How ‘people-based marketing’ is redefining effectiveness in programmatic ad buying

MBNA’s Nic Travis says programmatic advertising has made media buying more transparent, while focusing on audiences – particularly on Facebook – removes the uncertainty of cross-device tracking.

MBNA Football Geeks-JUNE16
Credit card brand MBNA has focused on buying social media ads programmatically

Nic Travis, vice-president and head of digital marketing at credit card company MBNA, will speak at Marketing Week and Econsultancy’s Get With the Programmatic conference on 20 and 21 September. We caught up with him to explore the latest trends in programmatic ad buying, and how he sees the discipline evolving.

How is programmatic allowing you to move forward with your advertising strategy?

Crucially, programmatic enables us to have more transparency. Historically, we didn’t get a lot of information out of the media buys we were doing through large media agencies: we weren’t aware of where the inventory was being served and therefore able to learn about where customers were and what type of messaging and content they were interacting with.

We were paying lots of money but not taking the learnings away from it in terms of how to optimise – spending hundreds of thousands but none the wiser. The advantage of programmatic is that you are making that investment, you are seeing media buys that are working, how that changes over the course of a year, how it is affected by seasonality and so forth. That is then valuable knowledge that the business retains.

What do you think are the most exciting programmatic developments across media?

The line Facebook is currently touting about people-based marketing is something that I am passionate about. The programmatic solution in Facebook today means you can upload lists and very specifically target people. So it seems it is only a matter of time before we see the next evolution of programmatic display, TV buying and whatever else programmatic evolves into. Programmatic will increasingly become about audiences rather than cookies and pixels.

What can you say about fraud and the challenge that poses?

Fraud as an issue is ever-evolving. We have to watch that just as we have to watch ad blocking and anything else that fundamentally changes the area we are operating in.

Our way of dealing with it has been to change our success metric. We have been working on changing the KPI to look at incrementality as a way to help mitigate risk from fraud. We are now using our non-viewed display conversions – of which we have a lot, like everybody else – to get our baseline conversion rate. Success is the incremental between the impressions we serve that don’t get viewed and the impressions that do get viewed. That shows us the true performance of our display advertising.

Where do value, creativity and effectiveness meet?

For us it about [defining the right audience segments for a campaign] but it is also about tailoring the message to what we know about people. My approach, with our provider Infectious Media, is to think about different treatments where advertising is more likely to resonate with people, based on information that I can acquire from across social or various third parties.

Programmatic is a strange field in that it increasingly requires numbers people but ultimately the output for all those numbers and analysis – the segmentation that you are running – is still creative and requires creative people. We do some of that work in-house but we also reach out to specialist agencies to push the boundaries of creative thinking.

Which media channels are next for programmatic and why?

The obvious one is TV. The guys at Sky are kind of there with AdSmart but it is a little on the expensive side. You would think that the players will bring that element to the table soon enough and we are going to be able to buy TV advertising programmatically.

That is the challenge for the industry: helping people feel a bit better about marketing by delivering marketing that is more aligned to their wants, needs and interests.

What are the pressing issues in the programmatic sphere moving forward?

Cross-device marketing is crucial. There are lots of people trying to do deterministic measurement models within display advertising [where a consumer is identified by linking browsing behaviour with personal login data] and I have a big issue with a way a lot of those are set up. I am not convinced by the accuracy or transparency that sits within that. It is still a bit of a bugbear and I think the industry still has a lot of work to do on solving that cross-device piece. Programmatic needs to evolve by moving away from cookies and pixels and I think the people-based marketing approach has the power to tip the whole industry on its head.

Back for a third year, Marketing Week and Econsultancy’s Get With the Programmatic conference and workshop will take place in London on 20 and 21 September. Nic Travis is one of the brand experts sharing insights into how to make the programmatic landscape work for you. Visit the website to book your place now

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