Thanks to the inundation of smartphones, tablets and laptops, coupled with the emergence of personal and professional social networks, sharing platforms and the resilience of email, consumers are sharing their interests, preferences and opinions more than ever before. But the Web has always been social. And by this, I mean the way in which online content is produced, consumed and distributed across the digital landscape.
This can mean anything from shortened links, using tools on pages to share information, sharing directly from a webpage to a social media platform (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and even sending a good old-fashioned email with a link in it. The prominence of online communications is the strongest it's ever been in the digital age.
This surge in online consumption has created an unprecedented opportunity for marketers to take advantage of the vast amount of data out there to help target consumers and find new customers in a precise and relevant way, at scale. Simply put, there are billions of sharing data points in all forms happening across all digital touchpoints in real-time.
We've reached a point where, given the sheer amount of data, information must be processed via automation, which is the single most important component of why we are fast approaching a "programmatic" revolution. And by 2015, I believe 60 percent of the digital advertising market will be automated where the key to growth will rely less on third-party data and more on first-party data insights. (Magna Global claims 52 percent of the marketplace will be programmatic by 2017, however RadiumOne announced earlier this year that it predicts that number will be accelerated to hold the majority of spend by 2015.)
Technology, through sophisticated algorithms, has made it increasingly possible to find valuable characteristics, gauge consumer behaviors and target messages with laser focus to the right audiences. Programmatic brings a previously unavailable automated intelligence to brands, enabling them to quickly reach potential audiences with relevant content in an extremely timely fashion.
Many marketers confuse programmatic with real-time bidding, but the two terms are not synonymous. The concept of "real-time bidding" has been in existence for a few years and is simply the methodology behind buying and selling advertising impressions in an open marketplace, much like an auction model. This is where brands are able to buy and sell online display advertising in real-time, one ad at a time and serve them to the public. However, as with most software, your desired outcome is wholly reliant on the information you put in and the way in which you use the data you have. How often have you been served an ad for a train or plane after you have made the journey? Real-time bidding is an important trading component of the marketplace, but it is the marketplace as a whole that is becoming programmatic. Programmatic is more efficient, as it enables brands to aggregate, book, analyze and optimize all forms of digital content and media so they can serve targeted offers, messages and ads across all channels. The ultimate benefit here is that marketers can identify customers in real-time, in the right place and on the right device to help retain or win new business.
At its most basic level, programmatic allows marketers to connect the dots between their content, their audiences and their media buying; ensuring they are genuinely reaching their target audience based on their digital profile/history (likes, preferences, behaviors, etc.) right here, right now. This is a hugely powerful asset for brands.
Programmatic also gives marketers the ability to address the challenges faced with the mobile channel. Since its infancy, mobile advertising has struggled on two levels. First, it has struggled as Web advertising did in the early stages with questionable measurement; whereby, success was measured by the number of app downloads brands are able to achieve (akin to how many likes or followers you received, which are essentially numbers with no real meaning or value added). Second, even though mobile is becoming the primary channel through which people communicate today, marketers have struggled to connect with consumers as they move between devices (smartphone, tablet and desktop). The programmatic marketplace addresses both as it brings data and a cross-platform approach, thereby enabling brands to target and connect with their next customers using individualized custom-tailored marketing messages. A big drive for this new paradigm will be the ability to combine the analytics of each consumer action and deliver a personalized experience to users, with intelligent software and an increasing use of cookie-less targeting technology. It's the shot in the arm that will ensure mobile continues its aggressive growth.
Brands are already turning to a programmatic approach and seeing significant returns. Thanks to the amount of data presently available and the need to integrate with mobile, 2014 promises to be the year that all channels reach a "Big Bang" moment.
Marketers have a plethora of options for executing their programmatic campaigns: including hybrid networks, trading desks, advertising exchanges, demand-side platforms and data providers/data management platforms. Marketers need to understand how the option they choose is:
1. Managing Their Data: How is information from their customers' multiple touchpoints being managed, analyzed and understood? Selecting an option with intelligent marketing tools and algorithms helps make this data actionable quickly and accurately.
2. Offering a Fully Programmatic Campaign: Is the strategy only utilizing "real-time bidding," or is it fully programmatic? As highlighted in the article, real-time bidding is simply dependent on how you use the data and input the information. A fully programmatic strategy allows marketers to use intelligent algorithms and marketing tools to automate the process.
3. Connecting to Consumers When It Matters Most: Are customers being reached with relevant messages in real-time? Programmatic's strong advantage is in identifying customers to accurately target relevant ads at the right place and time. Marketers need to look for programmatic technologies where the data and the activation are closed-looped, eliminating any lag time. In other words, data is generated and delivered seamlessly in real-time, at the most critical moment, increasing the likelihood of conversion.