Why Publishers Should Help Brand Marketers Launch Programmatic Campaigns

martinlarsen“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 Martin Stockfleth Larsen, chief marketing officer of Adform.

Brand marketers love TV. It’s standard, has global reach, scales quickly and is an easy pitch in boardrooms. But most of all, the 30-second ad spot affords ample room for creativity, which is the secret to grabbing the consumer’s attention.

It’s no surprise then that brand marketers have felt stymied by digital advertising. True, there are creative advertising opportunities to be had – home page takeovers, for instance – that can grab consumers’ attention. I’m reminded of a dramatic Norwegian Air ad that featured a plane bursting through the screen a split second after page load.

The trouble is scaling those opportunities. The most exciting, attention-grabbing formats are restricted to direct deals, which as we all know are time-consuming endeavors. There are no less than 40 steps in the direct RFP process, burning through some 12% of a marketer’s media budget, according to recent NextMark research. Given that the brand marketer’s job is to grab massive attention in multiple markets and countries simultaneously, the direct channel is daunting.

That leaves programmatic, but it too poses significant challenges, namely a dearth of attention-grabbing rich-media ad units in the global ad exchanges. This is a serious obstacle, given that it’s nearly impossible to raise massive brand awareness via a 300 x 250 banner sharing a page with lots of other ads.

But programmatic can deliver the type of creativity brand managers need as long as publishers are game for offering suitable RTB inventory. Case in point: Unilever in Finland.

Unilever was eager to revamp the image of its laundry soap, Bio Luvil. The product, designed to be gentle on clothes, was hardly on the radars of the consumers most likely to benefit from it: stylish young women who invest heartily in their wardrobes. The company wanted to launch a campaign to dispel the notion that laundering clothes ruined them, and they wanted consumers to think Bio Luvil was hip.

The campaign’s centerpiece was a three-minute video featuring Sissi, a Finnish celebrity blogger who is adored by the brand’s key demographic. Media efficiency was a paramount goal, and success would be measured by the number of consumers who landed – and stayed to watch – the video.

Given publisher reticence to offering rich-media inventory in the global markets, Unilever was more or less forced into an A/B test, with one set of consumers seeing a basic 300 x 250 ad, and the other seeing a banner featuring the video. Both encouraged consumers to click through to the landing page.

The difference in performance is stark, with the video ads delivering 437% better CTR and a 400% better ROI. The takeaway is clear: Success in digital brand marketing is tightly tied to ads that capture the imagination, which in turn demands rich media.

There are a few things that frustrate me about the publisher’s unwillingness to offer substantial volumes of premium rich-media inventory in the global ad exchanges. First, they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces. They believe they can garner higher CPMs in the direct deal and that’s true – for now. But that stance also means they’re doing absolutely nothing to attract the brand marketer’s fat TV budget to their properties. How is this helping them to secure their future?

My other frustration: knowing how easy it is to turn on the spigot. Over the past few years we’ve seen stunning advances that can push true brand marketing into programmatic, such as IAB Rising Star formats and HTML5 services that let brand repurpose their costly flagship campaign ads to the digital channel. In other words, it’s gotten easier to launch rich-media campaigns in multiple markets, quickly and at scale.

In the years ahead, TV will become even more digital than it is today, especially since millennials prefer to watch their favorite shows from their computers and tablets whenever it’s convenient. Digital, therefore, will be the brand marketer’s only hope of reaching this demographic.

That means publishers will face a choice: Offer more rich media inventory programmatically, or hire legions of sales reps to process all of those RFPs.

Follow Martin Stockfleth Larsen (@MartinMov), Adform (@AdformInsider) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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