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An Evolution of Digital Media: The Opportunity of Programmatic Buying

Programmatic media represents a significant leap forward in the digital media space. This leap forward has been both resisted and embraced as it has moved its way to the forefront, but it has become more and more an accepted part of the media mix. During this time, one thing has occurred more frequently than it perhaps should, that is that old ways of thinking and old assumptions have been applied to a way of doing things that should be creating greater change. Whether this has occurred out of fear, laziness, lack of understanding, or simply out of ease, it is a disservice to the benefits programmatic offers.

From the beginning of digital media the early limitations and the lack of true understanding fostered a way of measuring and reporting and ultimately running digital media that focused primarily on the media delivery numbers only. As sales people got their hands on it a sort of race to the bottom ensued as the easiest way to close a deal was to offer the best deal based on price. This continued on over time and people got used to making buying decisions about media primarily on price and volume and the idea that media is a means to an end to achieving a business outcome, not the core objective, got a little lost.

Along came programmatic media with its access to better technology, faster processes, and a host of fancy bells and whistles around targeting and delivery. It had, and has, so much potential in what it can do. However, like any business, programmatic media had to be incubated and adopted and funded, which meant it had to make money. Out of this was born a relationship between the technology with all it offered and old media thinking that focused on how to make money, which typically meant high volume, which typically required low prices to obtain. So this old way of thinking moved its way to the forefront and the technology that programmatic was based on was utilized not necessarily to improve the results of the media it was running, but more to improve the efficiency of the media being run which therefore allowed for higher volume, easier new business wins, and ultimately more profit for the media delivery companies.

Now apply this old way of thinking, this focus on media for the sake of media, and this race to the bottom on pricing and combine it with sales people who take advantage of the lack of understanding by “selling” the sizzle, comprised of a lot of bells and whistles and cutting edge concepts and features, that ultimately make up very small portions of a total campaign, and you have a lot of campaigns that are missing out on the true advancement and the true value that programmatic can offer. You have a lot of campaigns that feel good because they are being run with this great new technology but aren’t in fact delivering on that promise of driving better results. It all ends up just being bigger numbers on a spreadsheet and the same flat business impact. It’s easier but not necessarily better.

Digital Addix was born out of the frustration over the options available in the marketplace and the recognition that programmatic could do a lot more than just make media buying easier and more efficient, and cheaper, if it was put to use the right way and if a new way of thinking was applied to it. If media was no longer the goal but rather the means to the end and programmatic buying was a way to buy better instead of just cheaper, it could use all the great new technology and features to help run better, more effective, and ultimately higher performing campaigns, even if dollar for dollar they weren’t cheaper. Maybe they wouldn’t deliver the high numbers and low prices, but the media it did deliver would actually work to achieve the goals of spending the money in the first place. Spending $100,000 wouldn’t mean getting X impressions, X clicks, and X click through rate, but instead it would mean getting X number of new leads, X new customers, and ultimately return X number of dollars. Buying media would mean buying the best media instead of the cheapest, and this methodology is what is being challenged quite literally. Every decision that was made during the campaign would be made towards delivering better performance instead of bigger numbers. It might not actually matter in the economic performance of a campaign if a CPM is $20+ if that inventory is actually putting my product in front of people who are buying and they are actually buying or fulfilling some other business goal. Would I really rather spend my money on $2 inventory to have 10X as many people see my product if all those people don’t end up converting against a goal? Media is a commodity like any other and like all commodities it follows the “you get what you pay for” model, usually if inventory is sourced and strategically selected, there is a reason it costs more, because it’s worth it. Programmatic companies aren’t giving their clients a “deal” by selling them cheaper inventory because programmatic companies aren’t selling their clients anything, they do not own the inventory they simply “access” it, so when they sell their clients on cheaper inventory they are simply accessing cheaper stuff on their behalf and that cheaper stuff almost always hides behind big numbers of media delivery like impressions, clicks, and click through rate while failing to deliver the important metrics of business results. That great deal becomes a wasted opportunity pretty quickly.

The core methodology in which Digital Addix is founded upon made more sense and represented a better way of investing a client’s budget to provide the greatest return on ad spend as possible. However, this also required challenging the status quo and shining a light on the fact that digital media as it has been done for a long time, has been run in a flawed way, a hard sell for experienced people in the industry. We had to sell the story and logic that media is no different than anything else and that it could be bought smarter by using experience and strategy to find the better way, not unlike some stock brokers being able to pick better stocks and find better ways to make more money while using the same tools and skills that all other stock brokers have.

This also meant not doing things the easy way. In order to fulfill on our approach and methodology we couldn’t simply pump our campaigns into the technology machine and let it do its thing. We had to develop a keen understanding and a dedicated process of applied human capital and intelligence to understand the nuances of what makes a campaign work, how different media influences the behavioral patterns of customers and how those influences extend beyond algorithms and numbers. We put human power in the driver’s seat and use the technology as a tool to achieve our client’s real business goals. This meant that we couldn’t onboard the same volume and we couldn’t take any and all business, we were going to have to be selective about the clients that fit the model and could truly see past the pricing and the added complications to see the value at the end. We were going to have to be better at selling our logical approach we had developed based on understanding digital media as a whole, something that is far more difficult to sell than “we will give you bigger numbers and we will give you a better price”. This was not going to be the easy route but in our opinion it was going to be the right route and it was going to develop a company that we would have wanted to buy from had we had the chance. A company that we would have wanted spending our money if we were a potential client trying to figure out how to spend our marketing budget for the best return for our business. This was going to be a company that was truly tapping into the power that programmatic was offering and putting its advantages to good use instead of shoehorning it into the way things have always been done.

That’s what Digital Addix is, a company that ultimately can be a higher functioning resource for clients and agencies who are looking to take advantage of programmatic media benefits, but provide a managed service in a better performing way against a goal rather than media delivery metrics. Digital Addix will not be the right fit for every client and every client will not be the right fit for Digital Addix, but when the two organizations do line up and the right client does commit to undertaking a different journey with Digital Addix, the results have proven to be exactly what we set out to make them, better and always improving, as measured by what really matters, business results and not media delivery.

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