Most Common Programmatic Mistakes Marketers Make

common programmatic mistakes

Programmatic buying can save you time, money, and help you deliver relevant ads to a targeted audience in an efficient way.

Embracing this technology as part of your media strategy can help you make the most of your budget and your business more profitable. But there’s a learning curve involved. Marketers make common programmatic mistakes that tack on time to their learning curves and make their campaigns less effective. If you find out what the most common programmatic mistakes are now, you can avoid them when you embrace programmatic. But you don’t have to! Read below and see our top 10 mistakes marketers make.

10 Costly Programmatic Buying Mistakes to Avoid

You’re bound to make a few mistakes when you integrate programmatic into your marketing strategy. Just like with all new technology, that’s just part of navigating the learning curve. But you can find out about the most common mistakes beforehand and avoid them, making the process as painless as possible. Here are 10 programmatic mistakes marketers make to keep in mind:

1. Worrying about Getting Replaced

Successful marketers have spent years in the trenches and countless dollars on courses, seminars, and other training materials to build their skills. They’re all too aware of the massive time and effort it takes to succeed. It’s understandable why the thought of programmatic technology swooping in and “improving efficiency” would make some of them hesitate. But there’s no need to worry. Programmatic doesn’t replace street smarts and decades of hard-won experience; it makes your talents even more effective. By handling a lot of the drudge work involved in planning and optimizing ad campaigns across numerous channels, programmatic frees up time and energy for you to focus on creative, high-leverage activities. You get more time for strategizing and building relationships while programmatic makes your efforts more profitable. Win, win.

2. Relying Too Much on the Technology

While some marketers avoid programmatic out of a fear it will replace them or step on their toes, others rely on the technology too much. Programmatic automates much of the media buying and selling process and helps you target the right audience, but it’s no substitute for qualitative feedback. Effective advertising requires you to “get inside the heads” of the people you want to become your customers. It’s impossible to do that without getting out there and communicating with people. Surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one outreach will give you a different kind of understanding than programmatic data.

Martin Jensen, Head of the Danish Publisher Network, agrees:

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 4.45.03 PM

Combining programmatic with your qualitative insights helps you make the best decisions to launch profitable ad campaigns and grow your business.

3. Painting Programmatic Solutions with a Broad Brush

It’s tempting to lump programmatic solutions together. For many marketers, it’s simply “programmatic” vs. “non-programmatic.” But the reality of the situation is more nuanced than that. There are a wide variety of programmatic solutions available. These solutions offer different capabilities and features. Examining each one individually can help you determine which would be the best fit for your business goals. The buzz about programmatic has reached a fever pitch, so you might be eager to jump on board quickly. But taking some time beforehand to understand the nuances can save you a lot of time and trouble down the road. You’ll find the solution that works best for your unique needs and avoid the costly mistake of having to switch a few months in.

4. Using Only a Single Creative

Programmatic helps you deliver highly targeted ads to the people most likely to become your customers. It gets rid of a lot of the grunt work and helps you maximize your ROI. Limiting yourself to a single creative robs you of some of those awesome advantages. Trying to pick the “perfect ad” upfront is stressful. And there’s no need when you can let the market decide for you. Running different versions of your ad at the same time will show you which performs best with which audience and in which context. Programmatic tracks each version’s response and identifies the winners. It’s easy to find out which elements work best and polish your ad over time.

5. Waiting to Get Started

A lot of marketers are taking the “let’s wait and see what happens after the dust settles” approach to programmatic. It reminds me of how Barnes & Nobles waited to respond to the self-publishing explosion and paid the price. There’s a learning curve involved with programmatic. It might take some shuffling and an investment. But the time is ripe to learn how to use and take advantage of it before all of your competitors jump in.

