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Programmatic Direct Mail and Connected TV: The Ascendance of “Offline” Digital Channels

Author: Jacob Ross, PebblePost CEO

While there is much deserved hullabaloo surrounding Connected TV, another channel sharing many of the qualities that have made CTV such a white hot sector has been similarly experiencing a revolutionary transformation: Direct Mail. 

Just as CTV is reinventing the linear television advertising industry, Programmatic Direct Mail is disrupting the direct mail marketing landscape. As marketers continue to look for viable options for reaching consumers with relevant and timely messaging outside of oversaturated digital channels, these revitalized “offline” mediums are on parallel trajectories for ascendence. 

The reinvention of a tried and true channel 

Direct mail and linear television are both mature channels with massive scale that established themselves long before the rise of the internet.

These “traditional” channels both peaked in the mid-to-late 90’s and, like linear television, advertising spend across traditional direct mail has slowly lost steam over the past few years. But, also like linear television, it’s still a critical industry amassing an estimated $58B in advertising spend in 2020, making it the third largest channel after TV and digital. 

The ubiquity of these channels and continued investment by marketers is a testament to both the scale of audiences and the versatility of the mediums. Getting the mail, just like watching television, is cemented into our daily lives. What’s changed are consumer expectations and marketer needs.

Programmatic Direct Mail, like CTV, is the reinvention of a marketing channel by infusing it with the full power of digital and programmatic capabilities. It’s more than just automation meant to reduce workflow friction and manage operating costs. It provides marketers with the technology and data they need to dynamically reach the right households with relevant messaging and to optimize and measure performance with pinpoint accuracy.

That’s what makes both these channels so enticing to marketers. There is no real risk as to whether or not the format will take hold or be received well. It’s simply a question of whether or not the technology powering it is able to create the best experience for consumers while driving the best performance for marketers. 

The importance of reaching people at home

As the world’s population spends more time online, more and more media is going digital, resulting in fewer options for reaching consumers “IRL” at scale, let alone in their homes. 

That’s a problem because, while the majority of research into purchases occurs online, the time it takes to actually decide to make a purchase varies greatly depending on the significance of the purchase. With the majority of significant purchase decisions being made at home and actually transacted upon offline, it is critical brands find innovative ways of engaging consumers at home that are measurable and attributable everywhere. 

Right now, CTV and Programmatic Direct Mail are the only channels that make that possible with any sort of significant scale. In fact, while CTV is an attractive investment for many marketers, due to lack of adoption, a brand can only reach consumers across about 60% of US households, PDM can, with the right provider, reach 97% of US households.

It’s also worth noting that whenever Google finally deprecates third-party cookies in Chrome, households will become even more important  as a primary means of executing precision marketing at scale outside the walled gardens.

The blend of branding and performance

The workplace isn’t the only thing that’s going “hybrid.” Whereas at one point everything online was “performance” and everything offline was “branding,” expectations are moving towards being able to attribute all marketing efforts back to some sort of measurable, quantitative, data-driven goal regardless of the channel.

This is yet another area where the advancements in Programmatic Direct Mail are analogous to those of CTV. Both bring performance-based strategies and measurement to a channel with massive scale and a high-impact creative format.

This may be another area where PDM actually has an advantage over CTV. It delivers a physical, tangible “impression” that can last weeks, not seconds, giving consumers the ability to choose when they want to engage with it. A commercial has never been placed in a pile on the counter or attached to the refrigerator with a magnet. It can’t be carried into a store with you. It can’t be shared with a friend or discussed on your own time with your spouse.

As the lines continue to blur between work and home, online and offline, and ecommerce and brick and mortar, having a differentiated channel like PDM that truly bridges those gaps will need to be included in any marketing strategy.

Early adopters will be rewarded

There has been a significant shift in the way we consume TV advertising, fueled by ConnectedTV. With the advancements and growing adoption of Programmatic Direct Mail, we see similar shifts in the way direct mail is viewed and invested in by the industry. 

Forward-thinking brands are diversifying their marketing spend to focus on the “offline” digital channels that deliver high performance, at scale, with positive and impactful consumer experience. The ones that figure out how to incorporate CTV and PDM into their marketing strategies will enjoy the rewards - something to write home about!

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