If you’ve been anywhere near a Facebook feed this fall, you likely saw at least a few photos of kids heading off to their first day of school.
And with each picture comes the predictable comments: “I can’t believe how big they are! Please slow down time,” or, “They’re growing up so fast.” It should not be a surprise that kids grow up, yet somehow these social-sharing parents are not prepared.
As marketers, it should be no surprise that programmatic branding is growing up as well: Often the forgotten stepchild to direct response campaigns, it is now earning more and more share of programmatic budgets, which themselves continue to grow to a larger share of total media budgets.
Especially impactful are new audience sculpting methods based on mutual affinities and act-alike modeling that are transforming programmatic branding into predictive branding.
Branding goes programmatic
This shift has major implications on brand marketers’ media mix. Historically, mass media advertising such as TV has been home to branding and awareness campaigns, while digital – and specifically programmatic – has been the domain of direct response.
This makes logical sense. TV delivers large audiences (though with limited targeting capabilities), perfect for top of the funnel messages and for driving brand recall. Programmatic advertising aligns easily with the bottom of the funnel, especially for brands with online purchase channels. Measuring the value of a brand impression is hard, but determining the ROI on a conversion is math that fifth graders can handle (I still can’t believe how fast they’re growing up – calculating ROI!).
As dollars shift to programmatic, marketers will need to reassess how they execute their branding initiatives in the new-world media mix. Fortunately, programmatic is maturing and is no longer just about direct response: it can now be used to increase brand awareness, preference and recall.
Obviously this means a change in the messages and creative used, but just as critical is a change in how audiences are developed.
Audience sculpting using mutual affinity
The early days of programmatic branding audience development looked a lot like traditional advertising audience development. In order to get the scale needed – often tens of millions of people – marketers were forced to take what they could get.
This could mean spray-and-pray with no targeting, or broad swaths of demographics (such as males and females 18 – 54 years old). These methods additionally lend themselves to false impression counts due to a lack of contextual data. What has been missing is an audience sculpting method that provides large reach and also appropriate relevance.
 I perhaps posted one such photo of my kids, and one of those quotes may have come directly from my mother.
 eMarketer predicts that digital ad spending will surpass TV ad spending in the US in 2017.
 The most critical marketing metric, as detailed in How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp (who appears to love footnotes as much as I do).