OMD's Ben Winkler Explains Programmatic's Branding Promise

Ben Winkler, chief digital officer/chief innovation officer at Omnicom’s OMD Worldwide, sees a lot of potential for RTB at his agency. The upshot for agencies, says Winkler, is that RTB brings relationships to the same level as technology. “It creates a greater focus for us on supply and partnering with some of our larger direct publishers,” he explains. "That brings them closer to our business and to the business of our clients. Broadly, that means that we’re moving beyond the question of does RTB work, to what can we do to make RTB work even harder. Most conspicuously, [it’s] moving RTB beyond direct response to having a key branding role for our clients.”

Winkler says that RTB has evolved in two ways over the last year. “First, we’re seeing ad networks getting into the game. Even though they’re a little late and they have some differentiating to do, it’ll be interesting to see how their legacy client and agency relationships approach the change.”



Second, Winker says he is increasingly seeing publishers less shy about embracing programmatic. “Publishers are coming around to see programmatic and RTB as an opportunity rather than a threat when done properly.”

The biggest driver for branding in RTB, says Winkler, is a recognition that branding requires getting the right ad in front of the right person, which means a focus on elements including viewability, frequency and accuracy of the targeting. “If you’re selling tampons, you want to make darn sure that you’re reaching women,” he notes. “Targeting, frequency and viewability are all things that programmatic and RTB are well poised to deliver on. It turns out that programmatic’s greatest strengths makes it pretty ideal for branding, not just direct response.”

Winkler sees programmatic opportunities in new optimization models -- which, for example, allow brands to optimize based on exposure and length of exposure rather than classic metrics of clicks or leads. He foresees using the data “to surface what I call ‘searing consumer insights’ – ones that can change how we market to our prospects, not just in digital but beyond.”

The great promise of RTB in automation “allows our media buyers to focus on innovation and creativity, allowing the rest of their job to be primarily done by the robots,” Winkler adds.

But automation is not without its hurdles. “We still haven’t cracked the botnet issue,” he points out. “Viewability is not exactly where we want it to be. And those elements tend to muddy the conversation and undermine our conversations with our clients.”

Another challenge with RTB is that the number of advertising options is increasing faster than automation is being adopted, explains Winkler. “At this point, media buying is only getting more complicated – but it’s getting more complicated at a slightly slower pace, thanks to programmatic,” he adds.

Over the next year, Winkler anticipates that we’ll get closer to fixing the viewability issue -- “either from the publisher side via updated layouts, or, more likely, from the ad-serving side, where ad servers won’t serve ads that won’t be viewable.”

He is also expecting to see a rise in specialty players, which will essentially be vertical programmatic solutions. “Vertical programmatic will be the next frontier, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that box on next year’s LUMAscape,” he concludes. “Verticals that require special care and service, like pharma, may work here. There’s a great opportunity to do something for a category that simply has not had the ability to invest in the space.” 

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  1. Lucas Black from AOL, March 5, 2014 at 10:32 a.m.

    "ad servers won’t serve ads that won’t be viewable" is an interesting concept. You don't know whether it was viewable or not until it's been served, since it must meet the 'for at least 1 continuous second' criteria. Although I think pages will get 'smarter' and only make ad calls when that portion of the page is in the viewable portion of the browser window. ---Even that breaks down though for a 728x90 leaderboard if it's scrolled past very quickly.

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