This is the second blog post in a series that examines different programmatic media buying tactics. In my first blog post, I looked at how programmatic media buying works, the third article detailed how to navigate the private marketplace. In this post, I will outline how to run prospecting campaigns.
Today programmatic advertising is reshaping the way digital media inventory is bought and sold and one of the key types of programmatic campaigns is prospecting. Prospecting campaigns put your ads in front of users who may not know your brand. Typically these types of campaigns are used to cast a wide net and are a perfect way to build awareness of your company, products and/or services. According to Econsultancy, almost two-thirds of marketers (62 percent) are using programmatic advertising for brand campaigns.
In this post, I will discuss various tactics that you can use in your DSP (Display Side Platform) to target users that are interested in your product or service but might be unfamiliar with your brand.
Start wide and optimize to pinpoint
An ideal prospecting campaign begins with broad targeting and uses the results to build flights, or ad groups. Flights target the pockets of inventory which work best for the campaign, effectively narrowing the target. As marketers and business people we tend to assume that we understand who our clients are and where they congregate online. But the reality is that we might not know as much as we think. Target audiences are not as consolidated as we tend to think, with the internet giving people the freedom to explore an eclectic range of interests.
For example, a Harley Davidson customer might also be a professional with interests you wouldn't necessarily associate with a biker, such as fine wine or foreign films. Therefore, targeting only motorcycle sites might not be the best way to get an ad in front of interested prospects. This is why marketers should begin with a wide target and narrow down once data starts to flow in. With the right data, a picture of the real target users starts to take form.
All DSP’s today will offer these basic targeting functionalities which should always be used to setup a base prospecting campaign.
- Start – End date
- Geo Targeting
- Budget Pacing
- Frequency Capping
- Day Parting
- Device Targeting
- Contextual Targeting
These will ensure that you don't make mistakes such as depleting your budget in five minutes in New York City when you should have run a month-long campaign in Trenton, New Jersey.
One of the most important limits you can set in a display campaign is the frequency cap. The frequency cap limits the number of impressions your flight will serve to a user. All DSPs will have this functionality and some will even allow you to set frequency caps at different levels, such as at the flight or campaign level.
Example of setting frequency caps in a DSP
The important thing to remember is that frequency caps, like everything else in a flight, should be optimized using data. If reports show that target users click on impression four through six, there is no point in setting the frequency cap for a flight at 10 impressions a day. Showing too few impressions is sometimes more harmful than showing too many, as you won't get the clicks to run a proper analysis and optimize.
Day parting allows you to schedule the times of the day of when to serve impressions or not. There could be a multitude of reasons why you might not want to bid on impressions during certain times of the day. For example, if you are trying to sell movie tickets online and you know that your target audience doesn't start clicking on your ads until lunch time it might make sense to exclude traffic before 11am. This ensures that you don't waste your budget on impressions which don't deliver results.
Alternatively, you could be running a more sophisticated campaign where you offer lunch coupons to users that are in the proximity of your burger joint by targeting them based on the mobile phone GPS location. Most probably you would want to run this type of campaign just before and during lunch-time to achieve the maximum performance.
Like with other targeting options, when to include or exclude a certain time period must be determined by looking at the data. It is essential to analyze the time periods that users click or convert and when they don’t and subsequently exclude the periods of low conversion or reduce bid levels.
Example of day parting in a DSP
Budget Pacing is one of those features which every DSP has but some do better than others. Most platforms will allow you to set an overall budget for a campaign and then the platform will automatically divide it into a daily spend. Some platforms also provide the option to manually fix your daily spend which gives you the flexibility to pace your budget spend but it will require more work. Both pacing options will make sure you spend the allocated budget in the allotted time. But it is essential to remember to keep an eye on the budget to make sure your daily spend doesn't fall behind.
Device targeting is another very useful tool which allows you to include or exclude devices, operating systems and in some cases even browsers. Personally, I like to run individual flights for mobile devices and desktop since the optimization techniques will be very different for both. Also running individual flights for mobile web and mobile app inventory is advised. Furthermore, you might want to consider excluding devices such as gaming consoles as there is limited traffic on consoles and conversions are typically quite low. Also you might want to exclude Safari for iOS as they don’t allow 3rd party cookies by default and make it harder to track conversions. As always, do the analysis and see what makes the most sense for your business before optimizing your flights.
Example of how to setup device targeting in a DSP
Contextual targeting is advertising to a specific user based on the subject on the page he or she is visiting. I like to refer to contextual targeting as the second layer of targeting. How does it work? Typically, a site page gets categorized by bots that crawl the page and then categorize it based on the page’s content. Advertisers can then select the subject category they want to target. One thing to always keep in mind is that publishers’ self declare the contextual category they feel they should be included in.
Each exchange has their own subject categories which they make available to campaign managers to include or exclude depending on the results of the initial discovery flight. Since the exchange category lists are very similar, DSPs sometimes group all the category lists together and take care of mapping the various exchange categories. Essentially, this allows you to pick from one category list which will apply to all the exchanges they connect with. Also there are a few drawbacks with the system especially when it comes to sites with user generated content such as forums.
For example, a few years ago I was running a campaign for an automotive client and among this client’s many dealerships there was a Honda dealer which we were running a campaign to promote the Honda Civic. At the end of the month we sent the client his monthly report which listed each site his ads had appeared on during the month. The client had specifically asked that ads only appear on auto related sites so we had excluded everything but auto sites from this particular flight. As always, we were maintaining a block list where we would remove underperforming sites from our flight. But this month a few impressions had run on the forums section of a site called vampirefreaks.com. Evidently, the client saw this URL and I received an email from our client wanting to understand the reason why their ads had run on this clearly non-automotive site. After a little digging, I realized that the impressions had run on a forum page where members were discussed their cars and more than a few forum members had mentioned they had Honda Civics. The bot had done its job and categorized the page as an automotive page.
Of course, things have evolved and bots are much more discerning than they once were, but it is a lesson learned. When prospecting, remember to keep your eyes peeled for these types of anomalies.
Prospecting campaigns are clearly a powerful tool to preface any intensive digital advertising effort. By following theses tips and leveraging the tools laid out, advertisers can make the most of this programmatic prospecting campaigns.
DSP example images courtesy of AdGear.