Tag Archives: media buying


I was fortunate to attend GABBCON (Global Audience Based Buying Conference & Consultancy) in Los Angeles in early November, with the day focused on “The Future of Television and Video.” In the company of other agencies, brands and sales reps from various sectors of the media world, it was an interesting day of debate, conversation and learning.

The long and short of things is that the world we live in continues to get more complicated for marketers − duh. With the proliferation and adoption of technology into our lives, we live in an on-demand world, and because technology allows us to live that way, advertisers are more and more able to reach the right consumer at the right time. People-based buying has been incredibly buzzy this year, and will only continue to be as brands continue to feel the ROI squeeze and demand more accountability for their spending.

In the morning sessions, it was a focus on television − linear, IP delivered, VOD, addressable, PTV, SVOD, FEP, CTV. Enough acronyms? TV buying has become increasingly complicated due to changing viewing habits. Traditional linear buying remains the mainstay, but advertisers are showing steady growth and interest in these more audience-driven buying methods. Overall, sentiment among the group was that traditional television still has its place, driving mass awareness, but augmenting with other buying techniques has shown an upside for various brands. The other universal truth − programmatic or any data-driven TV buying is not truly programmatic; there is nothing easy or automated as the name implies.

Columbia outerwear shared an interesting case study regarding its spring campaign in which the company had a reduced budget but raingear sales goals to meet. At a time of year when rain is prevalent nationwide, but a budget that cannot afford its national plus-18 market approach, Columbia employed a programmatic TV solution. It has defined PTV as a combination of addressable, high-index linear and DVR/VOD, and connected.

With strong distribution as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Columbia used credit card data to target those who had previously shopped at Dick’s, in addition to a weather trigger to most efficiently employ its budget. In the end, this was a more cost-efficient approach that increased (relevant) reach, drove lifted consideration, and increased rainwear searches and product page views.

One of the more thought-provoking parts of the conference was centered on the idea of attention. Sony Crackle posed the question: “Is attention the new currency?” Sony Crackle commissioned a study with Nielsen on the effectiveness of its Break Free product, where viewers have a lower ad load within their Crackle original series. The results revealed that buying the more premium offering drove greater attention; viewers were seven times more likely to recall the ad than in their traditional pod. Hulu has been operating with this mentality for a few years now with its product offerings of user-pick creative carousel, sponsored viewing (commercial-free after :60 spot) and interactive spots. While there is a premium for these deeper engaging units, Hulu has reported stronger results compared to its standard ad pods.

Over the last few years, I’ve become more critical of the value of an impression. When you look at a yearlong campaign and the total number of impressions purchased, how meaningful is that number?  Honestly, not much. With banner blindness, ad avoidance and multitasking, just how valuable is an impression if a consumer isn’t noticing you? While I don’t think we’ll ever fully transact on the metric of attention, as an industry, it’s time to take a harder look at our methodology of measurement and what kinds of impressions we really want to make.

Artificial Intelligence: Putting the Humanity in Programmatic Buying

For decades, science fiction writers and Hollywood have delivered tall tales about artificial intelligence originally designed to take over the mundane tasks for humans eventually launching attempts – sometimes successfully – to take things over. And through it all, the hero of the story must rediscover the humanity inside him or herself in order to prevail.

In the programmatic advertising space, we’re in the expositional flashback phase of that tale, where the technology is developing, and the humans involved haven’t yet fully realized the true potential – or calamity – in what lies ahead. I realized this while speaking on a Client and Agency Panel at Conversant’s Annual Sales Conference (who should be commended for bringing client and ageny-side people on board to give our point of view). Programmatic buying is at it’s tipping point, where it’s about to become mainstream (even print is getting in on the action) and deliver on it’s promise of automating much of what used to be solely a human decision: when and where to insert an ad in front of an audience.

But as powerful of an automation tool as it is, there are still three essential human elements that need to remain well, human, for programmatic to be truly game changing:

Goals are intrinsically human, and should be communicated by them

In the movies, the robots always have the simple goal of eliminating the humans (which is a bit preposterous when you think about it, because what will they do once they win?). But we as marketers have much more complex – and often conflicting – objectives. And whether you’re working with an agency trading desk or a managed partner solution, those need to be effectively communicated to the team managing the buy. You need to clearly prioritize goals, and provide or agree upon KPI’s by which you’ll measure those goals. And in speaking with many people on all sides of the programmatic buying landscape, the best way to do that is through human interaction: in-person meetings to define goals, memoralized in writing with a brief, RFP, or plan that acts as the guidelines for your campaign. The computers can’t achieve your goals until you tell them what they are, and how to prioritize. And if everyone on your team isn’t in lock step, the computers will be confused.

Machines make choices. Humans make decisions.

Machines understand the if-then logic of rules, and choose whether or not to bid on a specific user far faster than any human can. But they can’t make decisions unless you provide them with the logic to guide those decisions. You need a smart human to set the rules of the bidding structure based on the objectives, with very clear logic to prioritize multiple KPI’s. As the data accumulates, and the algorithms adjust their bids to hit your goals, you’ll need a human to review the data to look for patterns and set up new rules, and new logic, to enable the machines to make better choices over time. Many platforms are set up to learn over time and create their own new rules, but they need humans to review to decide fi those new rules are achieving the right objectives.

­Don’t forget the creative side

Most people involved in programmatic buying are probably left-brain brain people, crunching numbers to see patterns and using logic and reasoning to come to conclusions. But don’t forget that the consumer you’re reaching is human, and will most likely act based on an emotional trigger that happens to be very well-timed by your programmatic buy. So as you adjust the rules of your bids – the timing, the segment targeting, the sequences – make sure you’re working side-by-side with the right-brained people – your creative – to make sure the messaging speaks directly to that moment in the consumer’s path to purchase. Computers can optimize our buys, but they can’t write copy to appeal to our emotions.


Which brings us back to our science fiction story. During the climax, when the audience is sure the machines are going to take over (which by many media prognostications, programmatic should take over soon), some emotional tie to humanity – a love interest, the future legacy of a family, etc. – inevitably gives the main character the motivation or the knowledge to defeat the onslaught, and go on to rebuild and live happily ever after. Programmatic buying fits snugly into this fairy tale: if we fully realize the importance of the human side to it now, we can harness it to produce some pretty amazing results, and truly revolutionize the way we plan and buy media – both digital and traditional. And the machines will work for us, not the other way around.