The Future of Programmatic as a Brand Tool

May 2015

From my perspective of leading a group that combines media, performance and creative businesses, it’s apparent that the use of technology and data and the job of brand-building marketers are not opposing forces.

We know half of online display is predicted to be delivered programmatically by the end of this year, and by 2020 it’s anticipated that half of all advertising will be delivered programmatically. But this doesn’t mean a marketing landscape of humans versus algorithms or force feeding old creative formats into a new model. 

What we’re trying to achieve remains the same, it’s to get the right messages in front of the right people at the right time to drive business results. The innovation is in the ‘how’ and that’s where real disruption is happening and real opportunities are being created. We’re seeing programmatic emerge as an extremely powerful tool for brand marketers. 

Technology now means businesses can either be the disruptors or they can be disrupted. You can’t stand still. If you don’t embrace change, then your business will be redefined around you, and we’re seeing this across many sectors with the entry of new players such as Uber and Airbnb. There are three trends you need to grasp to make sure you are ahead of the game: 

Convergence - the force that’s driving the changes. There used to be a time lag between a customer seeing a piece of marketing and then taking a purchase action. That gap is disappearing thanks to technology and the ability to make a purchase decision and immediately buy online. Marketers can’t think in a siloed way. Brand, engagement and sales activity are not separate, that’s never been how customers think and behave. Now everything should drive brand and transaction and they aren’t mutually exclusive. 

Context - this is the shift we need to make in the ‘what’ we do. Programmatic is all about understanding context, and it gives us the tools to interpret human behaviour via the signals derived from people’s online and offline actions. It means we can now genuinely understand what people want, and then use this data to create highly relevant and helpful messages to meet their needs. 

Collaboration - to take full advantage of these opportunities, we need specialists that can work together in a new and better way to unlock some of these opportunities. Already we’re seeing examples of brilliant campaigns that are driven by having technology and data at their heart. Here are some of my favourite examples that show the above three ‘Cs’ in action: 

  • Hilton Hotels’ stranded traveller campaign is based on a powerful tool that accurately serves real-time, location specific ads based on actual flight cancellations. It uses third-party data and airport data to serve ads when they are most relevant to travellers frustrated by flight delays. That’s context in action. 
  • British Airways Out-Of-Home #lookup campaign is a great example of collaboration that combined outdoor, data and digital for a campaign tapping into the magic of looking up in to the sky to look at planes flying overhead. It managed to combine the magic of flying with an effective message showcasing the diversity of flight routes. 
  • Honda’s Ayrton Senna 1989 Suzuka lap in light and sound recreated Ayrton’s famous qualifying lap by using old data. It was based on Honda’s on-board engine telemetry system that recorded every aspect of the original circuit to produce a stunning recreation using light and sound. 

These are all great illustrations of brands that have used data-derived insights and technology to craft campaigns that are useful, relevant and entertaining. They are inspirational in showing what brands can do when working together with technology partners and agencies, and I hope to see plenty more examples soon.

Please watch my presentation below to learn more about the future of programmatic.

Tracy de Groose, CEO Dentsu Aegis Network UK, discusses how programmatic could be a powerful tool for brand marketers
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