It’s likely that your advertising budget has changed shape in the last few years, with more going online due to a new way of buying. As a CMO you may not be excited by the underlying technology, but the efficiencies of real-time bidding (RTB) could answer one of the perpetual marketing challenges--how to do more with less.
Online display spending keeps growing and RTB is fuelling this growth. This is seen in media agency Zenith’s September figures, which forecast Internet advertising to grow by 15.1% in 2013, with display advertising the fastest-growing category at 20%. The IDC’s recent “Real -Time Bidding 2011-2016” white paper shows RTB’s part in this, with RTB increasing its share of total display advertising spending from 5% to 20%, between 2011 and 2016.
The momentum can also be seen in leading advertisers moving spend into RTB. Matthew Turner, BSkyB director of online sales and marketing, said at a UK IAB event in May, “Sky is putting 35% of its display budget through RTB, and there is no reason it won’t be 50% by 2013.” At another event Bob Arnold, associate director for global digital strategy for Kellogg Company, said its shift to programmatic and RTB buying improved ROI by a factor of five.
In our own quarterly report into the trends in Europe, we have seen the marketplace developing. In the UK after price increases last year, prices have been stable in 2012, with inventory growth from the opening of a number of private marketplaces; France has witnessed increased inventory liquidity with the opening of premium inventory source LaPlaceMedia, and the announcement of new ad exchanges from eBay, Facebook and Orange; and in Germany an increase in inventory liquidity has been predicted from the increasing demand.
This growth is based on RTB’s ability to show the right person the right message at the right time. At its simplest, RTB is the most effective way of placing display ads online. It offers marketers the opportunity to bid for ads one by one (or impression by impression) instead of by the thousand, allowing total control over when an ad appears, the creative message, and what price is paid. By using this technology, advertisers can truly have a one-to-one dialogue with consumers.
The initial step in serving an advert is the “impression level decisioning”. When a user clicks onto a new Web page that includes an available ad slot, the publisher sends out a call for bids. Advertisers then place bids based upon the value they see in that individual impression. If your bid is the highest, you win and your ad is placed. It is this ability to say yes or no to an individual impression that eliminates waste. All this is done in less time than it takes to blink an eye.
Impression-level valuation means prospects, customers and basket abandoners can all be valued individually. You may choose to pay a premium price for someone who has visited your Web site, searched for a product and then left without converting to a sale; or indeed for someone who mirrors an existing customer, whereas a cold prospect may be less interesting to you and therefore engender a lower valuation.
A key benefit in RTB is the ability to serve “real-time creatives.” This allows you to customise the ad displayed for every viewer. Using data captured through Web site cookies and data points (such as weather feeds and geographical location), creatives can be built in real-time, customized by impression with a message automatically altered to suit the viewer.
As the campaign rolls out, the technology is constantly learning and using that learning to improve the next set of decisioning, valuation and creative decisions. It is a virtuous cycle in which variables are constantly optimized and campaign efficiency improved.
However, for this all to work RTB relies on data; the better the data is able to describe your target, the more effective your advertising. No one would dispute that the data they hold in-house from CRM systems, their own Web sites etc is the most valuable data they own. So using your own data can translate to a sustainable competitive advantage. RTB-enabled advertising becomes a CMO issue when we look to use this first-party data, in conjunction with other data sources, to create unique target segments based on attributes unavailable to competitors. Increasingly advertisers are looking at how to integrate insights from the data they wholly control to improve targeting and generate unprecedented results. For advertisers with large volumes of data, the search is on for partners who can create bespoke data integrations that protect customer data while unlocking insights to power advertising for all marketing objectives; be that customer acquisition; retention or up-sell.
Is RTB applicable to your advertising objectives? If you have an online advertising budget, your agency is probably already allocating some of it to RTB buying. For some advertisers, this is where it will stop. If your use of data is limited, the benefits of RTB will be based on cost efficiencies gained from optimizing spend against previous campaign activities, and workflow benefits for the agency around creative delivery and budget management. In this case your team is probably doing all you need it to, monitoring results and allocating spend to the partner best able to deliver efficiencies. But if your business holds data at any volume, be it on your customers, members or Web site visitors, the value RTB can deliver to your business is significantly increased, and the question becomes who can help you leverage your data to drive wider business success. A partner needs to be technically adept at integrating multiple data sources and manipulating “big data” to generate insight; have people with the right skill set, able to act on that insight for advertising campaigns that deliver results against business-led marketing objectives; and give your team transparency and control.
So is RTB a CMO issue? Perhaps the question is more “are you a data-driven CMO?” and if so, shouldn’t your advertising be data driven too?