Date posted

17 Jun 2024

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With The Euros 2024, the Paris Olympics and major elections in the US and Europe, this summer promises a wealth of stories that entertain, surprise, and evoke a range of emotions. Where stories are, audiences follow, creating an immense opportunity for brands to reach highly engaged audiences through transparent, outcome-focused programmatic advertising.

While programmatic is often seen as an advertising channel, it’s simply an automated process of buying media; and a continually expansive one at that. 61% of Digital Media in the US is transacted through the open web, compared to just 39% within Walled Gardens (GWI, 2023). This trend aligns with new econometrics meta-analysis, which shows that  online display, video, and broadcast video on demand (BVOD) have seen the greatest uplift in short-term ROI, post-pandemic (Profit Ability 2, Thinkbox, Ebiquity et al). With media inflation across many core ‘performance’ channels, branching into other audience touchpoints is essential for sustainable growth.

Programmatic complexity and the evolving media landscape

Gone are the days of siloed ad buying. We can now plan and buy connected, programmatic campaigns across formats, all from a single Demand Side Platform (DSP), enabling centralised campaign management, consistent messaging and avoiding audience fragmentation. Programmatic buying also offers incredible flexibility and dynamism for brands wanting to tap into the cultural zeitgeist. Imagine updating display or DOOH ads in real-time based on scores in The Euros. Or generating virality through reactive, multi-screen messaging based on breaking stories in the Olympics.

Even within a singular DSP though, there remains a great deal of complexity within the ecosystem. Multiple buying methods, a spectrum of targeting options and a great deal of ad trafficking across formats makes it complex – but it shouldn’t be complicated. This is where a full-service agency with deep programmatic knowledge and strategic thinking comes in. It’s not just about pushing buttons.

Beyond programmatic, the media landscape itself is undergoing real change. Publishers are having to adapt their business models and AI-powered search results are emerging. While early attempts lack credibility it’s important to remember that this is the worst AI search will ever be and it will undoubtedly steal some share from publisher traffic in the future.

And yet, media brands will remain as destinations for news and content as trusted aggregators of information for their audiences. Quality journalism offers an irreplaceable value, attracting and holding attention during these key cultural moments.

A handbook for programmatic advertising

So, how can you ensure your brand commands attention at the right time, in the right place? Here’s a strategic playbook designed to elevate your programmatic efforts this summer, and beyond:

  • Transparency takes centre stage: The “Forbesgate” scandal serves as a stark reminder of the importance of complete transparency regarding media investments. The programmatic ecosystem is far from perfect, but show me an advertising ecosystem that is. Maintain a firm grasp on where your advertising dollars are flowing, and prioritise reputable publishers as a starting point. 
  • Curated marketplaces: The industry is developing solutions to foster better connections between brands with premium publishers meticulously selected to align with target audiences. This involves creating programmatic marketplaces that aggregate publishers aligned with an advertiser’s target demographics or industry verticals. Imagine a marketplace where all publishers cater to a specific audience, be it institutional investors, sports fans, or skincare aficionados. These curated marketplaces not only enhance transparency but also minimise exposure to fraud. By optimising the supply path through a single exchange, they reduce unnecessary fees associated with resold inventory (often referred to as “hops”). Did I mention these marketplaces are also designed with cookieless in mind?
  • A more sustainable approach: The advertising industry is increasingly focused on sustainable solutions, like RocketMill Green Marketplaces. These solutions connect brands with publishers that are demonstrably meeting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics. In doing so, brands can minimise their environmental impact while simultaneously reaching a valuable demographic segment. As things heat up across Europe this summer, figuratively and literally, consider how your advertising can have a less intensive impact on the ozone layer.
  • Optimising the open web: While curated marketplaces offer a high degree of control, reaching a wider audience often necessitates venturing into the open web with an audience-first approach. In this environment, continuous optimisation is critical. Setting and forgetting never bodes well. Targeting strategies need constant refinement through leveraging audience insights, creative variations and a multitude of environmental data signals to maximise campaign results. 
  • AI-driven contextual targeting: As user identification continues to evolve, AI-powered contextual targeting becomes an increasingly crucial tool. Strategic partnerships with entities like Captify and EntityX empower advertisers to leverage the power of AI to display ads within relevant environments, ultimately enhancing brand messaging and audience perception. A crucial tactic when considering the dynamic news cycles and ability to adapt to breaking stories, in an instant.
  • Beyond outdated blocklists: Legacy keyword blocking for brand safety purposes can often be a blunt and overly restrictive exercise. The same contextual partners used for contextual targeting have evolved to also ensure we aren’t blocking any sports coverage that contains “shots”, for example.  Revisit any existing block lists with a critical eye to ensure you’re not negating due to archaic terms. Instead, foster open communication between agency and brand to establish appropriate risk tolerance levels across various content categories. Remember, quality journalism tackling some of the hard-hitting stories often generates high dwell times from audiences.

Trust, transparency and performance

Despite the increased fragmentation in media and the rapid pace of AI developments, there are certain consumption habits that may be slower to change. This summer’s news cycle presents a unique opportunity for brands to connect with highly engaged audiences in trusted media environments utilising an array of data signals to enhance performance. The adaptive nature of programmatic affords advertisers the ability to capitalise on real-time stories with dynamic creative, targeting and investment levers.

Embrace transparency, prioritise responsible practices and orchestrate a connected programmatic strategy across mediums to drive the best outcomes. Despite the complexities outside the relative comfort of walled gardens (e.g Meta, Google Ads), controlled programmatic solutions are available. To truly succeed, having adaptable experts at the wheel, a culture of transparency and closely aligned objectives is a winning formula.

This article by RocketMill’s Chief Media Officer, Jack Chape, was originally published by Performance Marketing World.