Programmatic marketing set to double over the next 2 years

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Well, not quite. The best panel discussions at conferences are those that qualify as blood sports. And we nearly had one on the first day of the Web Summit 2014

But we did have a healthy old debate  between the creative community, represented by Sophie Kelly of the Barbarian Group, a London creative house, and the data community, represented by Norm Johnston of Mindshare over why the application of programmatic executions remains quite awful.

‘The lack of creative applications is the major issue holding back the adoption of more programmatic executions’ was the accusation from the data guy. ‘The media houses need to hand over the data so we can mine greater insights and achieve more creative applications’ was the ‘harrumph-ish’ response of La Kelly.

What is Programmatic Marketing?

So what exactly is Programmatic Marketing and why should we digital marketers care? Well, Wikipedia defines it as ‘marketing campaigns that are automatically triggered by any type of event and deployed according to a set of rules applied by software and algorithms.

The most common forms of programmatic marketing on digital channels are:

  • Programmatic buying via real-time bidding and ad exchanges
  • Programmatic site retargeting
  • Shopping cart abandonment email campaigns
  • Dynamic creative optimisation
  • Product recommendations
  • Smart content

So some of this stuff is relatively straightforward and would fall under the ambit of what we do here at 256 Media – automated marketing, smart content, cart abandonment emails, product recommendation and remarketing.

Creative Examples

Where it gets a bit more creative is with advertising executions based on external events such as gps readings or the speed of an approaching train.

This latter one has been used in a pretty famous shampoo advert on an underground rail platform. A digital ad for Apotek a Swedish pharmacy store,  had a model’s hair getting tousled as though by the wind generated by the incoming train. This campaign became very well known and was leaned on brilliantly for a charity execution shortly afterwards.

The follow-up ad featured the same model and photo, so people thought they were looking at the same campaign. However, this time when the train approached and the hair got tousled again, the hair ended up blowing away completely, leaving the young model entirely bald. Up came the copy line on behalf of the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation that said that this was a daily reality for children affected by cancer. Quite brilliant.

A few years ago, as part of the Cadbury’s ‘Gorilla’ campaign, there was a 3D 48 Sheet billboard erected in Pearse Station in Dublin situated above the ramp down which most of the commuters exited the station. As the commuters walked down they felt the snort of the gorilla above and saw the flaring of his nostrils, mimicking the Gorilla from the famous TV ad as he prepared for his ‘Phil Collins’ drum solo. Again, brilliant. But this one was not programmatic marketing in action because it wasn’t in response to the people walking down the ramp. It was just timed to do this at intervals, which happened to include times when the people were below it and it achieved maximum impact.

On Android? Here’s an automated slap!

Another example of programmatic marketing captures the perceived difference between iOS and Android users. Prepare for a slap here if you an Android user (sorry, not my fault). Orbitz is a travel site that used programmatic marketing to identify whether the visitor was on Android or iOS. If the visitor was on Android, they were served up Holiday Inn, if they were iOS they were served up Four Seasons. Ouch!

In that sense all responsive websites could be described as programmatic, as they recognise the device ID and automatically respond with the correct version of the site for that device.

Where the growth is coming from and how much

However, most of the activity in the space centres on remarketing and automated bidding for bargain basement banner ads. What will drive the further development in the space will be

  • the fact that it works
  • the sharing of data amongst agencies so that there is higher quality insight informing creative execution

We know that it does work – remarketing when done right  gets significantly higher CTRs than original PPC ads; cart abandonment emails get higher open and CTRs than regular outbound emails; real-time bidding achieves lower CPMs and product recommendations on ecommerce sites work – ask Amazon.

The fact that it works will also ensure that clients demand of their agencies that they work together to make it work even better and more extensively.

These are the reasons why programmatic marketing is currently a €10 billion activity that will grow to €20 billion by 2016. Watch this space.

About Adrian O'Farrell

Adrian O’Farrell is Head of Client Services for 256, Ireland’s first dedicated content marketing agency. He has worked in marketing for over twenty years, having had his own award-winning marketing agency. He has worked in advertising in both agency, media owner and client side. He is a former Chairman of the Association of Promotional Marketing Consultants.