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Programmatic The Disruptor: Three Steps Needed To Take Brand Marketing To The Next Level

There’s no doubt about it, programmatic has been the biggest disruptor to media in the last 40 years.

More importantly, programmatic is not only a disrupter, but an enabler. Programmatic makes it easier for brands to connect people with more relevant messages at the instant when they are most receptive to seeing them. This fact has not been ignored by marketers currently programmatic is experiencing major growth – in fact by the end of 2018, it is predicted that programmatic will account for 62% of all display spend globally.

Traditionally, the practice has been based on direct response campaigns, and although brand marketers today are also enjoying the efficiencies programmatic provides, it still is largely believed as a performance enhancer rather than a tool for brand building. So what are the next steps the industry must take to see more brand marketers take up the benefits of a programmatic approach?


Attribution, the process of applying and assessing value to different marketing touch points, is currently high on the agenda for many brand marketers as they look to measure the true value of each channel. The industry is moving away from standard clicks to a smarter and more holistic approach. For real success attribution needs to encompass multiple touch points. Due to the complexity of the fragmented ecosystem and cross device technology, connecting these touch points and reporting can be tricky.

Brands want the visibility to analyse how consumers behave on different devices, measuring when an ad is viewed and a purchase is made further down the line. In a fragmented landscape this can be achieved by data sharing to unlock customer insights. Only then will brands truly be able to optimise and establish themselves online fully.

Cross-device developments

The industry has a habit of over-complicating things – programmatic is just a means by which to get a brand’s message to a consumer.

Traditional brand-play environments are now beginning to be traded programmatically. This is possible because the medium on which an ad is displayed could be anything that is digitally enabled – from desktop, television set, mobile phone, smartwatch, outdoor billboard to radio. What matters is that the creative is strong enough to elicit an emotional response from the consumer through any medium.

Currently, much of the premium inventory on these mediums is available through programmatic direct environments and over time this will evolve. Programmatic direct is a pre-negotiated non-auction based approach where block inventory is bought or sold, rather than individual impressions. It uses the same API technology as real-time bidding (RTB).

Once the industry gains confidence in the abilities of programmatic for delivering brand campaigns, more premium inventory will be released to open marketplaces. This will enable brand marketers to achieve the scale needed for reach, awareness and affinity required at the top of the funnel.

Format evolution

One of the major barriers that has prevented brand advertisers from utilising programmatic technologies in the past was the types of inventory formats available.

Previously, creative formats were limited to standard IAB formats which offered very little opportunity for brands to tell a story throughout a consumer’s journey. Video formats in particular have developed – now larger and more interactive formats boost engagement, such as Rising Stars Billboards, which can increase brand interaction time by 36% over standard units.

Today, we see many other new, larger and rich formats available in premium environments, offering maximum impact and engagement in brand safe environments. These range from skins, rich media, TV-Sync, Social Sync and Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO) to native placements. At the heart of all of these brand focused techniques is the ability to enhance storytelling by acting as an enabler.

One brand that has been enjoying success with digital storytelling to engage audiences is Budweiser, which used an online-first approach to advertise during this year’s Super Bowl with its ‘Lost Dog’ campaign. The brand released teasers to create buzz around the advert online in the weeks preceding the event, which won the hearts of the nation who ranked it the number one Super Bowl ad.

Building on the success of its online-first approach for a second year running, Budweiser was able to maximise brand recognition, tapping into emotive storytelling by launching a sequel to its 2013 ‘Puppy Love’ Super Bowl commercial. Online video combined with programmatic technology and social media create the ability to rival linear TV models through enhanced targeting and reporting capabilities.

The future for brand and programmatic

The promise of delivering the ad or piece of content to the consumer at the perfect moment in sequence is tantalisingly close. Being able to sequentially message a consumer across multiple devices in order to tell a story is something forward-thinking brands are starting to investigate, trial and implement.

This creativity aligned with the ability to attribute accurately make for an exciting future for advertisers.