Ad tech is constantly under fire. There is the perception that today’s ad tech is leading marketers down the wrong path, into a world full of hidden fees and little value. At the same time, marketers are lauding social, talking about how the technology is creating new channels and revitalizing how they interact with consumers. Ad-buying technology is down in their eyes, while social is up, allowing them to think about real-time marketing in a completely new way.
The main issue here is that pitting social and display against one another is completely unnecessary and counter to everything possible in online marketing today. Tools and technologies exist that can help marketers deliver messages that match any number of criteria, whether that’s page context, audience profiles, or even current events, all in real-time.
Perhaps the biggest reason why marketers aren’t aware of the current online real-time capabilities is the measurement issue. Some argue that ads that are contextually relevant to the content of the page – say, airline ads within a travel article – are not very likely to drive clicks. This is hardly a revelation, as anyone versed in online media knows click rates are anemic, and clicks themselves are an archaic measurement of success. Brands online need to build their messages through appropriate channels, and not every campaign has a direct-response element. Contextually relevant ads keep a product top of mind, especially for consumers who are in the funnel.
The best example of so-called “real-time” social advertising that everyone raves about is Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” tweet, delivered during the Super Bowl. Yet that was back in January, and here we are in August. You can call the tweet clever, and well-timed, but I’m not sure you can say it’s a success. If it truly caused an uptick in cookies moving off the shelves, why hasn’t the situation been replicated throughout the rest of the year, by any brand?
Some will argue that shares, retweets and praise from the ad community qualify as success. You would also have to argue that this ad was delivered in context with content – it just wasn’t content on a web page. It’s a safe bet to say that anyone seeing that ad on Twitter at that given moment was aware of the blackout. It affected them, thus the ad was contextually relevant.
Social insights can already turn brands into “digital newsrooms,” and real-time iterations like dynamic creative allow marketers to test different campaigns and scenarios on a daily basis. Ad tech today isn’t a dead end – it has already given marketers a clear path to real-time marketing and adaptive messaging. The problem is that brands need to fully understand how it works, build appropriate staffs, and demonstrate a willingness to experiment.
Social is a great tool, and there's no reason why display can't emulate social for real-time contextual messaging at this point. Programmatic buying allows marketers to bring in social data gathered from their followers, as well as their first-party customer data and third party insights. Page context fits in as well, so advertisers can deliver a message that matches the consumer and the environment they are in, and can even be tailored to what the real consumer base is talking about on Twitter that very same day.
At the end of the day, programmatic buying coupled with creative optimization is actually no different than the famous Oreo ad, and it’s replicable at scale. Rather than push one contextually relevant brand message to thousands, brands can push detailed messages to hundreds of different profiles and scenarios, not looking for clicks, but building brand messages that consumers remember. That’s the goal of advertising, and if advertisers actually realize they can leverage a full suite of online tools and build the appropriate staffs, they’ll see what ad tech is really capable of delivering.