Programmatic advertising may be enjoying double-digit growth, but there still remains a lack of understanding among some brands and agencies about how to devise an effective programmatic strategy.

According to research by the Internet Advertising Bureau and professional services firm PwC, the share of UK display ad spend traded programmatically rose from 47% in 2014 to 60% in 2015, to a value of £1.6bn. 

This includes programmatic buying (the automatic purchasing of ad space on a web page) and programmatic RTB (real time bidding), which is for display ads only and includes tools such as Google AdWords.

But many brands and agencies are not exploiting this accelerating trend in digital advertising. Ultimately, they need a plan. And fast if they’re to benefit from this new way of ‘personally’ advertising to the masses.

Here are five ways to boost your return on investment from any programmatic approach:

1. Ensure your marketing team has clear campaign objectives: Is the aim to generate sales? Is it building brand awareness? Is the need to create leads via the website?

Programmatic allows you to target audiences more effectively but it must be part of the overall marketing mix. 

If you’re a clothes retailer, for instance, you can aim specific ads at men or women, young or old, but you must be clear about your ultimate campaign goals.  Your target audiences can be much narrower compared to TV or outdoor so your campaign objectives must be laser-sharp. 

By keeping a set of or one umbrella objective initially and then using programmatic as the way to test your campaign aims and creatives cost -effectively with your different audiences, you’ll have the opportunity to better refine these objectives as you go along. So for example testing whether a product focused approach, special offer or an emotional campaign would work best for your audience.

Learn as you go along and then you can tweak the creative or completely adapt your approach.

2. Have a real-world view of your most valuable data

Let’s face it, most brands and agencies can drown in data and struggle to know where to start when it comes to uncovering actionable insight. 

It’s crucial marketers have access to experts who can cut-through the huge volumes of data and pinpoint what’s topical and what your different target audiences are searching for online. 

Taking a real-world approach means thinking about relevant factors that are affecting how your audience is interacting with your brand and searching and using the web at a particular time. 

In fact, dynamic targeting can improve the return on ad-spend three-fold because a brand is communicating with people who’ve actively engaged in part of the purchase journey.  

You should be responding to trends uncovered in your Epos data, for instance, or even adapting campaign messages and creatives to the local weather conditions. 

Discount retail chain TK Maxx drives sales using a programmatic campaign that’s based on weather and loyalty card data, as well as retail sales information so it can provide customers with relevant and timely offers.

Meanwhile, when airline Emirates invested in dynamic targeting and combined search data and destination data with a tailored, creative programmatic campaign, its response rates increased by more than 10%.

Having too much data and not being able to act on it effectively can paralyse a brand’s marketing. 

So, be clear about who you want to reach and make your data actionable so you meet your sales, customer- or business-focused campaign objectives using programmatic.

3. Ensure your media agency is knowledgeable about the targeting, data collection and segmentation opportunities possible from a programmatic approach

More media agencies are starting to increase their expertise in this area, with many creating a ‘Heads of Programmatic’ roles internally.  

Most agencies can have a conversation about programmatic and understand it’s the fastest-growing area of digital advertising. But the conversation with clients can easily fall down when the discussion moves to how and when to spend a brand’s money effectively. 

The number of advertising execution types has increased enormously in the last decade from purely a print or TV ad or a banner, so brands and agencies need help to spend their programmatic budgets wisely. 

With so many new channels and formats, including social media, marketers should consider employing a production agency to be the glue that holds any campaign together. 

It’ll ensure actionable insight is gathered and used effectively to create valuable and relevant campaign content.

4. Find a creative agency that can devise different campaign themes which are flexible and can be tailored for various audience segments

The natural inclination of many creative agencies is to over-analyse the task they’re being asked to do so they can come up with that one big creative idea.

For programmatic advertising to work well you just need a simple idea that can be rolled out to different audience segments. You do not want a creative agency that over-engineers their response to your campaign brief.  

All the clever analysis should happen at the back end and not the front end, and simple creative ideas should be thoroughly tested, which programmatic obviously allows. Have a theme (or two) that can be flexed and tailored to different consumer segments.

For many creative agencies it’ll require a seismic shift in thinking if they and their clients are to get the most from programmatic in future.

5. Work with a production specialist who can get all sides working together for the perfect programmatic solution

Agencies need a strong production resource in the world of programmatic yet finding in-house talent can be difficult. 

One solution is to work with a production agency that can use its expertise to oversee the entire programmatic campaign to achieve the best results. It can help an agency and its clients develop engaging content and relevant ideas that can be tested to ensure a brand’s assets are fully optimised. 

A production specialist will also ensure that the data being generated is working to best effect.

Often an agency that does not fully understand programmatic will test the media but not the creative and how it is received by different consumers. As well as helping to implement a successful programmatic strategy, a production agency can have a vital on-going consultancy role.

Creativity and programmatic advertising are intrinsically linked which is why a production specialist can bring real value. Programmatic can drive a truly creative branding campaign, while creativity helps to convey the right messages in various contexts.

So by following these five tips your programmatic advertising campaign will not only deliver the results needed, but will do so in a cost-effective way that builds brand awareness, consumer engagement and, ultimately, sales.