Unfulfilled potential of digital and programmatic

Unfulfilled potential of digital and programmatic

We are between the humps of two big adoption curves in digital marketing; we’re on the back-end of the era of Direct Response, and we’re simultaneously entering the era of audience advertising  (served by Programmatic).

Before performance metrics were available, we did the best we could. We hoped the media we were buying was adjacent to our audience and that exposure caused an intended outcome. The tracking pixel was an oasis in a great desert. The industry provided a focus for our media buyers and the CPA obsession onset. I’m not saying optimizing to performance metrics is incorrect or obsolete, in fact, it caused an interesting shift in the media buyer skill set, from one of interpersonal skills to those of mathematics and logic. However, this practice led us to be concerned with the consumers’ activities only minutes or hours before purchase. We further restricted our focus with the introduction of retargeting.

We are entering the era where we have the technology to understand our consumers and craft thoughtful messages to precisely the people we want to advertise to – this is the promise of programmatic advertising. I’ll be really clear: If you are using programmatic purely for retargeting and hitting a CPA, you are underutilizing a powerful tool. The top 1 percent of programmatic marketers are using programmatic to change perception of their products by leveraging audience understanding and data. The smallest minority is using this understanding and technology to power the creative, as well as the media. We will see evolution of the digital marketer skill set back to those of strategic marketers while bridging what we have with what we had. Strategists are learning about database manipulation, biddable veterans are having to learn about psychology, and we are all learning to be better scientists.

We should take advantage of this opportunity. We have an incredible toolset at our disposal and the most comprehensive marketing skill set that has ever existed. To maintain this momentum, I advise you continue to do the following:

Expand your worldview– Don’t stop doing what you’re doing, but consider that consumers have complex life stages that go beyond cart abandonment. Consumers that don’t yet know your product also have value, as do those who purchased your product in the past.

Play to your strengths– The current skill set is still valuable. Let your teams test and optimize. We should find new places to employ these skills. There are metrics that impact brand, so find the one that works for you. Viewability is one such metric.

Craft the message to meet your audience– The creative should be driven by your audience understanding, if not directly fueled by audience data. Creative should be as rich and complex as the targeting tactics we use in media. It means nothing to thoughtfully identify a valuable lapsed consumer versus someone with passing interest, if they are being served the same creative.

Lean on your peers– Those CRM folks you never talk to have been doing audience work forever. You might want to go have a chat.

We are at an amazing time in the industry. I hope only that we can learn from ourselves and our history as advertisers to go beyond direct response and the brand. The consumer should drive the campaign goals and the metrics to which we optimize.


Oscar-Garza-HeadshotOscar Garza, Director of Programmatic at Essence, North America

Prior to joining the digital agency Essence, Oscar Garza spent his career developing in-house media capabilities on the client side. Most recently, he was Director of Acquisition for Electronic Arts. There, he was charged with the design and development of EA’s performance advertising tracking, data housing and analysis. At Essence, the world’s largest independent buyer of digital media, Oscar has taken this custom, specialized approach and is applying it to clients desiring cutting edge programmatic capabilities.

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