Why Do Big Data & Programmatic Marketing Actually Matter?

Did you know 2.5 quintillion bytes (25,000,000,000,000,000,000) of digital data is created every single day, the majority being centered around you? Every day, we send 145bn emails, 340m tweets and 2 million searches queries to Google.

But, there is also the more invisible footprints you leave as you go about your day swiping your credit card, driving through tolls, visiting websites, etc.. So, when we talk about Big Data, we really mean it.

Like many buzz terms, Big Data and Programmatic Marketing are actually nothing new, they are old ideas brought up to date to the modern need; and so, if you really want to succeed in digital marketing, you must understand their roots and the core promises they make.

You must also look to the future and understand the vision we have for the programmatic approach; you might be surprised what can be done.

Big Data Is Not A New Marketing Tool

Let’s start by looking at ‘big data’ in its simplest form. Big data is just lots of data! Many companies have lots of data at their disposal, and have for generations.

Think of traditional catalogue companies that have massive quantities of CRM data relating to every household in the country, or a supermarket brand with a loyalty card program that knows everything about your shopping habits, or even a credit card company that knows everything about your life and habits through your spend data — all these companies have had ‘big data’ for a long time.

So, to be a little more precise, think of big data in today’s world as being lots of data, but lots of data that is dispersed across multiple systems, and can therefore be cumbersome to make actionable in a meaningful way.

If you are a catalogue company, then dispersed data doesn’t represent too much of a problem; you can run a query against your various databases to extract the information you need, and if that takes 24 hours to process, no big deal. But, in the digital world where we are trying to make decisions in real-time, this cumbersome nature represents a real problem.

Programmatic Marketing

Therefore, the promise of programmatic marketing is to bind dispersed data together and make it actionable in a real-time, digital world. The idea is that these multiple systems are brought together through one technology, and then, rules can be written to make decisions and actions based on all that data. Think of a simple Boolean logic query that would say something like:

Show ad 1 to (active customers who have NOT bought in the last 30 days AND live in California AND are male)

Realize it or not, that is how programmatic marketing works. Now, work would have to be done on the backend to make the databases that contain that information accessible, but can you imagine the power placed into the hands of a marketer who could see 2.5 quintillion bytes of data about their audience!

evolution of Site Retargeting


Such systems are not straightforward to build, but if done right, are simple to use. The industry started with the idea of DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) for buying in real-time, and then added DMPs (Data Management Platforms) to start trying to bring some of this data together. The problem remains that such systems leak huge amounts of valuable data and force buying decisions to be made on data that is out of date.

There is a new movement of the PMP (Programmatic Marketing Platform) which we coined within the industry and relates to systems specifically designed to capitalize on the opportunities of big data and programmatic marketing in today’s market, and in the future.

This approach is already starting to change the way common marketing techniques are bought. Take site retargeting, for instance. Nearly every marketer is doing it, and while I feel strongly that it is being measured incorrectly, it is producing results.

But even with advanced site retargeting, the marketer is ignoring the true value of each individual. Sure, they might be serving them a dynamic ad with the actual product they looked at within it, but does that person really have any likelihood of converting? With big data, a site retargeting campaign can be driven by more data, and more data makes us smarter marketers.

If you are a luxury car brand, do you really want to retarget everyone who looked at your sports cars? Really? Even if at 2 a.m., they were searching for bad debt credit cards? How about saving those impressions and investing them in something else?

Or, if you are a home supply store, and someone arrives on your site from Google having searched for ‘granite counter tops’ versus the person arriving searching for ‘how to hang wallpaper.’ Which one do you think you should invest in? Big data and a programmatic framework will tell you – and then make you smarter and more efficient. Site retargeting becomes ‘Programmatic Site Retargeting.’

These types of executions are reactionary – an individual does something, and we do something in return. Big data allows us to be predictive, too, though. We can analyze the data about individuals and predict what they may want in the future. We can even analyze our existing customers and based on shared behaviors, guess who else in the population might respond well to our messages because they are connected somehow. Think of it as a ‘programmatic look-a-like’ capability.

A Programmatic Future

Looking to the future of marketing has never been more fun. The very beliefs of a PMP are that data come from many sources, and the executions that can occur from that data will be as varied. Already today, there are companies testing ideas such as digital billboards with facial recognition, or taxicabs with digital ads that change based on the geo location.

Programmatic might be the buzz term that is new within display advertising, but its implications are far more broad.

YouTube Preview Image

(Video: Face-recognition comes to billboards)

Imagine as a marketer, being able to know when one of your customers is in a taxicab, and whether they opened your latest email before they got in it, whether they have bought from you recently and whether they are due to go on vacation soon. And from that data, being able to decide the value of showing them your message at that precise moment. It’s almost ‘individual marketing’!

What Does This Mean For Today’s Marketer?

We have been pushing hard as marketers to reach the magical place of always talking to the right person at the right time and with the right message, and that shouldn’t change. But big data and programmatic marketing take us into a new area – ‘right price.

In a real-time media world, understanding how much to pay to talk to someone is as critical as knowing which person to talk to in the first place, and now you can.

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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  • http://twitter.com/DelvePartners Delve Partners

    Dax, interesting note about how a billboard could read a face and correlate those features to some proven pattern of consumer behavior. Whether a person is smiling, frowning, laughing, etc…

    Whether or not it’s a meaningful observation is really up to the ad network’s salesforce’s whitepaper about audience engagement. ;-)

    Good stuff,


  • Chande

    Actually, it’s 3 billion searches per day on Google

  • http://www.facebook.com/irina.semakova Irina Semakova

    yeh, it’s very smart not only to identify, who is your audience at this moment, but also to track reaction to advert – smiles, unsatisfaction, etc.
    We are entering the Era of real targeting and real advert evaluation….

  • Trevor Fox

    I agree, the real value of big data is in its ability to predict through generalization. I also agree that, although it is a tough pill to swallow, targeting and decision making accuracy are just a function of data scale. The problem is, more data just makes smarter computers, smarter computers mean were all out of a job. :)

  • sheila219

    If you think Rita`s story is neat…, a month back my sister’s best friend basically got $4358 putting in 20 hour’s a week from home and their best friend’s ex-wife`s neighbour did this for eight months and made over $4358 part-time from a pc. the information available on this page… jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • http://twitter.com/DaxHamman Dax Hamman

    Thanks Chande!

  • http://twitter.com/DaxHamman Dax Hamman

    Yes, quite right. I mentioned it here for an additional reason, and that’s because marketers getting in to big data think about what they can bring to the bid request, but fail to think about what can be generated at the time of the bid request. The environmental factors of the bid itself can yield a lot of valuable data, and there is no reason why that couldn’t include a facial scan.

  • http://twitter.com/DaxHamman Dax Hamman

    Interesting thought Trevor. I see it a little differently. We are certainly moving the balance of the use of computers and people, but I am yet to see any company with an algorithm so smart that it can replace a human entirely. The subtleties of human nature are too complex, and it’s my opinion that we won’t see a computer that can run marketing by itself for a very long time, if at all.


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