According to AdAge, only 23% of marketers understand programmatic and use it to execute campaigns:

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 4.46.23 PM

There’s this huge understanding gap now, but it won’t last. MAGNA Global Research predicts that programmatic transactions will grow to $17 billion in the United Sates by 2017. If you embrace programmatic while it isn’t so competitive, you can make inexpensive mistakes and streamline your strategy before the playing field gets too crowded.

6. Separating the Marketing Team

Traditionally, advertisers separated their digital marketing teams. Search marketers were tech-savvy types and spent their days poring over analytics reports. Display ad buyers were building relationships and gaining a better understanding of their audience. There wasn’t much overlap. The rise of programmatic has changed that. With programmatic, these different skill-sets can complement one other. Media buyers and sellers accustomed to negotiating directly can learn about programmatic and use those insights to guide them to even more profitable deals.

Here’s Matt Prohaska’s, the director of programmatic advertising for the New York Times, take: “The same way buyers and sellers moved away from ‘that one person in the cube down the hall’ who knew digital in the mid ’90s, smart publishers are starting to integrate programmatic, along with its relevant data and best-of-breed platforms, into the everyday practices of their organization.”

7. Seeing Programmatic as an “Either-Or” Proposition

Some marketers hesitate to embrace programmatic because they envision a massive upheaval of their current workflow. But this isn’t an either-or proposition. The idea that you have to choose between programmatic or direct media buying is unfounded. You can integrate programmatic without abandoning direct media deals or the relationships you’ve developed over the years. A mixture of programmatic solutions and direct sales gives you the best of both worlds. You can eliminate inefficiencies while still leveraging your special relationships. Introduce programmatic gradually and track your results until you find the perfect mixture that works best for you.

8. Confusing Programmatic with Real-Time Bidding

A common misconception is that “programmatic” equals “real-time bidding.” This causes a lot of confusion and makes an already misunderstood technology even tougher to grasp. “Programmatic” is an umbrella term used to describe automated media transactions. Instead of manual negotiations, you buy and sell media through digital technology platforms. This isn’t limited specifically to online advertising; it’s expected to dominate TV advertising as well. “Real-Time Bidding” (or RTB), is a specific type of programmatic buying where buyers and sellers bid on ad inventory in real-time. Search marketing has used RTB for over a decade to price the cost per impression and determine which publisher’s ad displays in the search results. Understanding the differences between these terms can help when you’re comparison shopping to find the programmatic solution that works best for you.

9. Thinking They Can Spend a Lot Less for a Much Higher ROI

The sheer amount of hype about programmatic has created unrealistic expectations in the minds of some marketers. They give programmatic a shot for a short time, only to wonder why their minimal investment isn’t producing the results they hoped for. Programmatic is extraordinarily powerful, but it isn’t a magic pill. Automation saves time and makes trading advertising cost effective. But you still need talented people to analyze the data and turn the insights into winning strategies. Getting the most benefits from programmatic takes patience and time. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see stellar results right away.

10. Not Having a Sound Strategy, Plan, and Decisioning Matrix Before Launch

Trying to do too much with programmatic all at once makes it impossible to identify which aspects are working well and which aren’t. A winning programmatic approach is similar to scientific testing. It starts with doing your homework and creating a sound strategy. Then, after you set up assumptions and tests, you collect data to validate (or disprove) your assumptions and adjust your strategy going forward. Setting up business rules to guide programmatic systems and automation ensures your data collection is as sound as possible. This helps you single out and identify variables and controls in a cause and effect relationship. According to J.J. Bannasch, Katana’s Head of Media Training, “a good rule of thumb is programmatic platforms are only as strong as the inputs, testing and campaign frameworks, and analysis of the output so optimizations can be made through automation or manually when needed.”

Over to You

Programmatic is revolutionizing the modern landscape of digital advertising. You can leverage it to expand your reach, save money and time, and deliver targeted messages to the people most likely to become customers.

The 10 mistakes above trip a lot of marketers up, but you can learn from them and make embracing programmatic painless and profitable. Get started today!