Promotional feature
Circus Street

In defence of programmatic

Programmatic is starting to reveal its true potential to create more relevant, creative and effective campaigns

One ecosystem covering different media channels and offering new and exciting targeting opportunities that allow us to get closer to our customers was the promise of programmatic. But for this to be realised, brands and agencies need to be using it in a creative and intelligent way. Is that happening?

According to Zenith’s programmatic marketing forecast, programmatic adspend grew globally from $5bn (£4bn) in 2012 to $39bn (£31bn) in 2016 at an average rate of 71% a year, and marketers are now using it for more than automation.

We’re starting to see its potential as a tool to better communicate with customers, to create more relevant campaigns and reach a new level of creativity. News Corp-owned Unruly’s recent launch of Emotional PMP (private marketplace) packages – a way to buy inventory that can target on the basis of a consumer’s emotional state – is one example of the potential of programmatic as it continues to develop. 

A customised approach
Yet, as the recent scrutiny over viewability and the rise in ad-blocking shows, consumers continue to see messages in the wrong place and at the wrong time, leading to a growing distrust of marketing . As an industry, have we allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked by the promise of data driven micro-targeting that, without proper management, has resulted in wastage, fraud or worse – increasingly exasperated consumer?  

Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard might have been more vocal than most this year regarding the "murky media supply system", but the future of the industry depends on delivering relevant content and advertising to engaged audiences, with the right insights, audience targeting and controls in place. 

It is imperative for marketers to understand where the value of programmatic lies. For some brands it could be scale, for others the placement and environment of the ad is most critical or it could be the creative journey and the use of data to influence buying decisions.

One brand that has used programmatic well to add value is O2. It is able to make the best possible use of its audience data in order to tailor campaigns to when and how someone started their purchase journey and, therefore, where they are in their customer life cycle.

For example: if an existing customer is about to come out of contract, O2 can begin serving them relevant product and tariff information. Once a customer makes a purchase, O2 can then send them information about the reward programme, and further down the line, O2 can use this data to target the customer about additional products.

Know your tech
Disruptive sparks will come from the sheer creativity of the human mind, not by relying on data and algorithms alone. For that to happen you first need to understand the technology, its limits and capabilities, and not lose sight of marketing’s basics. The real value lies in learning how best to advertise to your audience in a connected world, in a more creative, targeted and efficient way that results in an engaged and entertained customer.


Learn more about the challenges and potential solutions within programmatic in our latest lesson* Email us at

*Offer ends 15 October 2017

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Words by Richard Townsend, chief executive and co-founder, Circus Street

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