Under the Hood of Programmatic Advertising

During my last year at Twitter, one of the terms most in vogue within the company was programmatic advertising. Honestly, at that time, I really had no idea what that meant. The term ‘programmatic’ itself sounded so futuristic and unapproachable that I didn’t overextend myself in unearthing the truth behind this mythical beast.

It remained the hot topic within the tech industry and there was increasing queries as to whether Twitter would become an entirely programmatic platform in the future. I smiled and nodded, whilst thinking of the Terminator: ‘Will there be need for humans or will the machines take over?’

My world was paid social advertising. I was used to content marketing; targeting users based on signals they gave us like who they followed or what they tweeted about and reaching them with a relevant message, from which they would take the desired action. In the early stages, these ads were predominantly text based but four years on, there had been a massive shift towards video.

This medium became the main focus of the majority of the big advertisers and indeed the tech platforms themselves. As we have previously explored on this blog, the ‘social media’ companies of today want to be the broadcasters of tomorrow.

At Fifty-Three Six, we produce premium video content to engage fans but we go further than that -- we ultimately want to drive measurable results for our clients. Whether that be ticket sales, signups, or whatever conversion is applicable, our view is that content and conversions shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Data should inform and form the content strategy.

Thus, the time had come to embrace programmatic and properly look under the hood. Having spent a bunch of time with the guys at VE Interactive early in the year, I began to get the grips with the technology and the capabilities were impressive.

Programmatic 101:

Effectively, programmatic advertising is the use of technology to optimise digital activity in order to drive conversions. It is the prospecting of a relevant user and the retargeting of people who have already shown some sort of interest or intent in your product.

Simply put, people who have viewed your content are already half way down the funnel and you can retarget them with a timely and relevant message to complete the purchase.

The differentiator from standard digital campaigns is that the technology continually learns over time through the data that is being collected and will automatically optimise the activity for conversions. Depending on the tech you use, there is the ability to:

  • Retarget people who have been on specific websites or abandoned their cart

  • Target people who are reading specific types of content online or certain demographics

  • Send prompt messages to people to take an action or share a message

  • Create lookalike audiences of people who have converted and reach that base

This can all be done through traditional display, email, on-site activity or indeed, video. Reaching people who have showed an interest in your product or company across multiple touchpoints is extremely important. Of course, this shouldn’t replace other activity like search or paid social -- on the contrary, they can be powerful allies.

Social Explainer

For example, paid social can a great tool for building awareness or education around your product or service. You can drive people to your website and even if they don’t convert then, it helps build traffic and a profile from which to later retarget. In other words, it all feeds into each other to form a holistic approach.

Granted there is some industry jargon here, but the the long and short of it is this: the technology optimises for conversions.

What we’re seeing in the campaigns we’re running for our clients is that it works. And, perhaps just as importantly, it is extremely measurable. We have clear sight on who is converting, the CPA/ROI of all activity and that data continually helps improve performance across all marketing channels.

So, if you’re in the business of driving business, it might be time to embrace the machines.


Tom FoxComment