Programmatic beyond persuasion: a more traditional approach to programmatic beckons | M&M Global

Programmatic beyond persuasion: a more traditional approach to programmatic beckons

Great digital ads can build brand as well as get consumers to take action. Sue Elms explains how marketers can generate more from their programmatic strategies.

Sue Elms

Programmatic is a problem. At least that’s what you’d think if you read the trade press too literally.

One of the central criticisms is that the algorithms that determine in real-time whether or not to engage a consumer, often rely on limited digital data points, data that is dominated by direct-response metrics and KPIs.

As more media investment is delivered through this route, focusing on behavioural metrics like click rates, view rates or interactions could lead to media placement becoming disconnected from a brand’s reality.

That’s because brand response has a much bigger footprint than behavioural, whichever way you look at it. Market mix models find that only 20% of sales are “in play” on average at any one moment. Average brand lift for digital is 30 times the average click through rate, but one in four of the ads we’ve measured in market are actually negative for the brand.

So while generating response or persuasion has been critical during tough economic times for many brands, no company can afford to focus on short-term calls to action forever without damaging their brand equity. Messages that might sell to a few people can undermine allegiance of the many.

Real-time data

For many large brands, the core advertising objectives are often more focused on building awareness, communicating messages, and moving brand attributes. Such changes currently don’t have a traditional digital footprint – or an easy source of real-time data.

Measuring such metrics means examining the psychological footprints in the mind of the consumer. Since this information will never be available for every person exposed to a campaign, marketers need to develop smart approaches and innovative proxies to ensure that brand health considerations are reflected in programmatic algorithms.

The good news is that while such a conundrum would be critical in a medium such as TV where the split between brand and call to action has traditionally been wider, in digital the two goals sit much more closely together.

For digital creative effectiveness, there’s a much tighter link between persuasion and brand. Research into digital ads shows a strong relationship between an ad performing well for persuasion and performing well for brand metrics.

Brand appeal

In an environment where all ads have to fight harder for consumer attention (competing with other content on the same page and the task-orientated focus of the audience, rather than an ad-exclusive and lean back environment as on TV), a brand ad has to contain some of the spirit of a call to action ad, and vice versa. In the digital space no ad will perform unless it has stopping power, is enjoyable and has brand appeal.

Brands should use pre-testing to ensure that their ads deliver both persuasion and brand metrics within an individual copy and across the mix of copy in their digital campaigns.

Pre-testing can help identify what will be most persuasive and impactful and it can also ensure that the creative does not include elements that become annoying on multiple exposures, or when targeted at wrong moments (both will happen as the consumer is retargeted).

It can help boost the overall size of the prize and on-the-fly optimization will have more effect too. It can also ensure the ads feel like they are part of a bigger story by checking consumer take-out versus other planned advertising.

If this sounds like special pleading from Millward Brown, it’s not. Although traditionally pre-testing has been the preserve of bigger brands and the biggest campaigns, digital has also disrupted the world of research.

The result is that it’s now possible for much smaller companies and smaller campaign spends to enjoy the benefits via new self-service, fast and effective pre-testing solutions. All brands should now be thinking about using such techniques to ensure programmatic delivers both broader brand building and short-term brand response.

The digital preference for abandoning the traditional test and learn advertising approach for “fixing on the fly” seems illogical when the tools exist to hit the ground running with great ads in the first place. This is far better than having to fix a dud campaign or even reverse negative impact on the brand.

Traditional approach

In 2015 we will see brands taking a more traditional approach to programmatic, where branding and short-term response are not only aligned, but also used to create synergies across more integrated digital campaigns.

For example, they may use wider targeting to build a story, thus priming their core market for more tightly targeting ads designed to drive more immediate action. The result will be improvements not just in equity but also a faster response and boost to overall ROI.

To help deliver on this promise, the ad tech partners that brands work with will also have to change. Programmatic algorithms and systems will increasingly differentiate themselves not just based on their ability to manage cost effectiveness on behavioural metrics. The new battle will be over their ability to do this while also delivering campaigns that build brand metrics.

When fed by great ads and deploying strategies that exploit the synergies between branding and persuasion, the programmatic system will become an incredible machine; a solution to brand-building and not a problem.

Marketers can get ahead of the curve by ensuring they pre-test their ads as well as selecting their programmatic partners with brand in mind.

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