Can Search Marketers Own ‘Programmatic Marketing’ & ‘Big Data’?

Let’s keep this BS free. For years now, we (as an industry) have been talking about some mythical overlap between search and display, demonstrating how both channels should be managed by the same team. The theory goes that when they are put together, we start defying the laws of math, and that 1 + 1 equals 3.

The reasoning behind such an argument, in part, comes down to simple efficiencies and management fees, but also because search marketers can contribute a unique type of thinking to media because of their background in auction-based buying.

I am yet to see it really be proven true.

The one case where search marketers have ‘stolen’ real revenue from display teams has been within Facebook advertising (not the new FBX exchange) – when launched Facebook advertising was obviously the domain of media buyers, but when they switched to CPC buying, the search marketers leaped on it and claimed it for themselves.

At the time, I was running a global agency media team, and I saw a big portion of my dollars disappear across the office with little say in the matter!

As an industry, we then said search marketers should really own the new world of RTB (Real-Time Bidding) and exchange inventory because it was less about the creative and context, and more about the strategy for getting the right price in the auction.  (See Why Search Marketers Are The Future Media Planners.)

But this largely has not happened – search marketers can not get past the barrier of needing display creative units, and rarely will tackle or own the debate around view-thru attribution, which is absolutely required for display. (See Why Search Marketers Are Losing Out With Search Retargeting.)

Even with something like Chango’s Search Retargeting, it is still 75% bought by display planners, and only 25% by search marketers – even though it is keyword-focused!

Then Along Came ‘Big Data’ & ‘Programmatic Marketing’

When I read about big data and programmatic, I have two feelings – the first is one of excitement, because this is what real-time marketing has always been about, marketers just didn’t know it.

But, I also sigh because these buzz terms already have many different meanings, and confusion abounds throughout. So lets start by defining what these things are:

Big Data: Really big sets of data, cumbersome to collect and manage, and difficult to extract meaningful actions in a realistic time frame. Basically, its lots of data!

Programmatic Marketing: It has come to mean the way in which RTB media is bought, using data to make marketing decisions in real-time. Accurately, it refers more to the actual action of how media is bought in real-time – an approach that allows rules to be written that have varying outcomes given the circumstances.

Think of it this way: Programmatic Marketing is the process by which Big Data can be used within marketing (but it’s ironical, given the real definition of ‘big data,’ that the data is too large to be used meaningfully; solving the problem makes ‘big data’ go away. :)

As an example of what Programmatic Marketing might look like, we reinvented the concept of simple site retargeting and made it Programmatic Site Retargeting.

For a home improvement client, instead of just retargeting everyone who visited the site with an ad for the last product they looked at, we combine a programmatic approach with ‘big data’ to extract more value.

So, for an individual who arrives on a Friday afternoon looking for a new kitchen, we bid high and at a high frequency cap because they are likely to make a big purchase decision that weekend.

But an individual who arrives on a Sunday morning looking for instructions on how to hang wallpaper has very little value, and so the rule automatically digests this and bids very low.

The promise of Programmatic Marketing, therefore, is more efficiency.

Doesn’t That Sound Like A Role For The Search Marketer?

And, we come full circle. A search marketer (in general) tends to be more analytical than a display media planner; they are more comfortable in a quantitative world and have much better Excel skills(!). Display planners still think in isolation from tactic to tactic, and search marketers tend to consider their spend as a whole. We know the story.

So what’s different this time?

Well, Programmatic means more than simply buying in an auction environment. It is inherently more technical and rules-based. And, the question should not actually be ‘can search marketers own programmatic marketing,’ the question the search marketer should be asking themselves is ‘can they evolve faster than display planners into Programmatic Marketers?’

It seems somewhat of a fair race today. The search marketers appear to have more relevant skills, but the media planners own the all-important budget. The display planners also have access to the right tools (like Chango Madison which is the first PMP Programmatic Marketing Platform), but search marketers know that they should be targeting individuals, not shouting at crowds, the whole point of the RTB revolution.

What Happens Next?

Unfortunately, there is likely to be a lot more confusion to come, but with confusion comes opportunity. If I were a media planner or search marketer today, I would be learning everything I could about programmatic marketing, knowing that when my company or agency comes looking for someone to fill that role, I would be best placed to own it and make it successful.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display | Search & Display


About The Author: is the Chief Strategy Officer at Chango, the solution to programmatic marketing and "big data", and is based in San Francisco and London. You can follow him on Twitter @DaxHamman.

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