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You’re never going to make an ad that doesn’t trigger someone

Our data shows that 38% of global consumers block ads regularly or occasionally, mostly because they feel there are too many (61%) and they get in the way (54%).

Digital ad spend’s growing, because getting it right gets results. 

Programmatic ad buying is in the spotlight. This year, in the U.S. alone, programmatic ad buying spend is approaching $97 billion. It’s where cutting edge tech meets consumer data, meaning people are served ads in the right place, at the right time.

How relevant they end up being depends on the quality of insights you start with. 

Here, we take a look at case studies of brands who’ve leveraged consumer data to drive successful programmatic campaigns. Then, we share our tips on how to be good at it.

1. The Economist mirrors its audience.

The Economist wanted to target ‘intellectually-curious’ readers who had previously been reluctant to try the publication.

They started by tapping into their wealth of subscriber data to identify the most relevant and engaging content to deliver, tailoring stories to their audience.

This included analyzing web and app usage of subscribers to the journal, identifying reader preferences (like what type of content was consumed and when). They also married up cookie, subscriber and other wider data sets to build seven segments reflecting the publication’s key sections: 

  • Finance
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Doing good
  • Careers
  • Technology
  • Social justice

From here they created lookalike audiences to guide who they wanted to target with programmatic ad buying. Web page context and viewer profiles were assessed in real-time, enabling the brand to serve an appropriate ad to each consumer.

The ads were linked to The Economist’s content hub, presenting a relevant article and inviting the user to subscribe. More than 60 executions were created, many in near real-time from the company’s live newsroom.

Results were remarkable.  

They generated 650,000 new prospects, and 3.6m people took action after seeing the ads.

The campaign ROI was 10:1 on a £1.2m media budget.

In the U.S., where The Economist is less well-known, ‘awareness’ jumped 64%, ‘consideration’ rose by 22% and ‘willingness to recommend’ rose 10%.

2. Lacoste hits some stunning figures.

The world of online fashion is a particularly competitive one. Lacoste, however, proved it’s not always about who has the ‘cleverest’ marketing – instead it’s about getting the basics right. 

Summer is peak time for the clothing brand, and they wanted to focus on driving sales in three markets – France, UK, and Germany – using targeted programmatic advertising.

Using the consumer data they had at their disposal, they segmented their audiences, targeted them, then retarget them using a range of placement and creative options.

This is pretty standard protocol for any solid programmatic campaign. 

But, where they really stood out was with the persistent use of A/B testing. 

With significant budget invested in trialing different banner formats, channels, daily ad spend, they tweaked, refined and optimized their campaigns until they were happy they were getting the most out of every single ad. 

The result was nearly 20 million brand impressions, and a total of 2,300 sales across their chosen target markets. 

3. Turner Sports increases ad recall.

Turner Sports wanted to extend the reach of the NBA’s Season Tip-Off events, which are aired on Turner’s U.S. cable channel, TNT.

The company worked with Google to build audience lists based on previous AdWord campaigns, before using algorithms from Google’s advertising subsidiary, DoubleClick, to identify the most relevant audiences.

The brand then gathered real-time video from Tip-Off events in Oakland, Cleveland, Chicago, and Portland before launching a programmatic video advertising campaign. Content was delivered as YouTube TrueView ads to six million unique viewers across the U.S.

The campaign complemented Turner Sports’ live broadcasting, amplifying the story around the NBA Season Tip-Off events to optimize their marketing budget.

The activity drove a 17% lift in ad recall and a 7% lift in brand awareness for the NBA on TNT.

4. Audi gets personal, in a good way.

When Audi was preparing to launch its new customizable vehicle, the Q2, the company wanted to add a more personal touch to its campaigns. The goal was to create an ad campaign that would live up to the brand’s slogan: ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ – or ‘Advancement through technology’.

Audi worked with Google to join the dots and analyze its key touchpoints in relation to analytics. 

