Right content or right consumer? That’s the dichotomy marketers have been presented as digital has gone programmatic… but is it real?
If a data signal says I’m in market for a new car, why should an auto manufacturer care if I’m reading the latest financial news, catching up on social media, or skimming local sports headlines? Those are just opportunities to reach me.
The contrarian will argue that I might be in market for a car, but am I really going to pay attention to a car ad while I read an article about hockey? The right thing to do would be to reach me on an auto endemic when I’m really in the buying mode.
The debate continues with the audience camp counter-punching with the high cost of endemics and the content group citing rising brand safety concerns. Other considerations come into play ranging from data quality to content-based scale.
But the question remains: is this a true dichotomy?
Seek Quality First
What is true is that the further marketers delve into ad quality, the more issues they uncover. Major stories like the Guardian’s recent Ads.txt research showing that 72% of video ad spend was going through unauthorized suppliers and JPMorgan Chase cutting 395,000 domains with no loss in scale are just two of many examples.
With more of an emphasis on quality in all dimensions, and audience data volumes potentially declining due to new regulations like GDPR, does this mean that we’ll move completely away from the audience-based story and back to the land of endemics?
These issues seem to point out that, as an industry, we’ve gone too far with the audience-based story. If a data signal says buy, we buy no matter where the ad is delivered. It also seems like this type of buying has been propped up by low-quality data as seen in Lotame’s discovery that 10% of their data profiles were fraudulent.
With more of an emphasis on quality in all dimensions, and audience data volumes potentially declining due to new regulations like GDPR, does this mean that we’ll move completely away from the audience-based story and back to the land of endemics? A case can be made that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but quality needs to be addressed first.
It’s time for marketers to enforce Ads.txt adoption on the buy side or begin working with partners who have already made this the norm. Viewability standards should look at MRC guidelines as a baseline for success, not a lofty, unachievable goal. Transparent reporting that shows where ads are displayed should be audited frequently and the long tail cut.
Once these quality standards are in place, a proper evaluation can be run. On the pure-audience-to-pure-content alignment spectrum, the ideal landing spot will vary based on the brand, channel, and objective. There’s likely no best answer to the audience content question at a macro level, so the paradigm should shift towards a test-and-learn based framework to constantly evaluate results.
This approach can yield incremental improvements and also opens up a wide range of testing opportunities, including testing publisher data, marketer’s data via PMPs, open exchange buying, and everything in between.
While the norms of data tracking will continue to shift as privacy regulations evolve, there’s no getting away from the fact that audience data is here to stay. Universal addressability is still a distant vision, but it gets closer daily as TV and other traditional formats digitize.
As digital moves closer and closer to being completely programmatic, keep the original programmatic promise in mind: right person, right place, right message, right time.
It’s also hard to debate that contextual relevance matters, so it’s time for the two sides to start a joint dialogue. Endemics should continue touting the value of their content while also encouraging audience targeting.
Media planners should encourage a testing-based mindset and marketers need to understand that the constant hunt for a low CPM may not be in their best interest, which will open up more opportunities.
Let the Consumer Drive
Ultimately, a consumer-centric mindset may be the real answer. Use audience data to be relevant and specific but do so in a privacy-aware way. Use contextual relevance to show consumers that you understand how to position your brand amid the noise. Build relevant creative that speaks to both audience and context. Leverage reporting and analytics to show how consumers are engaging and responding, and then adjust your plans accordingly.
As digital moves closer and closer to being completely programmatic, keep the original programmatic promise in mind: right person, right place, right message, right time. It’s a lofty ambition, but an increasingly achievable one and consumers will thank you.