What Programmatic Can Learn From TV

Rachel Parkin headshot

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Rachel Parkin, executive vice president of strategy and sales at CafeMedia.

The impending privacy cloud looms large. With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation in place and the California Consumer Privacy Act soon to follow, along with Safari ITP and Chrome’s tightening cookie restrictions, an effective digital targeting and measurement strategy can no longer assume perfect addressability. We need to envision a new path forward.

TV’s history can provide inspiration on the road ahead. Linear TV has always operated in an environment of imperfect information. Advanced TV is shifting TV advertising toward digital attribution standards – and at the same time, digital needs to take a page from the TV handbook too.

Programmatic advertising is no longer a one-stop shop. A single umbrella strategy or attribution methodology won’t reach all consumers. Publishers and advertisers instead need to take a bifurcated approach to connect to the unknown, unidentified (yet valuable) web differently from the known, addressable web.

Dark pools have valuable consumers

Absent a new approach, Safari is well on its way to becoming a dystopian wasteland (aka dark inventory pool) for consumer targeting. With less insight into consumers in this universe, fewer advertising dollars flow into this sphere, and marketers will miss relevant audiences for their products.

I’ve seen audience-based programmatic campaigns – which, by default, target identifiable consumers – run almost exclusively on Chrome, with as few as 2% of impressions delivering on Safari. Even though a majority of US mobile consumers use Safari, it’s not out of the ordinary for most of of an advertiser’s impressions to run on Chrome. No marketer would want to hear that 70% of their budget reached only 30% of consumers. (Not to mention that this drives up the price of those 30% of consumers who are addressable.)

Advertisers don’t question the value of TV consumers who they don’t individually know. Safari’s example as a pseudonym for the broadening, unidentified web makes finding a new strategy to reach these now unknown digital consumers more crucial. Perhaps that means leaning on publishers – for a renewed focus on context or publisher-defined frequency caps ­– or redefining what successful attribution means in these environments. It’s clear publishers and advertisers must partner to chart this new course.

Identifying intent with contextual targeting

Pulling the contextual rabbit out of the hat doesn’t mean going back to the Dark Ages. Advances in contextual targeting can elevate potential insights from “interest” to “intent.” The picture of unaddressable consumers painted by the content they’re reading says something about who they are and what products are relevant to them.

Broad contextual targeting for topics such as food, finance or family is a simple way to shine a light on otherwise dark pools of unidentifiable consumers. However, natural language processing enables context to go much deeper into the topics that get closer to the purchase funnel, such as cooking chicken, retirement planning or potty training. Publishers can combine context with first-party tracking to collect these behaviors within a session or across them to form a more complete view of the consumer and put publisher contextual data even one step closer to purchase.

TV has long used the demographics and context of programming to cast a wide net with (potentially) relevant consumers. Deploying a hypertargeted contextual strategy specific to the unaddressable digital audience can deliver more relevant advertising than TV and enable marketers to reach consumers who would be unreachable without it.

Different attribution methods for different purposes

With a growing split between identifiable and unidentifiable consumers, a singular attribution framework or global frequency cap no longer fits the bill. While we’d all love to operate in a world where everything is known, that’s just not the case anymore. To reach all consumers, advertisers must get comfortable with applying different attribution methods in different scenarios.

One opportunity is for the known, addressable web to become a testing ground for the unknown web. A marketer can use environments conducive to closed-loop attribution to determine which targeting strategies, publishers or price points work best to achieve the targeted ROI. They can then apply the winning strategies – without attribution – to the unaddressable web and extrapolate to determine the overall impact.

A lack of closed-loop attribution hasn’t stopped TV advertising. It’s meant making decisions about the effectiveness of advertising based on the information that is available, often in media-mix models. Considering the same methodology for groups of digital consumers could enable marketers to still connect with these unaddressable audiences and even change the controls to do so programmatically.

Let’s not leave these dark pools of unaddressable consumers in the dark. Taking a new approach together, publishers and advertisers can turn the lights on.

Follow CafeMedia (@CafeMedia_) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

Enjoying this content?

Sign up to be an AdExchanger Member today and get unlimited access to articles like this, plus proprietary data and research, conference discounts, on-demand access to event content, and more!

Join Today!