Forget all the digital marketing tech you know… Just as you forgot the phones of yesteryear

BPRISE Tech of the Future

For those of us who used a Nokia 3310 and a generation of Nokia phones thereafter, before we switched to iPhone and other brands, we know just how great those phones were. They got us through calls, SMS and even carried a couple of games. There seemed to be just one brand of phones, the indomitable Nokia.

Then came along Apple. Apple entered the arena with a game changer phone, with smart software, making ordinary phones smartphones. This redefined how people used their mobiles. It gave people a good browser to navigate the world wide web, a powerful hardware to support mobile gaming and an app store that contained tons of great and ever-increasing apps. Still, Nokia maintained a huge advantage over Apple for years - its distribution network and its relatively well priced products across the spectrum.

Late but great, Google arrived, and grabbed market share. Not as a gadget provider. Google brought software, an app store and then gave wings to manufacturers to craft a phone that could take on a Nokia or an iPhone at a price and product advantage that the manufacturers deemed fit. This essentially made the iPhone alternative, Android, affordable to a mass of people who wished for a smartphone but could not escape Nokia.

Circa 2020, as I write amid a turbulent COVID-19 phase, I cannot help but compare notes with this piece of history in a different industry - advertising technology.

Like Nokia, the staple display marketing software in the world was and has been Google AdWords (now rebranded as Google Ads) for two decades. Around a decade ago, a revolution happened when publishers and advertisers started demanding more transparency in the money being traded among themselves. This led to a framework being jointly built, called Programmatic Advertising. Naturally, companies jumped into implementing this framework.

Publishers implemented the framework on their websites and apps. Advertisers started buying media programmatically. Google too jumped in, by buying out a programmatic platform called Invite Media and merging it into their DoubleClick offering for Advertisers and Publishers. Programmatic media buying also ushered in a special feature (akin to the app store), the ability to make a deal with any data provider of your choice and importing those data segments into the programmatic platform for precision-based targeting.

This was revolutionary. But there was a catch.

It was and still is available only to brands and agencies that can afford to cough up a platform fee, commit to monthly big dollar spends with guaranteed annual spend commitments. Kind of the pricier iPhone of the digital advertising industry. So, anyone who could transact big dollars and pay a platform fee, gained access to this powerful platform. A software for the big businesses. The common man i.e. a vast majority of small, medium and large enterprises continue to use the trusted and efficient Google Ads platform. This population does not probably know what they are missing. Even Nokia of old had many games and a browser that rendered websites decently well. Of course, an iPhone was desirable, but that did not matter, Nokia worked just as well.

However, in the advertising business, it matters if you own a Nokia or an iPhone, i.e. are you on Google Ads or a Programmatic Platform. The big companies use data as the new age oil and get bigger. Simply because they can afford to. As a small, medium or large enterprise with limited resources or not wanting to get into annual commitments, your tools are the same. But the giants can always use the advantage of data to outbid you to reach the target audience at a lower cost of acquisition, even though they are spending a lot more for that audience and inventory.

So how do we build an Android like model in the digital advertising ecosystem? Simply put, how do we get programmatic (the software) and the audience (app store) to the manufacturers (ad agencies) at a price that is affordable and accessible to all?

Firstly, we take out the platform fee. This automatically makes the platform affordable. Add the fee when customers want to commit to higher spends and need guaranteed inventory.

Next, unhinge from the minimum spends requirement. Let everyone in.

Finally, add the app store to the mix. In this case, data providers. Make it easy for brands and agencies to find various data providers on a single marketplace, without the need to sign-up separately as being done today.

This approach essentially brings advanced targeting and a single place to buy inventory at affordable prices. At BPRISE, we have created this one-stop integrated platform to offer audience-based programmatic media buying, delivering ads across video and banner formats. You get to pick from over 75+ data providers, 30,000+ data segments (example aspiring home buyers, is a data cut for whom you can target home loan ads or new home ads) and a publisher inventory that spans the globe (by publisher, we mean websites and apps).

In current times when almost everyone is online due to the coronavirus crisis, and in the near future when online will become the preferred platform to connect, you will appreciate the advantage of filtering - right down to the website or app, Geo-location and audience to target your ad.

Now that you know why you should forget practices of the past, request access to our closed beta trial of the latest in marketing technology.

The 101 on Programmatic Advertising

Here’s a go to guide for knowing all about the “new black” in the ad market. Programmatic ad spends grew from $5bn in 2012 to $39bn in 2016, at an average rate of 71% a year, according to Zenith’s programmatic marketing forecast. How did you not notice?

Let’s Start At The Very Beginning

Programmatic advertising is an automated mechanism that uses computer algorithms to purchase ad inventory. This modern, digitized media buying and selling does away with the traditional agency-network set-up, manual bidding and human optimization. It’s the idea and now, a wide-spread practice, that the processes involved in media marketing and negotiation such as inventory selection, data reporting, budget optimization, the back and forth of paperwork and testing of creative inventory; all of this is handled through an automated system.

