Making Every (Programmatic) Penny Count

By
David Kohl, President and CEO, TRUSTX
April 28, 2020

Looking out my home-office window, I see the relative calm of my suburban street, my neighbor’s white house with black shutters, the minivan next door and the early Spring blooms on bushes and trees within my view. The picture is deceiving, to say the least, given what’s going on just outside the comforts of this safe space.

I’ll admit that it’s hard to put my head back in the business of advertising when it feels like the world is on fire. And while I think most of us would agree that matters of life and death sit on a higher plane than business and the economy, no one can deny the gravity of the sudden slowdown affecting so many people and so many companies across so many sectors. It’s no surprise that with sales stagnating and layoffs looming, marketers will need to tighten their belts and re-think how they stay connected with customers during this incredibly challenging moment in history.

For sure, media budgets are going to be smaller than they were just 30 days ago. And when budgets are tight, smart marketers need to be efficient marketers. Simply said, when you’ve only got pennies to spend, every penny counts. Which means that media buyers must be more discerning in their media choices, particularly when it comes to driving results. While the “what” for smart marketers is probably pretty obvious, the “how” may not be as clear. 

From where we sit within the programmatic ecosystem, we think that there are three guiding principles that, when implemented during this unprecedented crisis, will deliver media buyers the greatest value for every impression. These strategies also set up marketers and agencies for the highest long-term returns when the world finds its new normal.

Guiding Principle #1: Stay in it.

This is no time to go dark. Certainly, advertisers are well-advised to rethink their messaging to better align with consumer mood and sentiment (as many brands have already done). But pulling out of the advertising ecosystem altogether simply guarantees a zero return on your media investment and increases the likelihood that your competitors will recover more quickly once this crisis ends. Brad Adgate points out this phenomenon with some compelling statistics in his September 2019 Forbes article on the subject.

When it comes to programmatic channels, staying in it is relatively easy because automation makes it less resource intensive to reach addressable audiences at scale. Further, in the last 30 days, as half the world started staying at home, digital supply has gone way up. In short, the recent out-of-balance supply and demand curve is creating a favorable cost-to-value equation for marketers who are striving to make every penny count.

Guiding Principle #2: Go for the Good Stuff.

While programmatic channels make it easy for media buyers to get scale, a spray-and-pray approach to low-cost impressions is simply a bad idea when budgets are tight. After all, you get what you pay for. Tough economic times like these will surface flaws in even the most micro-targeted campaigns that aren’t directed toward content environments with a high propensity to perform. For marketers, this is the time to demand better quality inventory and higher standards. It’s a good time to double-down to ensure your programmatic media investments reach your most important and influential audiences in environments they trust. 

Why does environment matter? Companies like ComScore, IAS and Newsworks have all published research demonstrating quantifiably better consumer response to ads appearing in trusted media environments. Statistics like 300% better mid-funnel favorability, 75% more likeability and 50% higher engagement are some of the findings that compare consumer outcomes from advertising in premium, trusted content relative to the open web.

Thus, when advertisers and their agencies need to make every penny count, it’s clearly worth it to invest the time and resources to optimize toward high-quality, premium content. And while premium may cost a bit more per impression, the markedly higher effectiveness will tip the ROI equation in your favor.

Guiding Principle #3: Stop the Waste.‍

It’s a fact that you can’t make a lasting impression if no one sees your ad. What’s troubling is that, according to Moat, 33% of display ads served never make it to the page and 43% don’t meet minimum MRC standards for viewability. Coupled with bot-fraud, which according to White Ops, accounts for 8% of desktop display and 14% of desktop video impressions, advertisers who pay for these ads are throwing away roughly 50% of their precious media budgets. Imagine the result when you can redeploy half of your budgeted impressions toward ads that actually have the potential to generate a return.

It’s a buyer’s market, and you’ve got to be in it to win it!‍

As Bob Dylan so famously said in 1964, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Indeed, the crisis through which we are all living will bring some dramatic changes to our lives and to our work. When it comes to media, digital advertisers and their agencies are going to have to be far more discerning on where they spend their thinning digital advertising budgets. With a greater focus on environment and standards, programmatic advertisers will absolutely get more from their media investments – which is particularly critical when you need to make every programmatic penny count.


David Kohl is President and CEO of TRUSTX, a purpose-driven digital advertising marketplace singularly focused on restoring trust, transparency and safety to the programmatic supply-chain. Follow David on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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