Data included floodlight tags (or image pixels) on the Audi site, enabling the creation of retargeting lists of previous website visitors, as well as in-market segments. This helped Audi discover new users whose online behaviors showed their intention to make a car purchase.

A car configurator on the brand website allowed consumers to digitally customize their dream car, letting Audi to collect information about users’ tastes. This was used to dynamically drive ad creatives.

A user’s position in the sales funnel – from someone with no previous contact with Audi, to someone who had completed a configuration of the new Q2 – coupled with insights into their preferences (such as model and color), informed the ad that would be served, ensuring it was highly relevant.

Buying ads programmatically led to an average conversion rate four times higher than those bought traditionally.

In the last phase of audience qualification, using dynamic creative ads with the visitor’s individually configured car (chosen from over 6,000 combinations) delivered more than double the efficiency of standard ads.

5. ScS uses geo to pinpoint customers.

Home furnishings retailer, ScS, used various data sources such as search, web analytics, and first-party store visitor data to target customers when they were most likely to visit their local store. 

Then, using programmatic ad buying, they delivered product offers and location-based messaging on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Using the data points collected across their first and third-party source, they layered over GPS data to enable the ads to be targeted to each customer’s location.

The result was a 57% increase in store footfall during March and June 2016 compared to the year before.

6. Amanda Foundation does something a little different.

A great example of a brand taking programmatic in a new direction is the non-profit organization, Amanda Foundation, who partnered with Saatchi & Saatchi to create a super personalized programmatic campaign.

‘Digital Pawprint’ is all about matching people with real animals up for adoption in the charity’s shelters, based on their hobbies and characteristics.

Chris Mead, one of the minds behind the campaign, said, “Pets are proven to improve quality of life. But they aren’t one-size-fits-all. Factors like age, activity level and family status mean some animals are a better fit than others.

“Modern display ads use information like a person’s location and browsing behavior to serve them hyper-relevant messages. So Amanda Foundation decided to use the same data to serve that person a hyper-relevant pet.”

The result is a striking campaign, fully targeted and personalized, which shows the potential of programmatic advertising in driving good causes.

The programmatic ad buying fundamentals

It’s not about how you divvy up your digital advertising budget, but about what you’re leveraging to back that up.

You have to know who you’re targeting – on an emotional level – so you know it’s okay to reach them at that very moment. 

As these brand examples have shown, solid consumer insight underpins any successful campaign, because it gives you those answers.

How you get that insight, and what you do with it, is what makes the difference.

1. Know enough about programmatic tech.

You’ve got options when you’re buying programmatically, and the choices you make have an impact. Keeping on top of emerging trends in this space is key. You need people who know the tech side, and you need them to get to your target audience – not at surface level, but in detail.

2. Put consumer insight in the driving seat. 

To make programmatic work, it takes more than a reliance on web analytics that track cookies or devices – especially with cookies on their way out. Brands need survey data that reflects real people, to find out the customer touchpoints that matter and know what their audience’s priorities are.

GWI is home to the world’s largest study on the digital consumer, giving brands ready access to the insights they need, and leaving guesswork by the wayside.

3. Add your first-party data.

First-party data isn’t canceled out by survey data. The data you already have on customer behaviors is a piece of the research pie. But it only gets contextualized – and you only see the full picture – when you’ve got consumer motivations and attitudes to layer it with. 

4. Don’t sit and wait – optimize.

Programmatic advertising leaves lots of room for optimizing. It’s automated, so you don’t have to go through people to switch things up. If you need to tweak your messaging, ad placement, or frequency, you can. How do you know if you’ve got the advertising mix right for your audience? Pair real-time analytics with what people are saying, and keep evaluating.

5. Measure your campaign effectively.

In a fast-paced consumer landscape, brands need to ensure no budget is wasted, and identify where to focus their efforts next time around. There’s no escaping ROI – greater scrutiny over budgets brings greater accountability. 

Track the effectiveness of your campaign from start to finish with the same combination of analytics and survey data. And if you want, you can probe further with tailored studies that assess your impact on real people.

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