2015 is set to be another groundbreaking year in the world of programmatic display. The rate of change in the industry means advertisers need to continue to dynamically evolve to stay ahead of the steep programmatic curve.
Many advertisers are still at the beginning of their programmatic journey. They may have started to move budget from traditional reservation display to real-time bidding (RTB) or even from TV to programmatic video.
Many are capitalising on the change that most of the big digital publishers have made from reservation-only options for accessing premium inventory to private marketplace (PMP) deals.
Programmatic is not showing any signs of slowing down and optimisation is the key to driving performance from a programmatic campaign.
With the rise of programmatic and real-time bidding, advertisers are given more flexibility for campaign optimisation than ever before. Aligning best-in-class tools, a data-driven optimisation team and transparent performance measurement makes for a solid foundation for programmatic success.
Choose appropriate management tools
Step one for advertisers is to identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) to structure optimisation from. If the campaign is branding-focused, advertisers may decide to focus on KPIs such as percentage of viewable impressions, click-through rate (CTR) and brand lift. RTB campaigns also allow for optimisation to direct-response KPIs such as sales, signups, cost per acquisition and return on investment.
Once the goals of the campaign are set, advertisers must ensure the appropriate tools are in place to aid optimisation. Demand-side platforms (DSPs) have been built with algorithms at the core. These algorithms allow advertisers to ‘plug and play’, meaning users can easily build targeting strategies, tell the algorithm which KPI they want the algorithm to work towards, and press go. Many agencies are using DSPs for the flexibility of serving ads in a real-time environment but are relying solely on algorithms to improve campaign performance.
This approach can get campaigns live quickly, but the trouble with an algorithm-only strategy driven by the DSP is the limitation which comes with any systematic process. Algorithms can only make decisions based on the information provided by humans. They can increase or decrease spend within the chosen targeting strategies to work towards the chosen KPI goal, which usually results in an initial increase in performance.
However, over time the system will run out of big changes to make to the predetermined targeting strategies and the campaign will reach a performance plateau. The chosen tool can only achieve optimal performance when paired with a data-driven optimisation team.
Appoint a data-driven optimisation team
The key to avoiding a programmatic campaign plateau is to ensure there is an appropriate team in place to do what an algorithm cannot: make intelligent, human-driven optimisation choices to improve targeting strategies over time.
Whether it is an agency or in-house team, the humans optimising programmatic campaigns must have the ability to make strategic optimisation decisions. Programmatic display means advertisers no longer need to employ those with the longest-standing publisher relationships in order to secure the best deals. Programmatic campaigns allow decisions to be made by humans with analytical expertise.
These individuals can make regular changes to campaigns based purely on performance data. They can adopt a test-and-learn approach in order to continuously increase performance over time. Advertisers must ensure they are employing an in-house or agency team with data-driven analytical expertise. This expertise can work alongside an algorithm and is the best approach to achieve ongoing performance improvement.
Despite DSPs making the set-up process easy, human optimisation requires dedication of time and resource, and does not come cheap or fast, but is absolutely worth the investment.
Ensure transparent measurement
Transparency was a buzzword in the programmatic industry throughout 2014. Most DSPs have been built for transparency but the responsibility is on advertisers to demand transparency in reporting from their programmatic teams or agencies. There is no reason why in 2015 advertisers should be in the dark about anything related to their programmatic campaign and its performance.
In many ways programmatic is still a very murky industry, often because of agencies or networks taking the traditional non-transparent approach to marking up media and reporting only on statistics which make the campaign performance look artificially strong.
It is the advertiser’s responsibility to demand transparency of viewability, placement performance and performance measurement.
Viewability is a relatively new metric which has become increasingly important to brand-awareness campaigns. Display ads are considered viewable when 50% or more of the ad is viewed for one or more second. ComScore released findings in 2014 stating that the average rate of viewable ads in any display campaign is less than 50%. Advertisers can use their ad servers or external tools to measure viewability, and must do so to understand the true impact of performance.
Placement-level data is available within most DSPs. There is no reason why agencies or companies running programmatic campaigns should not be providing advertisers with placement-level detail. Advertisers are advised to steer clear of platforms or agencies that do not provide this level of transparency, as withholding this information is a pretty strong sign that whoever is running the campaign has something to hide. Advertisers that have placement-level information such as the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) per placement are in the position to compare performance based on true metrics rather than CPM mark-ups.
Finally, advertisers should aim to use a single tracking environment to measure all digital activity in order to understand the true value of programmatic campaigns. Tools such as DoubleClick Campaign Manager or Google Analytics Premium can be set up for campaign and on-site tracking with a single, transparent view and impression-level data. Appropriate tracking is crucial but by no means easy, so advertisers must decide which measurement tool will give them the most transparent view of all channels in order to attribute the appropriate value to their programmatic campaigns.
Human optimisation and transparent reporting are the foundation for a successful programmatic campaign. With these pillars in place, advertisers are able to explore all the exciting advancements programmatic display campaigns will offer in 2015.