Commentary

Real-Time Branding: The Automation Challenge For Brands

In the first installment of this series, Skip Brand, CEO of Martini Media, introduced the idea of real-time branding by facilitating a rich media ad exchange that relied heavily on the IAB Rising Stars. I love this idea, but brand advertising has a lot of work to do in preparation.

Before we can even consider real-time branding, we have to consider the current reality of automated buying for brands. The fact is that programmatic buying for branding doesn’t exist today because automation is still so siloed. If a big brand wants to make a programmatic buy, it must address not only the exchange and the places where the creative can run, but also the places where it can utilize its brand studies and/or utilize mobile tactics and/or video… and these all live within multiple technological partners that bring about the real-time capability. So while automation may be the goal, it actually requires six different sources and technology platforms to achieve. Programmatic, in the world of brands, doesn’t make anything easier.

How will this come together? Slowly. Bridging cross-platform, cross-tactic and automating fully is just a matter of time, but it’s necessary. Unfortunately, in the current environment, we deal with so many sites and so many technologies that we are forced to accept the lowest common denominator. That’s why the exchanges are the way they are today -- that lowest common denominator limits progress. Nonetheless, they are evolving at a pretty rapid pace. With the advent of private marketplaces and our ability to conduct business with more premium publishers and placements, we are able to break out of the box, take on rich media executions and include those studies, as well as dabble with mobile and video. That’s not standard for agencies today, but it’s clearly possible.

A priority for us, especially from a brand perspective, is including traditional metrics such as message recall in the mix. From an optimization perspective, these metrics are variables from which we can learn and build better profiles, and against which we can optimize. We’re doing a lot of that in real-time.

Buy-side challenges

Group M is very advanced in the real-time bidding space. We have our own technology and a slew of partnerships that we have forged. But there are limitations with how you can buy the media in the RTB environment. Some of the setup and optimization tactics are a little bit different than what we can do on our own. The buying types are definitely a major issue for us. RTB is primarily CPM-based, and we know we can we can use different tactics for more sophisticated buying and modeling of the buy. In addition, some of our more sophisticated campaign tactics require a slightly different setup than a normal DSP or tool would help us to do.

IAB Rising Stars

Our clients use Rising Stars in force. Larger and more interactive ads have a critical place in our future. The results that we get from them are significantly better than what we see from a normal day-to-day ad. However, there are many challenges to overcome. Publishers must make room for them. There are tracking limitations related to viewability and engagement that need to be standardized (although I hate to use the word “standardized”). Everyone gleans what they want from the Rising Stars and what makes sense to them. But there must be standards in terms of where they are set up, how they are set up, and how they are tracked. 

As an organization, we like as much data as we can possibly get our hands on, in most cases at the atomic level -- every interaction with every ad, every user, every second of every day would be ideal. What we choose to model and build off that is in the hands of our analytics and research teams.

The viewability metric still has limitations today, technologically. We’re very keen on helping that progress. Once we have solid partners and can affect change there, there’s no doubt in my mind that across our organization, we would only buy ads that are viewable. But more importantly, from there, it’s deeper engagement, any type of interaction, any type of exposure, and the ability to map that against select audience types, so you can understand not only your digital audience, but then match that against radio, television, and print-type buys. Then we can look broadly at the entire marketing mix to ensure that it makes sense and understand how to drive the ultimate performance for our clients. That’s everything.

Looking ahead

An effective rich media ad exchange is in our future. It’s just a matter of time, but there are challenges we must meet to get there. It goes beyond the addition of rich media. We have to be able to bridge all things digital, leveraging our technology platforms. We need the ability to add the viewability metrics and engagement metrics. We need to bridge the gap between mobile and display, to add multiple buying types across all the units. The more publishers that adopt this over time, the greater scale we can achieve. Requiring six partners to accomplish one tactic is going the wrong way. Automation is intended to simplify, not complicate.

To get to real-time branding, we’re going to have to work together to turn the ship around. It won't be simple, and it will take time, but it will happen.

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