Programmatic: Ingredient in Today's Marketing Mix

I’ve spent a long time buying and selling media on behalf of major brands, on both the account management and media vendor sides, and today I’m seeing marketers more and more overwhelmed by all their options. The advent and rapidly growing adoption of programmatic (where I’ve worked for the last four years) has added even more confusion. But there’s hope.

I’ve watched many a weary client and agency partner’s face light up when I say the following: “Marketing 101 still applies. Programmatic is just another tool, and it has a time and a place.”

Here’s what I mean:

It’s all about the fundamentals of marketing and the marketing mix. You have to start with the core recipe, or the business objective, and then have a solid strategy followed by smart tactics. Run TV, out-of-home, print, radio, door hangers -- whatever makes strategic sense in order to meet the unique needs of your brand.

Of course you need digital: start with CRM-based email, then search. Integrated sponsorships with key sites that help build the equity of your brand are important, too.



Once you’ve incorporated these ingredients as applicable, you should add programmatic to your marketing mix. If you’re looking for some kind of conversion, retargeting using display and social channels is a great place to start, but quickly add prospecting/contextual prospecting and potentially data targeting to help scale. Be sure you have transparency into pricing, tactics and sites. Use the data and analytics that your campaign is generating to help inform the overall marketing strategy. If you can access all of this 24/7 via log-in, even better.

For branding objectives, add upper-funnel digital channels including video and mobile. (Hopefully your programmatic partner has built-in analytics to help with path-to-conversion analysis.) Speaking of KPIs: Don’t try to make these upper-funnel tactics pay out on a CPA basis. They never will, because they’re not supposed to! It’s analogous to a car dealership attributing the weekend rush to those balloons on the lot, and ignoring the billboard that’s been up for the last month and a half. Did the balloons drive that prospect in, in or did a series of needs and messaging over an extended period of time that form a brand perception do the job? The answer is, all of it.

A fringe benefit of this step-wise approach is that it gives you the time to focus on something incredibly important but often neglected in digital: making great creative. Be an advocate to support breakthrough creative, because the best thing that can happen to you is to be totally surprised by what the creative team comes back with that’s on point with the brief. 

If the message is right and unexpected, so too will your customers be surprised and delighted -- and therefore more likely to notice and take action. The best technology cannot fix bad, off-strategy or worn-out creative. So spend budget on creative and channel-specific extensions.

If you’re scaling and still have budget, then you can start getting into strategic initiatives like offline CRM database matching, geofencing, custom audience segment data targeting, etc. Look at all of this and weigh the incremental scale above and beyond. Don’t focus on trying to seem smart to your boss by starting with these sexy-sounding initiatives if they only talk in thousands, and you want to talk in hundreds of thousands or millions. Scale first, and then get granular. 

Summing up: Build your plan from the ground up, maximizing each step. Incorporate brilliant creative. Then add on as you have budget. With all the technology available for tailoring your marketing campaign, remember that without the core strategic elements that drive efficient scale, everything else is just garnish.


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