This is achieved through a sophisticated and efficient assimilation of data, software and technology. Everything from behavioural and intent-based targeting, to real time bidding (RTB) and exchange-based buying of inventory can be credited to programmatic buying.

In English Please!

All you need to input is a range of creatives, your budget and targeting filters as an advertiser. Programmatic Advertising takes over from there. It makes scientific, data-backed decisions about which ad property to display, on whose website, at what price and when. Microwaved popcorn much?

You have two options:

“Direct Buying” takes place against a fixed payment in advance for a specific ad inventory. The objective here, is simply to exhaust a set budget by providing the requisite number of impressions on the selected ad property of a specific publisher.

“Real Time Bidding”, or RTB is an auction-based price system for buying and selling ad impressions across sites, on a real time basis. It literally takes milliseconds to launch ad campaigns, sitting at a desk, with a front row seat at the bid wars for inventories across multiple publishers’ sites.

We all know what DSP and SSP means by this point. But the truly powerful acronym of the bunch is a DMP, aka Data Management Platform. The information of what’s being sold and bought at what price, is stored here and is presented in a simple manner, displaying how consumers behave across the wider internet. So now, you can predict outcomes, understand audiences and break down media silos at the click of a mouse.

The Good News

With Programmatic Buying, you witness the actual price of ads move before your very eyes, minus mark-ups and agency fees. If you spot that a certain ad creative isn’t working on a segment or site, you have the power to immediately switch strategies then and there, in real time. No more waiting for your agency to respond with a monthly campaign report, while those ad impressions burn away; and no more feeling unsure about your return on investment. Have fun with highly personalised messages and refined funnelling processes. The transparency and quickness of it all helps hit the bull’s eye over and over again, across any device or channel. You save time, money, energy and nerves!

The Bad News

Woah Woah Woah. Don’t fire your media agency just yet though! There are a few downsides to programmatic advertising. Since your ads follow the user’s wild travels across the world wide web, you run the risk of displaying ads on questionable destinations. Behavioural and Contextual targeting can be tricky that way, so rein in visibility by blacklisting or whitelisting sites or categories.

But how is this hyper targeting possible in the first place? Programmatic ads rely on cookies to track activities across devices. So, the moment netizens observe computer hygiene and clinically cleanse their system of cookies, all that data is lost and it’s back to square one. Big dogs like Facebook and Google are immune to an extent, because they track movement across devices through login status, but the rest, as they say, is browser history! Isn’t that how the cookie crumbles?

Another devilish hazard is ad fraud. Domain spoofing experts and bots hike up costs and dupe advertisers with cunning flair. This raises obvious questions on the quality of inventory in programmatic buying. There is an entire article dedicated to that problem alone. Read it here to know how you can keep guard.

So Now What?

In advertising, knowing more about your audiences and being able to access and read data that uncovers insights are crucial. There is no doubt that leveraging technology to drive stronger results from highly relevant, targeted campaigns is a boon. Unanimous adoption of programmatic advertising across multi-channels is fast becoming a reality. Legal updates and private partnerships to curb the above challenges are in the pipeline as well.

As an ad-tech entrepreneur, I advise all brand owners and advertisers to hop on board the Programmatic band-wagon right away. The earlier and faster you join the game, the savvier you’ll be at bidding the best price for the right ad. Sold?

Life Of A Marketer

Who cares about “ad effectiveness” at 08:30 AM? Ah, my bad. What marketer hits the office at 08:30 AM, anyway? Of course, considering the innumerable tasks that a marketer oversees (sometimes, overlooks), performs (or preempts), the 24-hours-in-a-day-thing does not really work for them.

As someone who works in the Marketing Department primarily, I can tell that no marketer ever has “enough time” on them. All the pre-planned schedule goes for a giant toss and what’s more is that the coin lands on its edge more often than all of us care to admit. You may wonder what’s a marketer onto, that consumes all of their sane time. And if you’re a marketer, then this can be your “constructive read” (sic).

A day in the life of a marketer (let’s call her Jane!) concerns the working on the following…

Scene 1: Digital Marketing 

Jane-the-marketer, works her way through multiple creatives, multiple platforms, multiple log-ins, multiple campaign goals, multiple reports, multiple vendors on a regular basis. Although she’s a dedicated marketer, she finds it humanly impossible to smoothly transition between all the aforementioned “multiples“. Now, if her employer (i.e. the advertiser or brand or retailer) is kind enough to split her work by adding new members to marketing, it will mean that the size of the marketing team goes up, in turn increasing the firm’s ad spends. Does having a bulky team deal with multiple platforms and countless vendors ensure that the advertised products meet the respective real-time needs of its target audience?

