Don’t Be Afraid of Programmatic Buying

programmatic buying

It used to be so simple — you’d hear an ad on the radio and you’d buy the product in a brick and mortar store. But now it’s possible that you see an ad on TV while browsing on a tablet, where you pull up the product and order it online (Example 1). Or more complex: You see a sponsored message about a sale on your smartphone’s Twitter app feed and you star it, pulling the company’s site up later on your laptop to browse the deals and eventually making a purchase in-store (Example 2).

We live in a multi-device universe where engagement is fluid and tracking consumer touch points can cause ROI headaches. In Example 1, there’s no way of proving that your TV ad campaign was the catalyst for consumer purchase (a major reason why some agencies are converting television ad spend to digital). And in Example 2, you don’t know how the consumer first found out about the sale. An online-only retailer like Amazon has the advantage of being able to track digital activity from start to finish, but reining data in is still possible for the rest of us brave enough to tackle the fast-paced world of programmatic buying. Here’s how.

Programmatic Buying: Google

According to a Google study, 90% of all media interactions today are screen-based, and consumers rely on search to bridge the gap between devices (computers, mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, TVs). As the number one search engine by a landslide, Google presents brands with the chance to reach consumers during all stages of the buying process —¬†research, evaluation, decision, and follow-up —¬†and on all kinds of screens via its network of the 1 million+ sites (including mobile), apps and videos where AdWords ads can be placed — including the search results page. Ads based on behavioral data have higher engagement rates and ROI than those served to consumers who haven’t shown intent, and the first step in showing intent is to search for a product or service.

With the Google Display Network, ads can be geotargeted, site targeted, keyword targeted, and demographically targeted, with content ranging from video and images to text. The Google Display dashboard allows you to test campaigns and expand upon success with managed placements and increased bidding. As with any programmatic buying platform, however, results can be unpredictable. An ad auction can result in outbidding by a competitor, and a low ad Quality Score can result in suboptimal page placement.

Programmatic Buying: Facebook

Bidding through Facebook Exchange (FBX) allows marketers to keep customer data that is typically spread across devices contained in one place, combining information on where consumers migrate once they log off Facebook with any actions they take on ads once they log back in. The unified dashboard lets you easily identify which campaigns are working (delivering high ROI and low CPC) and which ones need to be swapped out. FBX’s native ad units, combined with the ability to scale easily, make it a powerful tool for recapturing the attention of first-time site visitors and serial browsers.

Using right-hand rail and News Feed placements, marketers can deploy static or dynamic creative and employ rules-based logic to zero in on niche audiences. As an example, an eCommerce company might choose to target “People who have signed up for an account but haven’t bought anything yet,” or “People who added something to their shopping cart but didn’t buy it.” As an added bonus, Facebook enables social functions such as likes, comments and shares on its ad unit, providing an extra viral boost on excellent creative.

It’s clear that following consumers from device to device and retaining their divided attention isn’t easy, but the real-time bidding capabilities of programmatic buying platforms like the Google Display Network and Facebook Exchange combined with one-stop data dashboards that reflect multiple stages in the buying process give marketers their best bet for keeping track of consumers who are ready to engage with a brand and take action.

Now it’s time for us marketers to take action.