12 questions brands must ask of any potential adtech partner

Vijay Solanki offers his advice for how to secure the best service, provider and data to get the most out of programmatic.

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This article originally appeared in The Adtech Issue, our current special edition of Marketing magazine produced in collaboration with TubeMogul and SpotX.

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Vijay Solanki - IAB CEO copyAutomation is everywhere and it’s the future. Proven in manufacturing and service industries, it’s now on a fast track trajectory in digital media. Everything that can be automated will be and programmatic is at the forefront. So, advertisers, publishers and vendors alike all need to take the opportunity to embrace it and make it work for the benefit of us all.

The recently released ‘Magna Programmatic Growth Report’ found that the global spend on programmatic advertising will more than double to an estimated US$42 billion by 2020, while non-programmatic ad spends will increase by just 25 percent in the same period.

Locally, the AdRoll ‘State of the Industry ANZ 2016’ report found that 68% of Australian marketers are allocating budget to programmatic, with 12% allocating half their digital budget to programmatic. And, according to the ‘AOL 2015 Australian State of the Video Industry Study’, half the digital video inventory in Australia is bought programmatically.

The reason is straightforward: minimising the time and friction in buying and selling advertising makes sense economically and strategically. The shift to programmatic is an evolutionary, not revolutionary, one. It enables efficient automation, allowing agencies and marketers to focus on more strategic objectives rather than the transaction. And while it has already secured its place in online inventory sales, the next big areas for programmatic will be mobile and video, with programmatic TV, audio and OOH close behind.

Beyond automated buying, as programmatic extends from its reach into mobile, video, TV, audio and even OOH, it promises to deliver the opportunity for integrated cross-device measurement. It will also deliver data-driven targeting of third- to first-party data that goes further than just the basic demographics to allow truly personalised messaging across all screens.

The key word there is ‘data’ because, primarily, programmatic is the ultimate delivery device for data, the marketers’ Holy Grail. A quick scan of recent industry acquisitions is a testament to this. In the US, Verizon this year purchased AOL and then Yahoo! – laying down US$9.2 billion to secure both the data and adtech offered by these companies. AT&T is in the midst of trying to acquire Time Warner in a deal that will create a powerhouse of combined data and have some interesting consequences for online content and streaming; while SingTel has been on a buying spree since 2012 starting with Amobee and then Adconion Media and Kontera Technologies in 2014. It’s all about the intersection of data and the tech to successfully use it.

Getting the most out of programmatic

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One of the benefits of programmatic is that it allows us to measure campaign ROI with a granularity that was hitherto unknown. It’s a whole new world of analytics. So look beyond measuring the success of a programmatic campaign using last click attribution. Programmatic’s access to reams of data means that we can measure not only the last touch, but also the consumer journey to purchase with all the meaningful touch points along the way.

Test and learn and unlock powerful insights that provide the ability to see precisely what is working and what isn’t, allowing you to discard the messages and imagery that are not resonating and to refine the audience and where and how you connect with them. In real time.

That’s a significant change, as historically (and sadly often still today) programmatic data has been used to plot future campaigns only after a digital campaign has completed. Instead, marketers should be looking for their agencies to use audience data to shape the media planning stage and then provide them with a dashboard that  enables them, quickly and simply, to review the information and take action – to collect the data from multiple campaigns and use the collective learning to inform future strategies by better understanding what drives acquisition or retention.

Above all, keep an open mind about your approach to programmatic, because what you learn through using it may help you pivot direction entirely.

The must-ask list

Whether you and your team are programmatic newbies or ninjas, one thing remains central to success – working with trusted partners. Take stock and make sure that you are happy with the answers to these 12 important questions.

About the programmatic service being offered:

  • What kind of reporting and post-campaign analysis is offered? (How granular and transparent is the campaign report? What does the vendor consider a successful ad impression, how do you classify wastage and what recommendations and refinements can you make going forward? Importantly: how do you establish correct success metrics and measurability at the beginning of the planning phase?)
  • What will you charge us for? (How does the company distinguish between non-measured and fraudulent impressions and what is the policy on charging for those? Is it a fixed price or based on CPM, cost per mille?)
  • Will you provide platform login access and a dashboard so we can see exactly where the ads are running and how the campaign is performing? (Can you see your performance in real-time and adjust your strategy accordingly when needed?)

 

About the organisation offering the service:

  • Have you been involved in any consumer privacy disputes? (Is the vendor transparent about the use of consumer data and what have been the consequences of not being so?)
  • Have you been audited by an authoritative body and deemed technically safe and competent? (Does the vendor adhere to IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau] guidelines on viewability and use an MRC [Media Rating Council] accredited system?)
  • What checks and balances do you have in place to ensure safety? (What sort of blacklists and whitelists does the company have and who are on those lists?)
     

About the data:

  • What data sources do you use to build audience segments? (Is the source behavioural, location-based or a combination? Is it first- or third-party data?)
  • How do you define the audience segment we are trying to reach? (What are considered signals of intent, and how recent and frequent must they be to signal intent and classify the consumer in the relevant categories?)
  • How is the data cleaned? (What checks are used internally by the vendor, what kind of third-party data is used to verify its accuracy and how do you measure that?)
  • How accurate is the geo-data? (If using geo-location data, what kinds of systems are in place to ensure it is plausible and accurate to within the specified distance?)
  • How fresh is the audience data? (Is it defined weekly, daily or in real time to ensure that the audience is still in the market for the product or service you are offering?)
  • Who are the third-party partners? (What are the options going forward for finding new third-party data vendors?) 

So build a strategy and a roadmap. Test and learn. Work with trusted partners. Cut through the jargon and get on board. Programmatic is the future and it shows great promise.

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