Cannes gets programmatic

CannesProgrammatic is the new buzz word of the advertising world. Even in the traditionally creative focused environment of Cannes Lions, programmatic is dominating the session agenda.

Everyone is talking about it from third party vendors to agencies, (Marco Bertozzi of VivaKi makes some interesting points in his recent article on Digiday), with each having their own opinion about how brands should utilise the discipline. Before the plethora of opinion that will erupt when Cannes kicks off; it’s important that brands truly understand what programmatic best practice is before they are clouded by the Cannes agency chorus.

At the moment, programmatic is a bit of a mystery and brands have a conundrum. Do they  rely on the agency that has been buying their space on traditional media outlets for years to keep their digital ad strategy on point, or do they venture into the unknown with a third party vendor?

Most agency trading desks tend to use just one or two DSPs. Clients have no real way to tell if that’s the most effective strategy as there’s no point of comparison. There’s also the possibility that their data is not only used for their benefit. In real terms this maybe a false economy – the whole point of utilising multiple points of access across the breadth of audience availability is to be party to a more efficient way to compare different prices for the same audience at scale. Using a variety of audience sources enables the access to that audience at critical points in the purchase funnel. If your programmatic team limits your campaign reach the risk is that you can’t use the tactics required to find that audience again to finally convert them into action.

The best way to think about programmatic is as the advertising equivalent of the stock exchange. Instead of trading stocks and shares, programmatic advertising is about buying the right audience, at the exact time they are in the mind-set to have the most positive response to an ad served. Imagine an advertiser that is trying to reach C-suite executives through digital advertising. Just like a trader looks across all markets to achieve the best returns on their investment, programmatic will consider a number of different media outlets, in this case say, the audiences of BBC.com, Time.com and The New York Times. It becomes clear that buying ad spots on Time.com will command the fastest and most efficient ROI, so it targets their readers only. All of which happens in milliseconds.

Then think of each individual DSP as a different market. Dealing with just the New York Stock Exchange is going to significantly reduce your chance to get the best return so a good idea is to also invest in the London Stock Exchange, giving you more opportunity to engage across a wider range of markets.

But what about brand safety? Organisations that brands employ should adhere to the ‘UK Good Principles’ launched by the Digital Trading Standards Group (DTSG) and work with partners that use content verifications solutions (CV).  The latter providing a protective layer for campaigns with strict criteria to prevent advertising creative appearing on certain sites.

Brands should also consider a programmatic practitioner’s commitment to audience insight. The more data and insight that’s shared, the more effective and efficient the activity will become. But, beware the partner that takes your brief and doesn’t share the knowledge they gain or indeed how else they are using it.

With todays consumer’s constantly online, consuming media on their smartphones and tablets means programmatic is only going to grow. To ensure that brands are effectively following their audiences and targeting them quickly and at scale they should consider speaking to practitioners who a) offer the greatest opportunity to engage with their audience in the most powerful way and b) are committed to the tech platform development and investment that will create the essential  toolbox needed to scale the programmatic business exponentially over the next few years.

Chris Dobson is chairman at The Exchange Lab