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Making programmatic media buying less problematic

Buying media is now easier than ever thanks to programmatic advertising, but how do buyers and strategists ensure they are buying the right media? And how can they get the most out of it? StopPress calls on the experts to explore the pitfalls and successes the industry can expect as this space continues to grow. 


In the world of programmatic advertising good, accurate data is king. More data means more insights, which means more analysis and if being done properly, better results.

For media buyers such as Chris Schultz CEO of data-driven advertising agency Acquire NZ, this presents itself as an opportunity to show advertisers and marketers that measurements and recording is important.

Chris Schultz.

“What programmatic advertising has shown marketers is that this medium is accountable and we can measure it. By doing a lot of testing and being more agile on spend, you can get better performance and have a lot less wastage,” he says.

“It also shows marketers that smarter targeting is actually the way forward. Consumers are now using lots of channels so how can we reach them so the measurement movement reporting is multi-channel, not just one dimensional anymore.”

For buyers, programmatic advertising challenges assumptions sometimes made by marketers, says Schultz. 

“Because programmatic is so agile, you can optimise, and actually see where the results are coming from. You can make your next campaign smarter based on evidence, not based on a marketers assumption on where they can be targeting. The future is lots more data and more insight.”

To derive insights from these multiple data points, and with the demise of the cookie on the horizon (mid-2023), machine learning modelling and identifiers are some of the major trends emerging.

“You’re going to need machine learning to help do the heavy lifting to pull off those smart insights, you can’t do it by human,” Schultz says.

And it’s not just relying on Google’s algorithm but seeking out custom, machine learning options to sift through data to “find the relationships and the correlations between other factors like device, browser, time of day, context etc and your buying of ad space, and results”. 

This will help “connect the dots” between what triggers are contributing to hit the campaign KPIs.

“It gives people a deeper understanding of the people who buy their products. More data is the overarching trend but getting smarter insights in that data is the overarching theme.”

Zane Furtado, General Manager of Technology and Innovation at Acquire NZ, says machine learning can be used across all aspects of digital marketing, be it search, programmatic, social media, pDOOH, email marketing, even content marketing.

Zane Furtado.

“With the number of media channels available programmatically on the rise and with the amount of data that advertisers receive for each ad impression, marketers can derive actionable insights using custom built algorithms and modelling.”

Programmatic buying results in less wastage, a more efficient use of spend and is far quicker than traditional negotiating and approving of bookings, says Kate Grigg, Head of Digital Media at MBM.

Kate Grigg.

“Programmatic can be hyper-targeted and allows for more precision in execution,” she says.

“Media strategy can be much more data-led, aligning relevant messages to individuals in the right moment. Dynamic messaging can be used with data-triggered audiences and API’s. This brings in real-time information such as weather conditions, retail pricing, flight arrivals, interest rates, UGC content and first party customer data which are all examples of brands contextualising to the moment.

“The ability to test, learn and iterate campaigns throughout gives media buyers the added advantage of control. Audiences and inventory can be secured through marketplace deals, added, changed or paused to make to campaigns that drive the greatest business results. Programmatic provides both visibility and flexibility.”

However Bridget Bucknell-Whalley, Head of Strategy at Media, Data and Tech agency Togethersays that as with any other media channel, programmatic advertising needs to have a good reason for being in the mix.

Bridget Bucknell-Whalley.

“All good media planning starts the old-fashioned way with a very strong reason to have that channel on the plan and a clear role for that channel, whether that sits within a larger marketing funnel or a wider brand campaign.

“Carving out that opportunity or that reason to be, like you would with any other media channel, is important. At Together we think about audience design holistically – so looking at the audience, finding that growth audience, finding where that audience is best reached and targeting them.

“We like to think it’s never been easier to buy media, but buying the right media has never been harder because of fragmentation. It’s all about having a reason for having that programmatic line on the plan.”

When done well, she says the opportunities presented are endless, but it’s only as good as the humans behind it.

“The opportunity to use the channel to test and learn is vast in programmatic. As a strategist bringing strategy closer to execution is where the modern media agency is heading, and programmatic, when done well, allows for a much clearer delineation of strategy in execution.

“Anyone can access programmatic advertising off the shelf, but the opportunity and the magic comes from a deep understanding of how to extract value from different types of data, context, and messaging, all in aid of finding more relevant communication to the right audience.”

A common concern raised about programmatic is how to stay on top of brand safety when things become automated.

Bucknell-Whalley says this is a very complex space with no one-size-fits-all approach.

“There is a lot of stuff on the internet that we all know is bad, but it’s about how comfortable a brand feels about being around certain topics and news pages – that’s why it needs to be tailored.”

Brand safety starts at a technology level she says and working with partners that have a specific technology service will help clients navigate the best third-party verification partner for them and their requirements.

“Any good programmatic team should be able to set up guard rails in place to mitigate risk by the nature of the way we are buying. Things like customising inclusion lists and making sure we are using private marketplaces (PMPs) rather than buying as a free for all on the internet in the open exchange.

“We let the machines do as much as we can but there is always a human element. It’s complex and requires a lot of tailoring to clients’ needs and wants.”

Ivan Atkins, GM of digital at PHD Media New Zealand, a global media and marketing communications agency, agrees saying that although programmatic buying is often positioned as the easiest way of doing things, to get the best out of it, there needs to be specialist expertise behind it.

Ivan Atkins.

“Programmatic buying is the choice of whether to take or leave any particular ad exposure when it becomes available. The real challenge is understanding the input that goes into making that decision. It’s often positioned as a perfect ecosystem where you’re working on a bed of reliable data, but the reality is the data and the input are slightly compromised or very compromised. To get the best out of it you must have really strong knowledge and really strong critical thinking around ‘is this input that I’m using to make this decision actually reliable’.”

Programmatic presents a great deal of opportunities for media buyers and strategists but the key to using it successfully is ensuring its founded on good data says Atkins.

“When you are working from a base of solid information and you’ve done your homework the ability to take and leave impressions becomes really useful.”

At PHD Media the team find programmatic especially useful when buying video as it allows them to universally cap the frequency at which they purchase it, since the technology can connect the buying points together.

“The benefit from a client point of view is we are not overexposing people, we are saving money to reallocate elsewhere on frequency to certain people, and pushing those impressions to the unexposed.”

Atkins reiterates that programmatic buying is most successful when it is used as a tool rather than a complete solution and this is even more important when it comes to brand safety.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing or what information sets to look at you could find yourself buying ad inventory that you potentially don’t want to be around, or at worst, is fraudulent. I think there is a huge degree of human oversight required to constantly review and manage those risks. Having a really good solid, experienced team who are dedicated to delivering that first and foremost is essential to ensure that we are representing clients properly.

“If I’m honest I think it’s one of the areas that is bread and butter for agencies and where agencies add value to the mix. You have significant teams of people who have the knowledge are tasked with protecting our clients’ suitable environments.”

About Author

Ayla Miller is a Feature Writer/Sub-editor for SCG Media Business titles, NZ Marketing, StopPress, Idealog and The Register.

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