RocketFuel's Frankel Sees 2014 As Year Branding Goes Programmatic

Richard Frankel, RocketFuel’s  president and co-founder, and I agree on many things. One of them is that programmatic will continue to grow in the new year, not that you’d need to be an oracle to foresee that. Not only will more brand marketers begin using programmatic -- they’ll be using it more intelligently as well.

More excitingly, Frankel and I both believe that 2014 will be the year branding goes real-time. While a few brands had their toes in this water in 2013, marketers are beginning to understand that programmatic techniques and technologies can very effectively drive branding objectives. Frankel says, “I think what will happen is that brand marketers will start to hear from their CFOs -- and from each other -- ‘Wow, programmatic works so well for direct response.  Why can't it help us too?’ And it can.”

Brand marketers may have talked a good game about programmatic in 2013, but 2014 will be the year of action. “I wouldn't say revolutionary action,” Frankel cautions, “but it's going to be the year of evolutionary action, where marketers get rewarded for and with healthy business results.”

Marketers will also need to think differently about ad units and targeting. “It will be absolutely crucial for more sophisticated, bigger, deeper creative units to get more programmatic scale so they can play a bigger role in branding,” Frankel affirms.  That scale question is huge because there are many richer, larger units available today that are really geared to convey brand stories in an engaging way. While there are myriad opportunities to tell those stories, there's very little scale of these kinds of units through real-time exchanges. 

However, in the months ahead, Frankel believes we will see publishers and the exchanges working harder to promote these brand-friendly ad units -- and push them to get greater scale so that companies like his can make them available in the market and deliver those results. The scale is crucial because, let’s face it: the best solutions in the world aren't very helpful if there's no scale, and the infrastructure exists to bring Rising Stars and their ilk to the broader programmatic marketplace.

Frankel does see pre-roll video ads in particular picking up steam in 2014. “I think early programmatic branding in 2014 is going to be heavily driven by pre-roll. It’s starting to get adequate scale already. That’s going to be the first one to break through.” He also believes that some of the other large units that “create brand moments” will gain traction this year.  But that's really going to depend on the sell-side agreeing on a few units and moving them out.

Frankel also believes that for brand marketers to embrace programmatic, they’ll have to “cross the divide of belief.” He explains that brand marketers, historically, have made belief-based decisions about the images that relate to their brand.  They’ve conducted research that supports those beliefs, but still it's very belief-driven. In contrast, programmatic is very data-driven. “So the question is, how can we bridge that gap?” Frankel asks. “How can we turn brand marketers into marketers who want to have really measurable goals that they read and they support in real time, the way we can in programmatic?”

Frankel also believes in implementing a Nielsen-like “last night’s numbers” for digital. “I think if the industry can somehow figure out how we turn the brand marketer’s attention to last night's numbers into something that they can connect with digital, then programmatic branding will explode.”

Overall, Frankel is excited about the opportunities ahead this year, and so am I. “I am very excited about the opportunity to help marketers get more value out of their data,” he concludes. “But I think in 2014 the thing I'm really excited about, is that innovative marketers are going to take some risks. They’ll put their data to work, and stories will emerge in 2014 about what people have done. I see it as a real learning year.” A final, easy prediction is that RocketFuel, data and measurement will drive programmatic BRANDING!

CORRECTION: The Feb. 9 RTB Insider by Scott Portugal incorrectly stated that Rubicon had announced a pending S-1. No such announcement has been made. MediaPost regrets the error.
Tags: programmatic, rtb
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2 comments about "RocketFuel's Frankel Sees 2014 As Year Branding Goes Programmatic".
  1. Gary Milner from Lenovo , January 14, 2014 at 2:56 p.m.
    For brands this is simple, run awareness and consideration studies across programmatic and premium (I/O buys) and watch the results. if you believe the logic that higher consideration drives sales then the $ can follow the data. Thats what smart marketers should be doing.
  2. Al DiGuido from Optimus Publishing , January 16, 2014 at 6:26 a.m.
    My sense is that marketers are starting to ask more intelligent questions regarding programmatic buying. No doubt that they are being cost effective in the "reach" part of their media plans buying this way. As budgets tighten, there will be a greater focus on measuring overall effectiveness and engagment between message and consumer. Creating "larger digital ads" may be one attempt to create greater engagement however...my sense is that the programmatic providers and their publishers need to do a better job of tying together "reach", consumer engagement & return on investment metrics together to satisfy a marketer who is truly focused on "moving the needle" from a competitive and sales standpoint. The interactive medium was supposed to be all about connecting with consumers on a "one to one" basis....We need to insure that all of these programmatic dollars are truly accomplishing that goal.