Programmatic has a brand problem. It is that it’s not seen as a branding tool. That was the consensus of brand gurus debating the role programmatic can or should play beyond “performance” during OMMA Chicago on Tuesday. Interesting, the debate seemed to focus mainly on the role of timing, and the notion that brand “building” takes a long time to happen, and a real-time tool like programmatic may be 1) antithetical to that process, or b) may take time to prove its role in contributing to the long-term value of branding.
“Branding is learning,” asserted Patrick Palmer, partner and discipline lead, strategy & analytics at VSA Partners,” adding that the immediacy of programmatic audience targeting might be at odds with that.
“You might be changing too soon,” he said, suggesting that the real-time, iterative nature of programmatic campaigns may not allow for a longer-term process in which consumers “incorporate things about brands in their lives more gradually.”
Palmer didn’t count programmatic’s ability to do that out, he just implied that the industry hasn’t figured out how to use it that way yet.
“It’s at the Netscape Navigator stage of brand-building,” he said, drawing an analogy to the seminal World Wide Web browser that got brands involved in advertising online in the first place. But if you think about how long it took brands to really get brand-oriented with online advertising -- heck, many people think the industry still hasn’t gotten there yet -- it’s easy to see what Palmer means.
In the near-term, at least one of the panelists believed programmatic is already playing a significant branding role -- not building brands, but sustaining them.
PHD’s Mary Carpenter said that by playing a more scientific role in identifying which impressions to serve at the right time to the right targets programmatic is playing a key role in spreading brands’ messages.
“I consider that branding. It’s not building a brand, but it’s sustaining brands,” she said.
Carpenter said programmatic is also beginning to play a role on the back-end of branding, enabling brand marketers to use data management platforms to do “forensics” on which campaigns and media exposures are resonating best. She cited a recent campaign PHD managed for pharmaceutical client GSK that find the brand was targeting the wrong consumers with its brand messages online.