Consumers are always on, reacting in real time to events, conversations and cultural phenomenon as they traverse like liquid across devices. No longer creatures of habit, the means by which we ingest media is ever-changing; our approach is proactive and purposeful and couldn’t be more alien to the lean-back era of yesteryear.
Brands perched on the cusp of innovation that have mastered the art of conversation and subtext, and are equipped with the systems, agility and human capital needed to listen and respond with of-the-moment relevance: these are brands that have embraced real time marketing.
Their executions may appear effortless, but achieving that organic, authentic resonance in a way that maps seamlessly into the overarching brand story requires nothing short of a symphony of data, process and people working harmoniously and in step with the buzz of digital culture.
Dynamic and conversational by nature, social channels have proven to be a natural starting place and sandbox for real time marketing. Oreo’s Superbowl blackout tweet – an acclaimed move that scored strong results – is a vivid example of real time marketing at work. In a similarly event-centric approach, Pantene took real time to the Oscars with tweets that included sketches drawn on-the-fly of celebs sporting their Oscars hair-dos alongside tips on how to recreate the look.
The behind the scenes effort needed to make these feats of real time relevance possible were no doubt substantial. Both brands cited “war room” setups that brought together decision makers, brand strategists, creative resources and more so that when opportunity struck, the call could be made and acted on.
With results so staggering, one has to wonder why we don’t see more of this. How can a brand scale this approach beyond one-offs and embrace it as part of the bigger picture strategy?
A recent report from eMarketer suggests that to fully realize the value of real-time marketing, brands also need to move more quickly with paid advertising. In the same way that social seeding can help a brand optimize the momentum of an original piece of content, the application of real time advertising as a component of the overall real time marketing mix can help reinforce the social dialogue.
Real time bidding and other forms of programmatic procurement are making the process of placing ads across the digital spectrum more efficient. Through the remassification of media and data together with process automation, programmatic provides a means to reach highly specific audiences at scale on a whim, wherever they happen to be, with messaging that is uniquely tuned to their real time interests and preferences.
This spells opportunity to guide paid advertising on these channels down a more fluid and responsive path where structured campaigns are dynamically amplified with surgical placements that can act on the broader spectrum of a brand’s agile marketing efforts. But real time advertising is about more than just the procurement of media. True real time advertising requires an equally programmatic approach to creative.
To actualize this shift a brand must achieve balance between the longer term “big idea” and a more continuous approach to creative; one that has no clear beginning or finite ending. It’s evolutionary, it’s progressive and it’s entirely more challenging to pull off.
Real time advertising requires real time, data-driven creative platforms that can keep up with the velocity of digital culture. Data has unveiled a world of possibility to better personalize creative for different user groups and moments in time. The challenge is operationalizing creative processes to keep up with the flood.
Simple creative tuning to the user based on variables like time of day, recent shows of product interest or location-specific attributes can be accomplished with relative ease using structured mechanisms that dynamically swap out fixed elements within the ad – think pricing, promotions or imagery, e.g. QSR daily deals featuring breakfast vs. dinner menu items.
Looking beyond these basics, programmatic display can also be a channel for the distribution of brand journalism where personalized content is streamed directly into the ad (news information/reactions, helpful tips, a targeted recipe, curated tweets). There are endless possibilities, but as much as programmatic can automate process, human intellect and intuition are fundamental to making it all work.
What makes sense on a social news stream such as Twitter may not make sense on a display ad. And this will vary by audience as much as by brand. We will forever be dependent on humans for the nuanced understanding of culture that moves people to connect with a brand’s story and its products in meaningful ways.
We may be able to apply machine driven processes to make “creative” more relevant to the end use, but this is not a substitute for creativity. Customizing creative at a more fundamental and in-touch level is what elevates brands to a truly authentic status. Humans will always be needed to write, design for, tell and architect the story that brings a brand to life.
Programmatic represents a paradigm shift in how brands will approach advertising; not just through conventionally labelled “digital” channels, but eventually extending into the broader media universe.
As programmatic can offload some work from humans to machines thereby freeing up human capital – there is an opportunity for more investment into creativity.
Marketing organizations will need to think long and hard about how to embrace agility and adapt their structures to thrive in a high velocity world. We are on the cusp of true programmatically informed cross-channel advertising where every action informs the next. As technology evolves to bring more traditional media channels online – making them real time biddable or at least programmatically accessible, truly unified marketing is becoming possible.
From advertiser to retailer to tech provider to data company and beyond, robust full circle relationships and the systems to support them will help to pave the way.
Thankfully, dynamic channels like social and programmatic display afford the opportunity to test, learn and iterate in real time. Experimentation is cheap and the knowledge that results can provide great value.