It Takes Incisive Planning And Creativity To Make Programmatic Machines Do The Right Thing

RTB holds a lot of promise as the buying mechanism to action for programmatic campaigns, as long as you know your audience well and can slice and dice them.

That was the main lesson from my chat at Tuesday's MediaPost OMMA London RTB event when I was fortunate enough to be joined on stage by Matt Bushby, Marketing Director at DC Thomson' Family History and Ross Barnes, Managing Director of the m/Six agency.

Analysis of who uses the business's sites showed a clear distinction between the very keen family tree researcher as well as academics, who use compared to the casual searcher looking up information, such as their first football match or what grandad did during the war, on

The key was to programme these learnings in to campaigns to drive engagement among the two very different audiences. For the keen researcher, there was an older demographic skew -- while with the more casual researcher, often triggered to search by a birth or marriage, there was a younger skew, with females indexing more highly. 

So, with those lessons learned, campaigns have run and click throughs have risen by 20 percent.

Now, although you may have an opinion on click-through (remember this is direct-response work), where the campaigns have apparently been highly successful is retargeting.

This isn't the kind we all hate, where you get stalked by a product you've already bought or simply don't like -- this has a far more clever intent. The trouble with many researchers is they go idle or even churn after an initial enthusiastic stage. Thus,  much of the programmatic work has gone into retargeting people to ensure they come back and use the site, and of course, continue subscribing. 

I have to say it's one of the very few uses of retargeting that I've ever heard of that is actually useful to people who may need a nudge to get back to researching their family tree.

Another interesting part of the work has been that creative has been targeted to the different groups. So not only would an older person with an interest in genealogy receive an advert for FindMyPast, and a younger person receive one for GenesReunited, the creative would be totally different. The older demographic tends to get old faded pictures to prompt a nostalgic reaction whereas younger people will often have a modern colour picture with the text offering a call to action. The look and feel of the creative offered to each audience could not be further apart, although they are essential for very similar services.

So the big lesson of the day was that if you are going to use RTB programmatically, the absolute starting point is to have a very clear picture of not just your audience, but your audiences. Picking out the niches within the group can truly help put the proverbial right message in front of the right person at the right time.

It can be tempting to think that programmatic and RTB is all about machines.

Those machines need some very incisive planning and creative innovation to get the most out of them.

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