will definitely increase. The next big thing for me is that it’s possible for new channels to become programmatically enabled. TubeMogul for example is testing online video and TV buy across platforms in the US. The main barrier though is talent availability. There is a real shortage of people who understand programattic buying and who can do the work. When you lose someone, it takes three to four months to get a new hire up to speed.
Deng: The progression towards programmatic is natural as we’re all seeking efficiency. There will be increased migration into new channels – whether it’s TV or others. Also the use of programmatic for more than just direct-response advertising. It’s just going to be a bigger and bigger part of the media buy.