Planning for the future: Should you consider bringing programmatic in-house?

According to e-marketer, programmatic marketing is predicted to bring in more than US$46 billion in the US alone this year. By 2020, 86.2% of all digital display ads will be bought via automated channels. In the same year, almost 90% of all mobile display ads will transact programmatically, said the study. This is buoyed by continued investment in social platforms, and ongoing efforts to bring programmatic and its audience-buying capabilities to the in-app space.

But despite the huge opportunity it presents, panellists at Marketing’s Digital Marketing Asia Singapore 2018 conference say programmatic is not necessarily for everyone.

For Alin Dobrea, head of advertising platform for Zalora (which is backed by Rocket Internet), programmatic buying is not an area that the company is spending on. However, media buying is still important for the company and it chooses to work directly with Facebook and Google as data indicates these two platforms drive performance.

“We are always constantly learning and tweaking what gets us the best business because at the end of the day we are a data-driven business,” he said, adding that despite not using programmatic marketing, Zalora has kept tabs on it nonetheless.

He added that at Zalora, the company’s approach to a campaign starts with a reason and an objective – be it engagement or sales.  This enables the team to better plan the media mix.

“As a business, we are constantly trying out new things and the way we approach marketing. We evaluate and we see what is working based on the objective. If it is not performing, we move the budget elsewhere,” he said, adding the company is constantly tweaking and learning about what is working and what is not. Of course, having  access to data in real-time also helps drive the business.

Meanwhile, Adam Cordner, senior solution consultant at Domo, said that at the end of the day marketers need to understand their brands down to the product level and knowing what needles have an impact on the brand, be it in terms of revenue or product sales or social media sentiment.

“There has to be a clear understanding on what we are measuring,” he said.

Echoing about performance was Cedric Dias, head of digital, social media and product marketing at OCBC Bank, who said it ultimately comes down to the ability to remain agile and switch up your marketing plan. Even with traditional mediums, he added, brands are now able to change their strategies quickly given the reports come in much faster.

“It is not as tough as in the old days where once the campaign was over, changes get made to the next round. And everyone hopes for the best. Even traditional media has changed today because of the data you get on an instant basis,” he said.

“We had a media plan recently and had a few print ads as part of the overall media plan, and after the first two, we noticed there was not enough traffic generated on the days of the print ad as we generally see a quick spike based on past performances. Because we saw that, we were able to quickly shift and change the media plan.”

And, while with traditional mediums brands are able to be safe and ought to know where exactly their ads will appear, “safe doesn’t always mean good”, Dias explained.

For Dias, programmatic – despite its challenges – is still a tool the bank deploys at the top of the funnel. But to tackle its visibility challenges, OCBC has implemented several brand safety and viewability measures to better understand where its ads are placed.

He further added that while having the right partner is great, a marketer must always be the brand owner and custodian for their brand, rather than rely on an agency partner 100%. He said brands can only trust the agencies “with the basics”.

In-house versus outsourcing

With these uncertainties around programmatic, it comes as no surprise that a 2017 survey by the ANA found 35% of brands have expanded their in-house programmatic media-buying capabilities, and limited the role of outside agencies, up from 14% in 2016.

According to an IAB report, this drive for clients “to take charge of programmatic is now becoming well-documented”. Meanwhile, a study by Adobe released in December predicted that 62% of brands would bring programmatic in-house by 2022.

Ganga Chirravuri, chief technology officer for CtrlShift, highlighted that prior to bringing media in-house, brands need to have frameworks in place to operate within.

“It is about identifying frameworks the company can build and then the technology that can support it. It’s not just about hiring a team or buying some technology,” he said, adding that the frameworks should encompass how planning and media buying should be approached, along with how to handle existing technology when new solutions come into the market.

According to Chirravuri, after a broader framework is put in place with ownership and accountability, marketers are then able to succeed from a long-term rather than a short-term perspective.

Panellists, however, added the journey between an agency and a brand needs to now form into a collaboration.

Szeki Sim, head of brand at SGInnovate, added:

I think the agency-brand experience is not a master-slave type of a relationship. It is a partnership where they are both vested towards the same purpose.

“That makes it a more meaningful journey. In today’s world, we become stronger together. With a trusted relationship, you can achieve a lot more.”