• Blog
  • Jun 12, 2017
  • By Jeff Keenan
Programmatic Media Buying and Attribution are a Match Made in Heaven!

As marketer you may not always be sure if you got the best media deal, right? Well, now you can be! Always make sure you pick the ad platform that uses automated attribution models to improve their programmatic ad buying algorithms.

Programmatic media buying is booming

In 2016, programmatic buying accounted for 63% to 70% of overall digital display ad spending.

It is hugely popular across devices, and new (interactive) media types are introduced at great speed. Consequently, the “programmatic” landscape is rapidly becoming more complex.

Just so we’re on the same page here, when we’re talking about programmatic media buying, we mean “the algorithmic purchase and sale of advertising space in real time.”

We have no doubt that programmatic media buying is the future. The stats support that trend line. But it is also mystic. Words like “programmatic” and “algorithmic” suggest mathematics ensures marketers get the best value for money when buying media space, and that everything is always predictable and transparent. But sadly, this is only partly true.

Let me explain.

Programmatic media buying is booming, but mystical, too

All programmatic ad servers use proprietary algorithms to decide when and where to display ads. So very few marketers can actually verify whether they’re spending their budget wisely, if any. Be honest, have you ever been able to?

Ad tariffs and measurement of ad performance are unclear. Few really know how ad prices come to be or which data was used. And was it an actual human that viewed their ads, or perhaps a bot?

Single device desktop software has brought programmatic buying where we are now. But it’s getting old. It is incapable of effectively handling today’s more complex multi-device and cross-platform environments.

Algorithms used to automatically place ads are outdated and ineffective, but marketers don’t know where to improve because of limited performance transparency. It’s a dead end. It’s time for a paradigm shift.

Using attribution models is next step in the “programmatic” media buying evolution

An important next step in the evolution of programmatic ad buying is to improve algorithms based on attribution models. Attribution models can and should be used to improve “programmatic” algorithms.

Using an attribution model, the behavior of individual customers can be observed cross-platform and cross-device.

Countless individual purchase paths are observed and used to continuously improve the programmatic ad buying algorithm. As the system collects more customer data, it only gets better. More relevant ads will be shown in ever better places at ever better times.

Plus, marketers will have full transparency on how much ‘more relevant’ it was. Full integration across platforms and devices will shift the center of gravity in advertisement.

Does your media buying platform put your customer first?

Marketers’ ability to serve customers used to be limited by technological capability. Ironically, with the improvement of technology, the emphasis can shift away from that same technology to create a “customer first” approach.

When attribution models are used to inform programmatic algorithms, marketers gain a more realistic view of ad effectiveness.

Ads will generally be more effective because of the improved formula. But even if ads perform not so well, marketers will know it’s because the marketing material simply doesn’t change customer behavior, not because ad placement was sub-par. This creates a win-win for both the marketer and the media platform.

The marketer can go back to the drawing board, with plenty of customer data under his arm, to think up more effective ads. Informed by a wealth of customer data, marketers can even start to predict future customer behavior and take action in the present.

The customer will be served up more relevant ads across all devices, and he will be eager to pull out his wallet at the end of a flawless journey.

Make your media buying agency buys-in on attribution

The call for demystifying the process behind programmatic ad buying is getting stronger.

Marketers would benefit greatly from increased transparency on how these algorithms help optimize their media spend. But we don’t think media companies will share that any time soon. And you wouldn’t want to wait for that anyway, would you?

What can actually happen in the short to medium term is that your media platform providers start including an attribution model to inform their algorithm. In fact, we think it’s something you should start to demand from your provider today!

It will lead to better products, better ads, and better placements. Marketers will be able to reliably determine the effectiveness of their creative, and the customer can become the center of attention again.