Content trends are clearly noted during INMA’s World Congress and tailored content is key.
Content trends are clearly noted during INMA’s World Congress and tailored content is key.

It’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It was a headline item at this year’s INMA World Congress in New York. We publishers know display advertising – online or otherwise – and yet, during the programmatic seminar at #INMAWC15, publishers were leaving the room early. And everyone saw it!

Are publishers on the verge of something that finally enables them to gain some control over their display advertising future? We may even have been doing it already for the past few hundred years.

Everyone should be aware of the trends by now: 45% of all online display inventory was delivered programmatically in the United Kingdom in 2014, up from 28% in 2013. This could reach 75% by 2017.

There’s a similar picture in the United States, with US$10 billion spent in 2014, which is expected to double by 2016.

I went to my first conference on programmatic display advertising three-and-a-half years ago. And while I could see the benefit to national brands and large agencies, the opportunity to use it for smaller and particularly local advertisers seemed harder to grasp.

Things have moved quickly since then; many larger publishers are already executing audience extension programmes and starting to really think about data, yet progress has been slow.

Archant is primarily a regional publisher, of both newspapers and lifestyle magazines, but we also publish special interest magazines and broadcast a television channel. Our core advertiser is an SME with a small budget looking to reach a small pot of relevant people, mainly hinged around a tight geographical area and interests.

Reaching the right audience for our customers needs a new tactic. The ideal audience doesn’t necessarily come directly to us anymore. Even if it did, we wouldn’t know it, which means we need to deploy other facets to enable our customers’ campaigns to reach the right people.

What we need is the right data. It is an over-used term, but don’t dismiss it because it seems obvious and dull. For publishers, data can deliver a great punch, and it will take you only minutes to realise it.

Publishers — in particular, regional print publishers — have a unique opportunity that has been afforded to them by an enviable infrastructure. We have both sales and editorial people on the ground and plugged in to local communities, which has given us the permission and trust to build content that readers want.

Where we can really make a difference is by creating a proposition where the content, users, and advertising exist in a harmonious environment – how novel. We are able, at short notice, to create and publish content that attracts only the users that our advertisers require. Content is the shepherd of data.

Collect this data through a data management platform (DMP) to create manageable and targetable groups, and link up to a demand side platform (DSP). Presto! You become a reseller of other people’s inventory, placing your advertiser in front of the right people, wherever they may be.

But, whoa, slow down there! “You want us to sell other peoples media when we can’t even sell all of our own?” you ask. A fair question.

The whole point of programmatic is that an advertiser is able to execute a campaign using technology alone. When it becomes more widely available as a self-service product, it won’t be long before our own customers start running their own campaigns.

It may seem farfetched now, but they’re doing just fine with Google and Facebook today. Can we really afford for them to access the inventory of premium publishers directly at the current yields?

Fortunately, working with a publisher will enhance his campaign significantly. How many other organisations can genuinely herd the right readers, especially locally? Combine this with the advertiser’s own first-party data and enhancements in geo-targeting capability, and you have a powerful proposition and real partnership.

What you’ve managed to offer your customers is an audience 10 times larger and more targeted than before, probably at a better price. This enhances the chances of customer retention, which is difficult to achieve through online display advertising on a single site.

I just executed a local campaign hoping to deliver at least one million ad impressions across all devices to specific geograpical locations. In local media, we don’t really talk in millions when it comes to ad delivery. The campaign delivered 2.7 million and my SME customer could afford it. This, then, opens the door to viewability issues and fraud, which is a whole other story.

The reality is that traditional media companies are trusted and rightly so. But we need to remember that there is plenty of competition out there prying for our customers’ attention.

Executing programmatic display advertising for customers is safer with local publishers and, when deploying publisher data, more powerful. I would argue that, in this context, it is even more powerful than we give it credit for.

Programmatic is precision. If your digital content strategy isn’t directly targeting the right reader for the right advertiser, you might want to take another look. It’s so obvious.