Luxury retailers have historically been hesitant to adopt programmatic advertising — the automated buying of digital media — believing that programmatic means gaining efficiency at the expense of losing control. For brands that have built practices around putting an ad in a premium content context — a full-page spread in Vanity Fair, for example, where the ad itself is in some ways viewed as content — that exchange can be a difficult one to swallow.
But as marketers increasingly look to create experiences that delight today’s digital consumers, many brands are starting to try to find a balance between that understandable hesitation and all of the benefits that come with a programmatic approach.
Programmatic is certainly an efficient way of reaching targeted audiences at scale — but along with the media purchased come significant insights that can help luxury brands understand their audiences in powerful new ways and refine and improve campaign strategy. You might be paying for the media, but think about how much you would value the insights that come along with that purchase. Putting an ad in Vanity Fair makes sense, and no one would recommend that luxury brands stop doing that, but that gorgeous full page ad doesn’t tell you anything about what happened after it appeared in the magazine, or the audience that saw and responded to it.
Programmatic helps turn media dollars into research dollars, by delivering back information as well as impressions. You can think of insights as the free — and extremely valuable — gift that comes along with the core purchase of media.
Luxury brands work with their vendors to create carefully defined customer experiences, and this should extend into the programmatic world. While there is still some perception that programmatic campaigns involve spitting ads out of an engine without that same level of curation, well-executed programmatic consists of sophisticated and highly bespoke targeting strategies.
In fact, rather than relying on generic, pre-defined segments for targeting (“fashionistas” or “fashion news followers”) or general demographic targeting (income over $150K) brands today can reach audiences built off of actual consumer behavior or stated intent data through polling. That flexibility helps brands determine the motivators behind intent that go beyond simple persona definition — and with that knowledge, brands can deliver exactly the right products through exactly the right context, providing that custom experience.
The result of working with a true strategic partner should be a deeper level of engagement reporting, one that takes metrics and measurements and translates them into insights. For example, a luxury retailer learning what areas of an ad are being engaged with might discover that it is not in fact the call to action, but a lifestyle image, suggesting the aspirational messaging is resonating with their audience. Learning how many times a customer scrolled through a product carousel, or hovered on an ad can indicate which creative resonated with which audience segment and which products correlate with which attributes of your audience.
When it comes to that creative, the dynamic content capabilities available today allow brands to deliver experiences tailored to the exact moment for each customer. By leveraging weather and location data, for example, brands can deliver creative messages that reflect the world the consumer is experiencing — such as suggesting a raincoat for a city professional facing a stormy forecast for the week. Luxury retailers especially have the opportunity to position themselves as a digital personal stylist by providing highly personalized, relevant content — delivering true value to the customer.
Today’s programmatic technology offers greater solutions for control — white lists of pre-approved sites, ensuring ads only appear on vetted publishers; contextual brand safety providers; frequency capping and suppression tools to ensure an appropriate level of contact; and more. Combining these measures that should alleviate some brand concern about losing control, with the powerful insights into audiences and campaign performance, savvy luxury brands will tip the scales in favor of pro.