Refining Receptivity

In any real-time sale, be it RTB or search, we sell an ad within 100 milliseconds of when the inventory was born. There’s a kind of magic, and a fundamental honesty  inherent in the idea that real time markets sell something they actually have. A browser painting a screen informs us that there is an audience about to view some pixels. We can bid for the right to populate those pixels with our message.  

This creates a huge targeting advantage for those able to exploit it. That is:  When we buy in real time, we can know a lot about where the audience might be in their life at that second. This is more than just the context into which the impression will arrive. It is the context within an individual consumer’s life. Is she in a hurry? Did she just visit 50 pages about autos, or is she desperately seeking directions to a restaurant? Maybe, but those are bad times to offer 20% off shampoo.

In other words, “moments” are the new black.



I remember when search was the new black, social was the new black, mobile was the new black, and data was the new black.  Don’t dis new black, I guess.

Understanding a consumer’s state of mind at a given instant was never the Holy Grail, only because it was viewed as impossible. Now it’s not. Some people can do it, and others can’t, and no one can do it perfectly, but everyone should try.  Because, you know, it’s the civilized thing to do. This micro-receptivity can enable us to be polite, which, of course, works in our favor. People reject impolite overtures from strangers, so advertisements should, by all means, be polite.

The general strategy of using a series of observations from disparate sources to discern something about a consumer’s state of mind is not fundamentally new, but it is something that data, especially cross-screen, can bring to places we never expected it.  

Take TV. It’s crazy to think we might be able to decide whether to show a consumer an ad on a broadcast channel based on something we know is happening at that moment. Even if we know (maybe from other devices?) something about that moment, we can’t show them a different ad if circumstances dictate that we do so.  Broadcast TV is hopelessly rigid with regard to which creative gets shown when, and pinpoint accuracy about who is viewing is out of the question, too. But, there’s hope in the concept of improving receptivity.
The idea of a moment is just a fine-tuning of receptivity. If someone is watching TV,  she is probably not walking around, nor in a hurry to accomplish some unrelated task. She is likely not looking at a screen in which her focus is drawn away from the ad by something else on the screen. (The ad occupies the whole screen.) So, TV, to a large extent, by the nature of the medium, solves a lot of problems endemic to digital, but it still can’t begin to match online for appropriateness of the ad to a viewer’s immediate need. The so-called “alpha state” of relaxed awareness was thought once to be the key to the miracle of TV effectiveness, and it probably is, because in that state a viewer is receptive to a lot of things.

But, can “moment” thinking improve on that?

The answer is yes, because it is possible to anticipate at least something about a moment in the future.  Receptivity lasts a while for some kinds of needs. TV has difficulty mapping those needs to viewing behaviors, but data can help.

How long do needs go unmet? That’s a great question for research, but we know the answer for some categories. Toothpaste needs get met quickly because you can buy it anywhere and it’s cheap. Car needs go on and on because cars are expensive, and a big pain in the ass to locate and buy. I had to take an Uber to buy my last car.

In any case, for every category of stuff you can buy, the ability to anticipate receptivity (and put the media into the moment!) is different. But, for brands, it’s very possible to start thinking this way, and to groom media, one way or another, to offer the possibility of scratching the current itch. Speak to your local data-monger.

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