Tech viewpoint on programmatic
A view from Geoff Gower

Tech viewpoint on programmatic

"Programmatic" – it’s the word on everybody’s lips these days, along with the phrase "content marketing". They are both proving worthy of further investment, but can they be combined to produce a whole greater than the sum of its parts?

Some media agencies seem to think so. Starcom MediaVest Group has created a new way for brands to use content marketing, with the principles of programmatic applied, in Content@Scale. The platform allows brands to quickly identify, source, publish and scale content from a bank to consumers automatically.

However, the idea of treating something as organic as content marketing as a programmatic exercise raises quite a few questions.

Content marketing is essentially telling a story to achieve engagement. With data fuelling a programmatic approach to content marketing, reaching the right people at the right time is easy. However, an algorithm, no matter how advanced, cannot know how a consumer is feeling. Metadata attached to each piece of content to which the programmatic system has access can only go so far in describing what the content is and to what it pertains.

Quality is a key driver in content marketing. With a programmatic approach, we face the issue of quality versus quantity. To be really targeted, we need as many bespoke executions as possible and, the more we have to create, the less time and budget we have. A vast bank of quality "evergreen" content to serve to consumers is an impossibility because of the shelf life of content.

The question we need to ask of programmatic marketing is: just how good can an algorithm be?

Good content marketing is relevant, timely and engaging. Great content marketing has all these elements and is also funny, unexpected and creative. Volvo’s "the epic split" video (which has now had north of 75 million views), starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, was totally unexpected and spot on in terms of tone and quality. It even inspired a pastiche from fellow Hollywood heavyweight Channing Tatum – as the old saying goes, imitation is the ultimate form of flattery.

"The epic split" had everything that characterises great content marketing: jeopardy, celebrity, unexpectedness, humour, quality and mass appeal. This combination produced millions of views and a truckload (pun intended) of social shares that led to consumers happily associating themselves with the brand. This shareability is the biggest goal of any content marketing effort.

The question we need to ask of programmatic content marketing is: just how good can an algorithm be? The creativity and craft, regarding both the content itself and its placement, are hard for any human being to master, so how can we expect a collection of ones and zeroes to perform just as well?

Geoff Gower is the executive creative director at AIS London