In an increasingly ad-hostile environment, marketers must harness technology not just for innovation but to deliver ads that augment rather than intrude on consumers’ experiences. Careful application of audience data is a crucial component to achieving this successfully, but so too, we are learning, is quality creative. Marketers need not only to use and learn from their audience data in order to deliver “good” targeted ads, but also bring emotional intelligence to their strategy.
This November, at Mindshare’s Huddle for Good 2016 event, AppNexus brought together three thought leaders in the programmatic space – Ruth Zöhrer, Head of Programmatic Marketing at Mindshare UK; Lara Izlan, Director of Programmatic Trading & Innovation at Auto Trader UK and Sarah Wood, Co-Founder & CEO of Unruly – to address the questions: What constitutes “good” advertising in an increasingly programmatic marketplace, and how should marketers measure success?
The answers are not straightforward, as metrics vary greatly by the individual consumer and where they are on their path to purchase.
As the internet and digital advertising mature to become increasingly data-driven and programmable, there comes an ever-evolving relationship between technology, data and human interaction. Programmatic is everywhere, particularly in markets like the UK, but if everyone is using it, it is difficult to find competitive advantage. All three panellists hit on the importance of quality: If marketers want to make the most of their assets to create exciting experiences for consumers, then quality is key. If marketers stop buying inventory for the sake of mere volume, and think about the whole picture, then they can begin to drive opportunity.
When brands consider holistic consumer relationships, there will be instances in which it would actually be more lucrative and brand-building to serve customized creative content than ads aimed at monetizing users in real-time. It is in these fleeting moments that brands can apply both data and emotional intelligence to inform their decisions. And while programmatic may have dramatically reduced human effort and error in advertising, it is important to consider the role humans play in assessing, analysing and applying data in order to – most crucially – think creatively.
Says Izlan, “It is sophisticated thinking that will make the difference and sophisticated application of technology. We need to think more broadly [than the data points.] To put the right creative and message in front of consumers, we need to know what they are actually looking for at that point in their path to purchase.”
With billions upon billions of data points at our finger tips, the panel argued that advertisers can actually over-target consumers. This influx of data – “data-besity,” as they called it – can negatively impact an ad strategy, causing distractions in the creative process, so that the campaign ultimately fails to resonate with the consumers it so closely targets.
Says Zöhrer, “We are putting intelligence at the heart of everything we do as an agency; everything should be powered by our access to data. But we are overwhelmed by it, and I’m focusing on ‘Less is more.’ We have gone through this volume approach, but what really matters in reality is how you connect the data points.”
As P&G’s Chief Marketing Officer Marc Pritchard recently said, P&G took their targeting strategy too far. “We targeted too much, and we went too narrow,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in August of 2016, “and now we’re looking at: What is the best way to get the most reach, but also the right precision.” Pritchard’s analysis is a prime example of both the potential and limitations of programmatic advertising. Incorrectly using and applying data can lead to a strategy that is both too limited and lacking in sophisticated creative thinking – leaving brands with an ineffective ad campaign and consumers with the feeling of being trespassed upon.
As Wood puts it succinctly, “If you have crap creative, it’s all for nothing. You can target the right people incredibly effectively, but it’s going to have zero impact.”
The panel agrees programmatic is here to stay; nevertheless, marketers must learn to strike a balance between programmatic strategy and creative thinking. Zöhrer suggests that marketers need to embed the idea of programmatic into every part of their business plan and not have it be a strategy that sits in a silo. Every team must be trained to interpret programmatic in a way that makes sense for the business. And while programmatic must be a part of every conversation, data points must be elevated to spark creative ideas.
In reality, this will be quite complicated to achieve, and the industry has its work cut out to develop the right combination of technology, data and human interaction that allows marketers to differentiate themselves in ways that are meaningful.