Tech viewpoint on asking questions
A view from Joe Connors

Tech viewpoint on asking questions

Programmatic is like the rules of cricket: anyone who says they know it all is either lying or delusional. But, as spend increases in this area, it’s important that marketers ask the right questions before getting started.

The latest IPA Bellwether Report shows that digital advertising is responsible for most of the UK’s rising adspend. But with more spend comes more risk: just look at the latest news from The Sun that ads from big brands such as Marks & Spencer, Boden and B&Q have all appeared without their knowledge on explicit sites. It’s crucial that brands choose technology partners they can trust to put their spend to good use.

The first thing for marketers is to know what "programmatic" means. How and why has the landscape evolved? Why do different players exist? What’s their agenda? A knowledge of the marketplace helps in navigating related topics, such as the efficiencies in programmatic buying, the questions that different players ask, the challenges, the buzzwords. Without this foundation, it can seem like a complicated world.

The nascent nature of programmatic can be a leveller, despite the industry’s best attempts to overcomplicate it with jargon. No-one benefits from making programmatic buying more difficult than it is and brands should never be shy about asking lots of questions. Question everything: if something doesn’t seem to make sense, it probably doesn’t.

It's crucial that brands choose technology partners they can trust to put their spend to good use

As The Sun’s investigation shows, misunderstandings can lead to big problems for brands. Protecting your brand means asking the right questions throughout, including where your ads are running and how your data is being used and by whom. It’s also up to the brand to make sure it is advertising in the right way: targeting people with good-quality, creative advertising and setting frequency caps so that you don’t bombard people.

When speaking to an agency or a tech provider about a programmatic partnership, brands will spend a lot of time talking to salespeople. Don’t accept working with salespeople who aren’t a mix of both "geek" and "jock" – who know the technology and landscape well but can explain it all to you in a clear way.

When it comes to the people who will actually be running your campaigns, there’s even more to consider. Whether you’re looking for in-house or agency expertise, the people you use should have experience in a number of areas: selecting the right tech platforms, using first-party data, sourcing and using third-party data, and optimising campaigns and attribution models, to name a few.

It should be a given that they understand your business and its requirements – but it is a two-way street. You should know as much about your programmatic partner as they know about your brand to make the most of every campaign.

Joe Connors is the head of client solutions at AdRoll