Advertisers, Ditch The Duct Tape And Focus On Quality

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Joe Hirsch, CEO at YellowHammer Media Group.

When a dam is breaking, you don’t just slap some duct tape on it to keep it together. It takes quality engineering to fix the problem.

It’s time for advertisers to stop using duct tape to keep their programmatic media-buying program together. A haphazard programmatic operation can create needless complexity, cost and even brand erosion, costing advertisers who don’t take the time to improve their strategic approach to this fast-growing channel. Advertisers must re-engineer some of the issues that hinder progress and profitability.

There are several ways buyers can improve their programmatic process. Rather than expecting a free lunch with ever-lower prices and ever-expanding scale, publishers need to create a more watertight quality-control strategy to protect their brand as programmatic becomes a larger part of their advertising footprint. From conditional metrics to fake news, advertisers may not realize what a mess their programmatic media program really is.

Marketers need to rethink the dozens of metrics that drive their campaign spending and analysis, many of which work against one another, to the advertiser’s detriment. And rather than repurposing pricey creative from TV and print, advertisers should embrace dynamic creative strategies that make the most of biddable inventory.

As with nearly every digital channel, programmatic started off as a low-cost Wild West. Now, comScore 200 websites put premium content on programmatic channels. Advertisers can cherry-pick a specific audience, enforce quality controls and even create a unique dynamically generated ad for every impression.

Yet, advertisers still expect endless scale at low prices. 2017 should be the year that brands stop looking for a free lunch and start creating a mature strategy where quality matters more than sheer quantity – from the early planning stages through to campaign delivery.

Do advertisers ask all of their partners to regularly update blacklists and describe their processes so that the advertisers can learn and improve over time?

Many brands let this part of their media buying languish, which is one reason issues with fake news have affected so many advertisers. Many partners include sites that feature content many advertisers don’t want to be associated with, unless the brand takes an active role in quality management.

For example, highlighting and cutting out sites with unrealistically high click-through rates. Neglecting to understand where ads run is not just bad for an advertiser’s brand image, it’s actually more expensive. That budget could be spent on much better inventory. This kind of pressure should be put on our entire ecosystem every day.

Media-buying teams are not often rigorous enough about understanding where ads really run. Outdated blacklists are essentially the leaky duct tape that needs to be ripped off.

Conditional metrics are another set of quick fixes being put on top of programmatic advertising. Many advertisers incorrectly use viewability and similar metrics to dictate media buying strategy, needlessly increasing their own advertising costs. Poorly executed conditional metrics make it difficult to optimize campaigns or even deliver them accurately. As a result, prices artificially go up, and valuable time and energy is wasted on the make-good process, which often falls outside of the desired campaign window.

The right way to use viewability is to understand where and how ads are being seen, not as a measure of real-time performance. Rather than creating a rigid blanket requirement, advertisers should remove lower-visibility placements in favor of high-visibility placements in the media planning stages and through optimization.

Among the most neglected leaks in the programmatic system is the use of repurposed generic creative. Advertisers have done a great job embracing the use of audience data to create efficiency and accuracy on programmatic channels. It always surprises me how many of them don’t do the same thing with their creative. Advertisers might feel like expensive creative assets are higher quality, but the fact they are often very generic can unnecessarily increase the breadth of the audience an advertiser goes after.

Challenging teams to work with creative assets designed for specific audiences on programmatic channels actually increases the advertiser’s focus on quality over quantity. Advertisers should work with agencies and partners to map out a more flexible set of assets designed for key target audiences and work with partners that can target and serve these assets efficiently.

With the start of this new year, programmatic will be a bigger part of advertiser budgets than ever before, across display, video, social and even TV. It’s time to set up a programmatic strategy that is efficient and effective in order to scale without suffering from cracks in the system.

Follow YellowHammer Media Group (@yellowhammermg) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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