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Real Time Branding – useless fantasy or the Holy Grail of display?

by Ash Grant | 19.06.2014
The arrival of addressable media buying and demand side platforms within display advertising, sewed the seed of scale and efficiency within the brains of marketers which ultimately allowed them to buy display banners using a search model and heavily focusing on reaching users online, with the hopes of driving them to a point of conversion. Currently ad exchanges cover the vast majority of the internet and potential customers can be reached, and targeted on pretty much any site (within reason and brand safety allowing) against a plethora of targeting options.

In order to drive real brand awareness, advertisers need to start opening their eyes to the fact that their audience isn’t only consuming media through the traditional big media owners, and that they consume media across a multitude of disciplines and websites. Even though content is very much still king, committing a vast majority of media budgets towards buying homepage takeovers is still wildly inefficient, but it originally allowed advertisers to control where their ad was being showed. With the immense scale available though ad exchanges, advertisers in the early days most likely felt reluctant to start investing in somewhere that they originally thought a lack of control was paramount – in actual fact, control was a main pillar of RTB which is shown through the steady adoption of RTB by some of the bigger advertisers.

By leveraging these traditionally DR focused platforms, marketers/advertisers can now activate every type of data asset at their finger tips across inventory pools and predefined white lists that have been stringently vetted against brand safety guidelines; as well as high end premium inventory with rich engaging and large formats through private marketplaces. This goes on to beg the question, why is programmatic buying still predominately a DR channel? If you can target (essentially) anyone, anywhere at any time online and even within premium environments – why are we not using this technology to work towards a branding objectives and reaching audiences opposed to just a bottom line CPA.

Going back to the original question, is Real Time Branding a useless fantasy or the Holy Grail of display? The answer is that there is no real metric to measure a brand’s success of yet. Within digital media we’ve somehow managed to tie more metrics to a single impression than a financial stock exchange records for a trade; but for some reason no one has successfully formulated a metric that fully represents the value of brand. This relatively small part of the digital advertising industry has PhDs, ex rocket scientists and access to more data than MI6, yet we operate in a space where multimillion dollar campaigns are still judged by nothing more than a click through rate.  This is ultimately an issue that the industry as a whole needs to overcome in order for marketers to start trusting Programmatic buying with its brand in addition to its brand.