Display advertising has been around for years. 

In fact, the first banner appeared over two decades ago. As the number of ad slots grew, supply outstripped demand. The static method of selling ad inventory became unwieldy for publishers. 

At the same time, the way ads were viewed by internet users underwent something of a revolution with the rise of social, mobile, video and over-the-top messaging services. As a result, the process for buying placements quickly evolved – commercially and technically. 

By 2007 demand-side platforms such as AppNexus and MediaMath were launched. 2011 was the year when programmatic ad buying went mainstream. These new platforms allowed adverts to be targeted by audience rather than just category or context. Since then it has primarily been used as a ‘solus’ communication channel for branding or acquisition, often relying on weak targeting data and unproven online models. 

Low rates

A speaker at the recent Programmatic IO Conference said that there is a lack of transparency between media agencies and their clients, who are often confused by ad tech, calling it: “murky at best, non-understandable at worst.”

In many cases, experience and poor practice are also typified by not excluding existing customers from acquisition campaigns. All this leads to low conversion rates. It’s not just the wasted media spend but also a sub-optimal experience for customers.

Online data does not tell the whole story. Most of us do things offline too – like going into shops, using kiosks and turning up at events. First-party data from real customers gives the fullest insight into the customer journey. Just looking at online behaviours is to miss a trick. The best customer communications are based on all-brand engagements, as well as any available second- and third-party triggers. Programmatic can deliver this.

Some brands have begun to use more sophisticated programmatic techniques as part of customer life-cycle communications. This is still very much the exception rather than the norm. Even though the benefits of CRM-led data buying are becoming clearer, the potential of programmatic advertising has yet to be realised. There are a number of reasons for this:

Programmatic not well-understood outside media buying circles

Media agencies do not understand the power of individual level (CRM) data. Database agencies have not grasped the principles of programmatic media buying – two worlds in blissful isolation. And it’s not just at the trading desk exec level – senior management comprehension can also be a hurdle. If they have not been exposed to this arena, some education might not go amiss.

The multi-disciplinary skills required don’t exist in one place

The knowledge and experience required to design and bring to bear a customer life-cycle communications programme requires skills from the CRM and media planning/buying domains. The discipline of the traditional direct marketing campaign process is just what is needed to deliver the programmatic of such campaigns – counts, selections, exclusions and testing with control and non-contact cells.

Customer data is firewalled from the media ecosystem

Customer data is typically held in a database agency or in an in-house IT department – well out of reach of media agencies. Media planners have no access to CRM insights – audience profiles, targeting models and customer segment counts. They have to create their own assumptions about buyer markets based on previous experience and perhaps market research panels.  

Integration between platforms and providers is becoming easier by the day. The process of providing encrypted personally identifiable information (PII) via methods such as hashed emails is quick to implement, yet secure. 

Across the industry, agencies have recognised this and are working with clients and their media agencies to span the chasm between CRM data and media planning/buying to create a seamless process for using programmatic advertising as part of BAU CRM campaigns.

Two streams

Merging the rigour of data with the magic of creative can help bring a brand’s distinctive offering out into a new domain. Providing the opportunity to stimulate more insight-driven engagements with customers across the life-cycle, it has all the ingredients to drive better experiences. What brand and agency-side marketers need to ensure is that they have the infrastructure in place to successfully combine new streams of CRM data with the ability to reach the right customers at the right time.

If successfully managed, combining these two streams of data will help to build brand differentiation, which is hard for competitors to erode.