Ahead of her presentation at the Figaro Digital Marketing Conference, Bruna Gil, Programmatic Lead, EMEA at LinkedIn, digs into some of the pressing issues shaping attitudes towards programmatic, and the steps brands need to take to leverage the opportunities of this platform, without risking their identity and integrity online. Read on to find out how LinkedIn have been mastering the skills required to score wins on this platform.
Do you think that a focus on quantity over quality has had a negative influence on the reputation of programmatic?
Programmatic disrupted the industry by making it possible to buy specific audiences at scale rather than buying the contexts those audiences might appear in. Programmatic meant a trading company was no longer limited to advertising in financial sites – they could reach a specific user who was interested in investments anywhere they went online, provided there was ad inventory available. Being able to target that same user whether they were looking at a financial section or not gave buyers a lot more power – they could focus on buying impressions or clicks at scale for the lowest possible CPM or CPC.
However, ignoring context created issues for programmatic that have come to dominate the conversation. Have advertisers unwittingly sacrificed transparency and quality to get the quantity and efficiency they were chasing? Are the impressions and clicks they are paying for genuine? In particular, there are three questions that programmatic buyers now have to ask themselves:
Viewability – “Are my ads being seen?” Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of programmatic buyers worry that they are paying for impressions that aren’t actually seen by anybody. ComScore data shows that fewer than half of all ads globally meet IAB viewability standards – and viewability performance is worse for ads bought programmatically.
Ad Fraud – “Are the views and clicks on my ads coming from real people?” We’re seeing ad fraud emerge as a serious concern for programmatic advertisers, with 69 per cent believing that it undercuts their performance. Ad fraud occurs when “bots” or malicious computer scripts click on ads and charge advertisers for illegitimate traffic.
Brand Safety – “What type of content is my brand appearing next to?” This is one of the biggest concerns in the industry at the moment, and it’s particularly relevant to programmatic buyers. Advertisers are growing ever more concerned about the risk of their brands being positioned alongside extremist or offensive content.
These issues are helping to drive a change in focus for programmatic. Advertisers increasingly realise that this technology doesn’t have to be used to chase scale at low cost – it can equally be directed towards reaching high-quality audiences in transparent and trusted environments. Programmatic can rediscover the importance of context.
What was the biggest motivator leading to LinkedIn’s adoption of programmatic marketing?
We believe that programmatic has reached a tipping point in adoption levels, particularly for B2B marketing. We also believe it’s reached a tipping point in terms of the shift from quantity to quality.
According to the IAB, programmatic buying accounted for 72 per cent of display advertising in 2016. Given these adoption levels, making LinkedIn’s display ad inventory available programmatically was a natural step in making it simpler and easier for our customers to advertise on LinkedIn.
It’s no coincidence that we launched our offering in 2016, when the programmatic industry was in the middle of the shift back to quality. As the world’s leading B2B publishing platform, where you can reach the world’s professionals all in one place, we felt we had a lot to offer in this area. Our programmatic capabilities harness the huge wealth of data we have on our members, meaning marketers can much more easily connect with target audiences, at scale. No other platforms offer such granularity on the data provided. By 2017, we were so convinced by the results of programmatic buying on LinkedIn that we decided to make display ads on LinkedIn 100 per cent programmatic.
Many brands are taking their programmatic buying in-house. What are your thoughts on that trend?
When all of the programmatic knowledge sits outside your business in a media agency or ad trading desk, it’s hard to interrogate exactly what’s being spent and what’s being bought – and hard to make informed decisions about whether your investment is really delivering against your objectives. That’s why many marketers are investing in building knowledge and understanding of programmatic internally. The irony is that once you have that expertise, you actually have less need to manage the details of programmatic buying in-house.
Hiring people who are fluent in programmatic and understand the strategic considerations involved is not an easy task. You’re looking for a particular breed of hybrid marketer: people with the ability to work with data, who understand the different technology platforms involved, but who also have a strategic marketing sensibility that matches all this to your objectives.
Once you have this strategic knowledge, you can more confidently rely on media agencies and partners to handle programmatic execution. That’s why I believe that many businesses will find themselves with a happy hybrid model. They no longer feel they have to take care of programmatic themselves, because they have the knowledge to have more informed discussions with their programmatic partners.
What sort of questions should advertisers be asking of their vendors to ensure transparency and maintain brand integrity?
It’s not enough to know how much you paid for how many clicks or how many impressions. Marketers need to be confident demanding answers to the following three questions:
- Where the impressions happened
- What audiences they happened amongst
- How much the impressions were really worth.
Most marketers would be willing to pay more for impressions that they can be confident are from human beings – and the right kind of human beings at that. Impressions and clicks are both worth far more if you know they will deliver meaningful leads – and revenue-driving conversions.
Marketers can only get that confidence from being able to peer into the programmatic black box and see what’s going on. Any programmatic partner worth its salt should be helping them to do that. Everyone should have an interest in clear discussions about what a business’s particular objectives are, which types of impressions they are interested in, and which programmatic buys and media partners are best suited to delivering those impressions. It all helps advertisers benefit from the advantages a good agency or publisher can bring: efficiency, scalability and expertise.
In my view, the best programmatic partners are those that help to increase programmatic understanding on the part of their clients. They have no interest in blinding them with science.