You and I both know that one-ad-does-not-fit-all. We also know that quantity does not guarantee quality. It is the quality and appropriate fitting of an ad to a situation in the real-life of its target audience that counts. And it most definitely is not the mammoth-sized-ness of the marketing team that counts.

What if we could resolve these issues, for Jane (and marketers like her!) in one shot? How much of an ease would it be on brands (i.e. advertisers/retailers) if they could keep their marketing budgets from skyrocketing and still reach the right customers precisely when they’re in need of a solution/product? How does a relevant, ad-for-a-human sound like? 

Scene 2: Analysis

So, marketer Jane, successfully runs ad campaigns across the web and mobile apps and has received reams of data capturing the performance and reach of her ads. She consults a number of third-party vendors to analyze the data and tell her what all the numbers and graphs of data, means simply. A thorough analysis is possible only when marketers have all the information about their target audience’s preferences as consumers. Although Jane divides her time between consulting with various vendors and gathering insights from distinct sources, she’s still deficient of her target audiences’ offline preferences as consumers. What this means is that customers often walk into stores near them and grab what they really need, for a price. There are times, they hop into branded shops or retail stores more than once just to get product-related information. Is Jane even aware of this practice? Let’s say Mary visited A Shoe Shop a couple of times. She spent a considerable amount of time at the heels section but walked out of the shop each time without buying anything. This offline consumer behavior of Mary is invaluable to Jane. Because if Jane was aware of Mary’s offline behavior as a consumer, she could target Mary with an ad of a footwear right when she’d walked out of the Shoe Shop without having made a purchase? Hence relying solely on users’ online data sounds like one is building a lopsided launchpad for the advertising campaigns to take off from.

Wouldn’t it also benefit if you could understand what happens across web, app and stores? What a winner of a deal if the marketer’s ad platform could serve as a one-stop-solution to all of the ad campaign needs? What if the marketer could enjoy the luxury of not having to consult a multitude of vendors for campaign results and customer insights? What if the analysis helped marketers with target lookalike customers? And what if the marketing platform was automated so well that it understood brands’ customers as well a human marketer could?

Scene 3: Targeting & Retargeting

Targeting Prospects

Jane markets products/solutions to prospects as ads over the web, mobile phones and even apps. But given Jane’s limited knowledge of her prospects’ offline consumer behaviour, her ads do not completely resolve their real-life, real-time problems. This results in the ads becoming somewhat irrelevant to her target audience and thus gives way to unimpressive CTRs. Targeting without insights is like driving without the headlights on.

Wouldn’t marketers be able to provide genuinely useful solutions/product recommendations to potential customers in the form of ads had they been aware of the customers’ real-time needs? Imagine all the gains (for the marketer, for the advertiser/retailer and for the customer) when an ad is truly apt for a customer and solves one of their immediate problems?

Retargeting Potentials

Marketer Jane finds that numerous visitors have looked up her brand’s products online but have left without buying anything. Abandoned carts are one of her main concerns as a brand marketer. And she offers discounted product recommendations to her customers in order to win them back. However, customers could have skipped buying the product online given a number of reasons. The product could have been too pricey for them, they could have been browsing just like that, they couldn’t have found what they’re looking for or maybe they wanted to check the same products at a brick and mortar store. Insights that are derived exclusively from an individual’s online activities will never constitute genuine “customer insights“. A customer’s activities are not limited to their online conduct alone and the sooner marketers tap into customers’ offline preferences and consumer needs as well, the better!  It is quite the combination of online and offline customer data that constitute true customer insights. 

What would make it absolutely easy for marketers to join the dots with customers’ online and offline behaviour and figure out their precise needs? What if all the abandoned carts would suddenly overflow with products of happy patrons?

Scene 4: Conversion

Marketer Jane hits the bull’s eye with her marketing campaign for she sees immediate hike in sales. Let’s say Jane’s ad convinced Mark to buy her brand’s shoes. But does this mean that Jane’s done for the day? Forget the tens of documents she’s got to edit and release! A successful sale or a conversion calls for brands to build on the patron’s interests as a consumer. Brands partially achieve this with the help of loyalty and membership cards; but this practice does not capture all of the user’s online and offline consumer traits. Building a profile with the help of web analytics and proximity-based analytics for every patron will not only help marketers retarget them with relevant content but also help them establish a database of lookalike customers. A lookalike customer is anyone who resembles one or a group of the marketer’s paying patrons. They’re basically prospects that marketers can target on. Also, lookalike customers are external to the database of customers that the advertiser/retailer already has.

Once analytics helps marketers with valuable insights about existing customers, targeting lookalike customers becomes easier. Marketers can target lookalike customers with fitting ads based on the success of their previous ad campaigns.

