Imagine this: You're sitting in a taxi on your way home from work. It's raining, and it's rush hour. The video screen in front of you plays an ad for a stylish raincoat—one that suits you perfectly. It also plays an ad for a golf resort that's only an hour from where you live, because you had been researching golf getaways online just the night before.
You check the time. Your smartwatch shows an ad from a local dealership touting a new SUV for which you're in the market, and which has several features that suit your needs perfectly. The car is red, one of your favorite colors. You touch a button on the watch's interface to request more information. When you finally get home and begin watching an episode of your favorite TV show, you're pleased to see that the first commercial is a helpful ad about the car you're now seriously considering test driving.
In this world, any screen can be a key touchpoint between marketers and consumers. Whether it's on television, a billboard, a wearable device, or a screen we've yet to imagine, there's an opportunity for marketers to make a deep personal connection with an individual. But, unlike the wistful fantasies of yesteryear's digital out-of-home ventures, the scene I described will not come to pass through manually planned media on closed loops with sketchy creative and little to no audience engagement.
In reality, it's emerging through the power of programmatic marketing. Programmatic technology offers the promise of life-pattern marketing, with which marketers can reach consumers at influential moments in their days with powerful messaging wherever—and whenever—that may be. Couple it with a response signal, and this technology can identify what resonates with individuals at the moment-to-moment level to optimize the timing, relevance, and effectiveness of the next ads they see.
It starts with data. Data is becoming one of the most valuable business commodities on Earth. Companies are amassing customer data comprised of consumers' audience segments, the devices they use, where they have traveled on the web, and what purchases they have transacted with.
This enables the company to make better decisions on how to market, sell, and service. Leaders in data-driven businesses like Amazon and Google see stronger growth than those like Exxon and Shell that solely deal in traditional commodities. Simply put: Personal data makes money.
That's why it seems like every company is in pursuit of more data and better data to improve its customer support, enhance the appeal of its offerings, and—most certainly—improve its marketing and advertising. The key to activating this data is programmatic technology, which is why, before long, programmatic marketing will be everywhere you look.
Programmatic marketing is already growing tremendously. Total U.S. programmatic ad revenue will top nearly $15 billion this year, according to BI Intelligence estimates. BI also estimates that more than 50% of total digital ad spend will be programmatic. And not just in display ads: Already, there is an explosion of programmatic ad spend in mobile, social, and video advertising. But the true bellwether of this new programmatic-centric world is television. Why? Despite the dramatic growth of programmatic advertising, there hasn't yet been a creative experience for an advertiser that's quite like "the couch"—one that provides the ability to serve the immersive sound and inspiring imagery of rich media on a big screen to an engaged, captivated audience.
But television advertising is a massive undertaking, requiring building and managing delicate relationships with deal structures that force long gestation periods for campaigns. Before any dotted lines are signed upon, brands must be wooed with a creative concept, insertions orders must be manually booked, and ads must be manually trafficked—all while not knowing whether the target audience was reached and how much sales revenue can be directly attributed to the campaign.
And what if the same programmatic technology that drives ROI and measurement for marketers in the online world can be applied to television? Advertisers could still take advantage of the unmatched value of "the couch," but show consumers unique ads specially tailored to their interests at a precise moment in time.
Not only that, television will be an input for greater digital marketing programs that inform and optimize other channels, creating a virtuous feedback loop. With a real-time connection to the web via set-top boxes, personal devices, or even connected glasses, consumers will be able to choose the ads they like via a "click" such as a button or voice command ("Cool ad!"). Advertisers will then be able to learn which ads individuals like, providing a more personalized and valuable experience to both the viewer and the advertiser. Suddenly, you will be able to take the most powerful form of advertising out there, and add programmatic so that you can optimize the reach of your advertising to an immense audience.
Let's say Consumer A is watching "The Walking Dead" at a time slot during which he is known to be receptive to advertising. Based on his browsing activity, marketers can learn that he is in the market for a new car and is in the right demographic for a luxury car. He is then served an ad for a sporty sedan, with tailored creative that appeals to him specifically.
It's this potential that has AOL engaged in talks with three multichannel video programming distributors in the U.S. about selling its programmatic TV platform. According to eMarketer, TV remains by far the largest beneficiary of adults' media time, at an average of 4 hours 28 minutes per day in 2014, thereby providing the largest reach. For this reason, it is consistently the top category for advertising spend, weighing in at $187 billion in 2015. Programmatic TV is only in its early stages, accounting for just 4% of TV ad spend. But by 2019 it is projected to be 17%. And, given the popularity of television and rise of programmatic media, the opportunities for programmatic television are too great to ignore.
As people and objects continue to coalesce and the "Internet of Things" becomes an increasingly tangible concept, marketing in the moment—regardless of time, location, and device—will be crucially important. If a marketer knows with whom they are interacting via a rich set of attributes that describe them—and to which ads that consumer did and did not respond—it can vastly increase the precision of its media, and thus, optimize its spend.
Whether it's on a TV, a smartwatch, a billboard, or even a refrigerator, anywhere there is or will be a screen represents an opportunity for a brand's story to transcend both the digital and real-world experiences of the most valuable consumers.
About the Author
Monte Zweben is an accomplished marketing and technology executive and Rocket Fuel Board member since 2010. His career success spans executive leadership roles in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, marketing and media technology, enterprise software and public company management. Most recently, Monte has led Splice Machine, the developer of the first SQL-compliant database designed for Big Data applications, as CEO and co-founder. Prior to Splice Machine, he founded and led many market leading companies including ClioMusic, SeeSaw Networks, and Blue Martini Software, which went public on NASDAQ in one of the most successful IPOs of 2000. Monte's early career was spent with the NASA Ames Research Center as the Deputy Branch Chief of the Artificial Intelligence Branch, where he won the prestigious Space Act Award for his work on the Space Shuttle program.
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