Full-Funnel Programmatic: An Untapped Opportunity for Marketers

November 4, 2016 — by Aaron Lassila    

Roughly a year and a half ago, I was lucky enough to begin my foray into the ad tech ranks at MediaMath. Since day one, I have been learning and earning an on-the-job master’s degree on the subject “the future of advanced digital advertising.” Before MediaMath, I ran global ad revenue for a content publisher, which gave me a unique, yet one-sided, view of the ecosystem, where most (nearly all) of the dollars we touched were upper-funnel, oriented towards soft brand-building KPIs. It was a stark contrast to the tougher merit event-oriented KPIs of down-funnel metrics that programmatic is often held to. Never on the publisher side had I experienced a whiff of customers requiring multi-touch attribution, dynamic creative optimization or data onboarding—all staples in programmatic, particularly within the lower end of the funnel.

One of the things that brought me to MediaMath was the belief that all media will be transacted with data (and via platforms) within a relatively short aperture of time. I have witnessed this play out in the buying markets in earnest over the past four years, at rapidly accelerated rates. That 100 percent of digital ad spend isn’t already transacted in this manner is rather confounding, given how much more bang a marketer gets for each buck.

Why aren’t all digital dollars activated programatically? Because not enough marketers are doing full-funnel programmatic. To me, this means beginning the customer conversion journey with a programmatically-served, brand-centric message at the top of the funnel, creating a truly brand-oriented touch point, building brand affinity and cultivating customer intrigue, across all channels.

The advantages of full-funnel programmatic are huge!

Let’s start with simple reach and frequency management. Imagine a world where individual publisher buys no longer run in conflict with each other and are actually performance-managed by a platform which eliminates the waste of beating the same consumer over the head. There are additional advantages such as the ability to:

  • Share data across all channels, providing marketers a single identity of a user that drives one conversational thread with that individual.
  • Deliver and dynamically optimize relevant messaging informed both by consumers’ previous experiences and their activities in other channels, in real-time, over time and across channels.
  • Continuously optimize spending within and across the media mix in alignment with ongoing business performance, and more easily and accurately attribute performance credit.

All of this bubbles up to improved operational efficiency and budget optimization!

Changing Tactics

So why aren’t more marketers doing this? Here are a few reasons—and how marketers can change.

  • Programmatic platforms have done a fantastic job of enabling marketers to put their own first-party data to use in a media activation capacity.  But as we’ve learned, while wonderful and a marketer’s best asset, first-party data doesn’t scale. To date, programmatic using first-party data has meant predominantly down-funnel metrics (CPA, ROAS and ROI) predicated on low-hanging fruit such as site remarketing, the act of re-targeting those in-market users who have already surfed your pages. What has historically been missing is the ability to scale first-party data for use in prospecting efforts.

How to change this: Marketers really need to first find out how to layer their rich first-party data with second- and third-party data sources so they can successfully both remarket and prospect, then use a powerful DMP that can manage, smartly segment and analyze this data and then activate these audiences in media through an integrated DSP.

  • More sophisticated marketers are already utilizing programmatic to service both those attractive in-market consumers (via remarketing) and out-of-market consumers (via prospecting tactics), branching off from purely down-funnel metrics and also optimizing toward those consumers who behave like your in-market consumers, but have yet to demonstrate interest toward your brand. Remarketing and prospecting present opposing challenges. With remarketing, you can easily justify spend against this population; the challenge is usually that you have plenty of money to spend on these users, but there simply are not enough of them. With prospecting, you don’t have the “hand raising” signal of knowing who the attractive users are, so you are effectively trying to limit the near-infinite pools of users and impressions down to the small subset that represents the best deployment of your budget against your goals. You cannot justify spend against the entire population; the challenge is usually that there are too many opportunities, but most don’t hit the ROI bar, so you have to limit your spend against them.

How to change this: You need an omnichannel programmatic platform with an intelligence engine that can tell you which opportunities to bid on, and how much, depending on your KPIs so that you run your campaigns in line with both the needs of your budget and your business goals.

  • Even more sophisticated still, top marketers are leveraging prospecting and remarketing tactics, plus CRM re-engagement, putting to work their customer files to both re-engage lapsed customers, as well as to find more of those types of customers. For instance, as the holidays are approaching, you can consider creating segments based on what customers purchased last year and/or what you know about them and serve personalized ads based on these attributes. The problem: many marketers use disparate point solutions to not only manage these different types of tactics, but also their different marketing channels.

How to change this: Platforms that manage all these efforts (PRO, REM and CRM) are most likely to succeed for marketers, as pitting multiple platforms against each other is ultimately going to provide unfavorable results long-term. Sophisticated marketers have figured this out, particularly in the early adopter retail and digital native verticals.

By the end of this year, the US programmatic ad market will surpass $22 billion, according to eMarketer. That already represents 67 percent of total digital display ad spending in the US and will be 100 percent very, very soon. Once marketers bring full-funnel programmatic together into one omnichannel platform, they will see the value of putting more budget toward digital and realize results from their marketing spend that will be outsized from where they are today.

Aaron Lassila

Aaron Lassila serves as GM at MediaMath, the global leader in transparent and outcomes-based programmatic advertising technology for the Enterprise. MediaMath empowers marketers to activate data, automate execution, and optimize every interaction across all addressable media channels. Aaron's team ensures the success of MediaMath's clients, from activation through ongoing technical support and services. Previously, Aaron was Senior Director of Global Media Solutions at EA, overseeing all strategic partnership, ad sales, client services and go to market positioning for the company, globally. Lassila led a talented team to bring cutting edge, cross-platform audience engagement opportunities to marketers. Over time, Lassila established himself as thought leader in digital media, bringing games to the forefront as a best in class method for brand marketers to engage consumer audiences. In 2005, Lassila was a co-founder of the in-game advertising group at EA, leveraging his background in sports and event sponsorship to develop relevant advertising programs for top marketers wishing to tap into EA’s massive audiences via a global portfolio of best-selling interactive entertainment properties across multiple platforms. In addition to his management experience at EA, Mr Lassila previously worked in media sales, sponsorship, and partnership management roles at Microsoft, Double Fusion, Clear Channel Entertainment (now Live Nation) and Kemper Sports Marketing. Lassila has also served in advisory capacities at Mozilla (where he helped the company to prepare an offering for the advertising market for the first time) and BrandBoards (a live event video ad technology that reaches captive and engaged sports & music fans in the US through a network of digital screens at scale). Aaron is a proud graduate of the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) and lives in San Francisco with his wife and two daughters (Go Giants!).