Insights from Mark’s conversion will help marketers up-sell and cross-sell effectively. Targeting a lookalike customer therefore (say Joe) will not constitute a shot in the dark because Jane has historic data to substantiate the possibility of Joe (who is a lot like Mark as a consumer) converting!

What if marketers could target lookalike customers as soon as their inventory gets restocked? Nothing like the ability to up-sell and cross-sell relevant products to patrons; how do marketers achieve all this?

Having a simple but powerful ad platform that not only optimizes marketers’ reach with ads that are truly relevant to the brand’s customers, right when they’re in need is quite the evolution in marketing. This evolution will not only bring down the firm’s marketing expenses but also allow the brand to have an efficient, slim marketing team. Which is why, marketers, rather advertisers/retailers that are quick to adopt the same could save considerably. Predictive analytics ad platforms like the one BPRISE offers, gathers information and learns user behavior.

If marketer Jane, were to use BPRISE’S programmatic platform, she’d be able to accomplish everything right from marketing, to targeting, to analytics, to sales, to retargeting, to conversion, to up-selling/cross-selling and looking for lookalike customers, all using a single dashboard. This unified ad platform cuts the need for marketers like her to jump between platforms and wait on countless vendors saving the marketers’ time   and money immensely!  If you’re a brand that’s looking for answers to the above questions, get in touch with BPRISE asap. Oh, also if you’re the marketer who’s concerned about ad effectiveness at 08:30 AM, we’ll definitely be worth your time!

 

Ads.txt & Ads.cert

When working (or like, surfing the web), I’m often shown ads of goodies I’d be interested in swiping my card for. There is little surprise as to how this show-of-the-most-cool-ads happens, as I work in an adtech startup! Nonetheless, when it comes to shopping online, I’m giving no “site” any benefit of the doubt. What I’m trying to say is that I am not willing (or even cuckoo enough) to enter my card details at a random site just because it displays the “computer mouse” I’m in need of. Say for example, I’m on one of the big retailer sites looking for a black Puma* backpack and I see the same bag displayed in an ad (at a discounted rate of course!) by “BuyGoodStuffForCheapHere.com”.

How am I to even know if a third-party, selling goods of a retailer, online, is an approved seller? From my example above, is “Buy Good Stuff For Cheap Here” authorized to actually sell Puma goods? Will I get an original product? Has Puma approved this seller? How would I know? These are a few questions that run around in my head every time attractive ads by various third-party sellers grab my attention.
*The product and company names are trademarks of its respective owners. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

I can also say that the same logic applies to brands buying ads programmatically. But, luckily for them, in late June, the IAB Tech Lab set up a method permitting brands to confirm that a third-party offering space on a publisher’s site is really approved to do so. This is called “Authorized Digital Sellers or ads.txt”. And as the name clearly suggests ads.txt is a simple text file uploaded to a publisher’s site listing the official sellers or resellers of the publisher’s inventory along with the publisher’s ID for buyers to match. Though it might be difficult for a publisher to list the unique IDs its sellers and resellers use to identify its inventory, it has been identified as an efficient means to fight fraud in the marketplace.

Given that ads.txt takes care of the authorization process, entities that are granted permission can access the designated areas. However, if an entity is not properly authenticated it can easily access areas it shouldn’t. Now, say for example, I order a super-duper expensive designer bag from a well-known ecommerce site. There are fraudsters along the way ready to swap my bag for a cheap one without the knowledge of my courier company. And since my transaction is happening online, I will need a way to make sure that that the bag is indeed the one that was sent by the store, i.e. I need to authenticate the source of my bag. What if the store were to send me a unique digital tag number imprinted on the bag and send the same to me via email? That way when I receive the bag I can verify that it came from the right source. Similarly, in the programmatic buying business, advertisers/buyers can now know of the authenticity of an inventory’s source with the help of ads.cert – an authentication initiative by IAB Tech Lab.

Ads.cert is a follow up to ads.txt by IAB Tech Lab and it uses cryptographic security measures to authenticate inventory.

Ads.txt can help authorize inventory sources and ads.cert can help authenticate the same by creating a “signature process”. Publishers can now incorporate cryptographically signed bid requests on showing the path of inventory thereby authenticating the inventory. This process will be able to certify units of inventory coming from verified publishers. This digital signature prevents fraudsters from tampering with the inventory simultaneously letting buyers verify a specific site’s inventory. Ads.cert can block any manipulations done to variables like device, domain, IP address, location to make it look like valuable impressions. Now everyone in the supply is required to provide and signature; this promotes good behavior and is a means of tracking bad behaviour.

I have simplified this further and prepared an infographic that lists why ads.txt and ads.cert is actually important to you if you’re part of the programmatic’s supply chain…

If you’re a publisher or an advertiser give us a ring to take your ad inventory game to the next level, well whaddya waiting for?