Matt Harty | May 25, 2012
Real-time bidding (RTB) is a revolutionary change in the online digital display media space. It offers new levels of ad performance, brand safety, and cost efficiency. It also allows real data targeting to be used for the first time in digital advertising on a campaign-wide basis.
So what’s so revolutionary about RTB?
If I take a bit of poetic licence, I think I can explain.
RTB ads are bought in auctions (just like search ads). What if we could stop time during the auction and look at our cookie database and see if we know anything about the person about to see the ad? What if we could then make a value assessment on the person (based on what we know about the cookie) and then decide what price to bid in the auction, or even decide not to bid at all? Well, we can’t stop time but we can do the rest, and we do it in milliseconds.
It is important for us to ask, just because we can target people, should we? If we can do it responsibly then yes, absolutely! The key questions we need to ask are:
• Is it legal?
• Is it safe for the brand?
• Can we do it a way that respects the public and their best interests?
If these rules are followed it is safe for the brand. We need to respect the anonymity of the person by only targeting ads to them in groups and never identifying them as an individual. It’s important to let the person choose when to delete the cookie record. We should also give the public the opportunity to see what data we have collected on them, in an easy online process.
There are a few types of data to be used. They come from different sources and generally have different ownership. Data needs to be synced to be used as targeted. This is done in a process called cookie syncing.
This data belongs to the brand. This can be their customer data, loyalty scheme, or something similar. This is not anonymous to the brand but needs to be made anonymous to the brand’s partners like their media agency. This can be done in the cookie syncing process.
This is the information gathered in delivering campaigns. There are two levels to this, general and specific information. General information is used by the media agency to build a picture of the overall market for the benefits of all its clients. Working with bigger media agencies will lead to better combined general market data. Specific information pertains to the interaction between the cookie and the brand. This belongs to the brand and is used in remarketing campaigns and other brand-specific activities.
This belongs to neither the brand or the media agency. It belongs to a third party who will “rent” it to the brand for use in a campaign. Excellent third=party data exists in the U.S. with players like BlueKai and eXelate. In Asia Pacific we presently have little to no third-party data available in many markets.
Does Data Work?
For performance marketing, the jury is still out. Data targeting has to compete with the raw power of machine learning. It does provide a visible uplift but the value of the uplift frequently does not seem to cover the costs. It is not giving improved ROI given the present CPM data pricing models.
For brand marketing, the benefits are obvious. To put messaging and frequency on your target audience without waste, this has to be every marketers dream. Add this to online video advertising and you have a really beautiful thing. The storytelling and emotional impact of TV mixed with the reach and frequency control of the Internet, overlaid with precise demographic targeting.
As this part of the industry matures, the media agency selection process will change with it. Rates, service, and vision will no longer be enough. The size and quality of the agency’s data segments (and how closely they match the needs of the brand) will become increasingly important.
So data is great for branding but has yet to pull its weight with performance campaigns. The problem may not be in the utility of data but in the pricing model. If alternatives to CPM pricing could be agreed with vendors then we could use data more and find the best way to use data for results.
Now we just need to work data into our campaigns. The staring points are easy. Get remarketing as an ongoing part of all your digital campaigns. Everyone should be doing this already. Then work with your media agency to integrate your data sources with their RTB capabilities.
Data is a big part of the future of online marketing. Brands who are not embracing these changes are vulnerable to competitors who are. Media agencies are investing in the capabilities to help get brands utilizing their data. It’s time to use these new tools.