In France, marketers have been making big claims about what digital will one day be capable of, including channel agnostic and full-funnel advertising (across display, social, video and mobile), branding as well as direct response, and sophisticated retargeting.
This has been the source of much frustration, because we haven’t had the architecture in place to support this and yet marketers are constantly searching for the most effective way to reach key target audiences online.
Now, this frustration is waning. France is in the top four countries (behind the US, Japan and the UK) in terms of spend on RTB (real time bidding), and the market grew an impressive 120% in 2012, according to IDC. This is being driven by the arrival of programmatic buying, which enables marketers to bid competitively for impressions based on where and when consumers are most responsive.
For France, this is a digital revolution. For example, global brand Zumba Fitness saw its CPA (cost per action) drop by more than 25% in a recent RTB campaign.
Of course, France is home to some of the world’s most famous brands, from L’Oreal and Air France to BNP and Renault. Having this new technology on their doorstep, and local agencies empowered by the capability to deliver cross-channel, full-funnel advertising, is going to revolutionise their approach to digital campaigns as well as that of foreign brands operating in France.
Time for change
Programmatic buying is changing the French advertising market in two very significant ways. Firstly, it removes the barriers between different channels, enabling marketers to take a more holistic view of audience profiles and build a more nuanced picture of their online habits and preferences. Consumers move indiscriminately from one channel to the next, searching for events one minute and maybe updating their friends via social media moments later, so marketers need to think in the same way.
Secondly, programmatic buying works at every stage of the purchasing funnel, from raising brand awareness and sentiment to the decision to buy. This is crucial for helping brands to build consumer relationships early on, and to take advantage of the increasing opportunities to develop brand advocacy online. It is also extremely useful to see where conversions have come from, so that marketers aren’t just attributing success to the last click.
The end result of this is that marketers can now bid competitively for impressions based on where the campaign is most successful, regardless of which channel or device the target audience is using.
Anticipate and adapt
While this is all fantastic news for marketers, it also signals a period of significant change in their roles and responsibilities. This can seem daunting, but one way to think about this relationship with technology is to liken is to driving a car to work in the morning.
Every day, people work in collaboration with their machines, not against them, to get from A to B in the most efficient way. Programmatic buying is no different; it’s all about using the right vehicle to get to the audiences that respond best to a campaign, quickly and cost-effectively.
The digital advertising industry moves so quickly that it can be easy to get left behind when new approaches like this materialise. Marketers need to get up to speed with the what, how and why or programmatic buying, and then adapt their strategies to take advantage of the capabilities that it offers.
In order to make this shift, it is important for marketers to first understand the difference between trade (bulk) buying and programmatic trading, and then learn to experiment with machine-based learning. Previously, digital marketing was often characterised by siloed thinking, but today’s marketers will cost themselves dear by focusing on just one channel, or too many specific variables.
More than just technology
Successful programmatic buying is all about trusting technology, and using its analytics to understand what works and how this can be used to adapt communications and business strategies moving forwards. This is one of the biggest challenges for marketers, but the results of countless campaigns and the shift by early adopters into programmatic buying is hard to ignore.
It is all about finding the right balance between defining who you want to target, and not constraining the machine. After all, this automated approach helps to minimise human bias and irrational or ‘bad’ decisions. For example, we recently ran a campaign in the UK for a high-end fashion retailer, and discovered that the largest site category for conversions was seniors and retirement. In another campaign, a fast food pizza brand saw the highest conversion rate from engineering and technology sites.
It just goes to show this technology can make decisions better and faster than any human being, and the results can be incredibly valuable. But of course, it’s not all about the technology. The success of programmatic buying relies on a human touch and the need for expertise, dedication and a team that can define the right strategy and SLAs cannot be underestimated.
This is a whole new world for digital advertisers, but also one of the most exciting developments to come about in the last decade. Those that adapt quickly will find themselves leading an incredible revolution for French brands, and global businesses operating in France.