How Brands Should Measure in a Programmatic World

Reliable Brand Measurement Can Help Programmatic Buying Achieve Its Full Potential

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Last week I stressed the fact that brands must measure their programmatic buys. Brand marketers can be tempted to let the algorithms do the work, rather than measuring campaign effectiveness based on core brand objectives, but that's flawed thinking. Sound, independent measurement focused on core brand objectives matters in a programmatic buying environment every bit as much as in a non-programmatic one.

What would measurement mean in the programmatic buying environment? Obviously, programmatic buying is an entirely different process from traditional ad buying. Simply importing traditional measurement processes into programmatic buying will not succeed. What is needed is measurement that fits the workflow of this new process.

In addition, however, actionable measurement in a programmatic environment must:

Be more accurate and stable than the modeling used for the programmatic buy in the first place. All measurement systems have a margin of error. In order for measurement to be useful to marketers, it must be a more reliable source of information than the information provided in the programmatic scheme pre-transaction.

Be fast enough to allow for action to be taken over the course of a campaign. It is not sufficient only to draw post-campaign conclusions from measurement. In-flight reporting and the ability to take action is paramount to making a dent in the ROI of a campaign. This means minimal lead time in beginning to report on campaign performance, and continuous reporting thereafter, if marketers are to be able to take action and to see the results of their interventions.

Be sufficiently granular to identify specific areas in which to take action. It's not enough to report on a campaign's performance at the broadest level. Such reporting might lead to useful performance discussions between media buyers and sellers, but it won't yield dividends for a campaign in flight. Reporting that shows "breaks" for different audiences, placement, and creative are needed to allow marketers to pinpoint what is and is not working.

Address the fundamental objectives marketers are trying to achieve. For brand advertising, measures that help assess the marketing ROI in terms of a campaign's reach, resonance, and reaction must be central to all measurement efforts in programmatic just as in other cases.

Be easily accessed. Having a snazzy user interface that allows manual review of measurement reporting is not enough. In order for measurement to scale across campaigns and feed results back into individual campaigns for optimization, a reliable and robust API is an imperative. An API or Application Programming Interface acts as a conduit supplying data from one system to another.

Be independent and unbiased. As noted above, the automated nature of programmatic means that gaming the system is a constant concern. No doubt the vast majority of players act above board. The only way to ensure that all do so is through independent, third-party measurement.

Measurement seeks to enhance marketing efforts, not impede them. Reliable measurement will enable programmatic players to assess their current inputs and models and allow them to build better ones, thus improving the fundamental asset that lies at the heart of any programmatic strategy. Measurement will also help the industry evaluate the effectiveness of programmatic models – which are now beginning to focus on driving brand engagement as well as direct response – with regard to brand engagement. (The possibility that it actually results in lower brand engagement is currently a significant hurdle to higher levels of inventory associated with premium video content "going programmatic.") Ultimately, reliable measurement can help programmatic buying achieve its full potential, and so help those who pursue it build significant advantages.