How to use programmatic to drive branding results

How to use programmatic to drive branding results
John leads the product team at Media iQ. Since arriving at the business in 2014, John has been charged with establishing the product function and diversifying the business' offering into brand advertising as well as developing cross-device and multi-screen capabilities. Prior to Media iQ, John was Head of Product at A&NY Media, part of DMG::Media, a pioneering digital performance advertising company.


In a world crowded with advertising, how can brands stand out? And more importantly, how can high-reach branding campaigns be made relevant to every individual?

For me, programmatic is the answer and can play a huge part in helping brands to stand out and drive results.

Time and time again we are faced with the age-old argument of whether data and creativity conflict with each other or work together to drive results for advertisers.

This has been further scrutinised by theorists, such as Bryon Sharp and Binet & Field, who suggest that it is in fact emotional storytelling that produces the most long-term value for brands, whilst a data-driven approach undermines it.

For them, it is creativity, not optimisation, that drives efficiency.

So, what role does programmatic, a channel that has been founded on the pillars of data and optimisation, play to drive great branding results? How do you deliver a mass reach campaign, whilst being noticed?

And how, do you achieve cut-through with always-on, mass-reach, high-frequency messaging, without an unlimited budget?

Real-world moments data

The simple answer is to leverage real-world moments data. By driving this data into the creative decision, marketers can deliver high relevance campaigns at mass scale.

Additionally, syncing delivery to high profile moments can ensure high presence and cut-through for a brand when it matters the most.

For example, over the summer we were tasked with creating a digital Olympics sponsorship campaign of Team GB’s success for an international alcoholic drinks brand.

In response, we created a three-pronged strategy, which by leveraging macro data, allowed us to achieve a 400% lift in responses in certain instances.

To begin with, we created an always-on strategy, which we call ‘social-sync’, where delivery was synced to spikes in positive Twitter activity relating to Team GB.

In today’s hyper-digitalised world, brands need to find ways of marrying data with creativity 

Next, by using a real-time sports feed, syncing to all Team GB gold medals, we could deliver a burst of gold-medal related ads for a short period after each win. Finally, we served a sports-specific message whenever Team GB athletes were competing in our top sports, such as the Triathlon or Heptathlon.

In peak moments when there were high numbers of gold medals and tweets, delivery was upwards of 50 times higher, and engagement rates increased in-line with this.

So, although the campaign had a mass reach (14 million devices in total), there was also a high share of voice for the brand, when millions of people were paying attention to the event.

In conclusion, the campaign was a success because of two key elements. Firstly, by using data to select the relevant creative, thus solving the relevance at scale challenge.

Layered moments strategies

Then secondly, using layered moments strategies to give the advertiser a huge presence during the most positive and emotional moments of the Olympics. The outcome was a campaign that, per Byron Sharp and Binet & Field’s theories, ticked all the boxes. 

The above example highlights that even with mass-market advertising, individual relevance is possible, and it boosts results. By forging a digital sponsorship with event moments, an emotive connection can be built via a data-led approach.

In addition, high reach can be achieved during a highly saturated advertising period and still gain cut-through.

In today’s hyper-digitalised world, brands need to find ways of marrying data with creativity to produce engaging and targeted messages to consumers.

Too often marketers see only two options in digital, the performance sniper rifle which targets very few, or the brand bazooka which whilst it has mass reach, is unengaging.

Programmatic however, can combine the best of both to provide intelligent impact. I personally believe that programmatic brand advertising campaigns are the most exciting and innovative campaigns out there – and more importantly they’re driving fantastic results for advertisers.

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