I think it comes down to having a positive mindset where possible. Even in these unusual (understatement of the century) times, we should try and head off uncertainty by looking at what we can control and think of challenges as opportunities. It’s never too late to make investments in the technology that will essentially underpin your business for the future.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that COVID-19 has sped up digital transformation at an exponential rate. A global study by cloud communications platform, Twilio, found that number to be about 5.3 years, with digital communication considered the ‘new’ lifeblood for businesses. As I work in the digital space, this isn’t news to me and probably not to anyone else. We take it for granted that all of us are embracing these new mediums and technologies when in reality, we’re still battling against a dinosaur mindset that hesitates before change.

Well, the coronavirus has bulldozed all of that. Those that once upon a time resisted upgrading their infrastructure have realized, perhaps for the first time ever, that their consumers are now mainly interacting online. That in itself shows the value in investing in audience intelligence, machine learning and AI to first identify who these people actually are and then adopting a tailored approach to how you communicate with them, on what channel and how often.

Striking the right note between empathetic and escapism is a challenge, but the first step is understanding your audience needs and genuinely connecting them with content that informs, guides or yes, entertains. There’s a lot of ‘noise’ flooding the web right now – everything from viral dance moves to webinars aplenty – which is why you need to be able to stand out and offer a fresh perspective.

It may seem impossible, but in reality it all comes down to effective targeting and how this can be leveraged while running your programmatic campaigns. Here’s 4 reasons why this is key right now…

  1. Data, Data, Data: Targeted audiences brings data into the ad buying equation – it’s that simple. Precision marketing becomes more handy, advertisers will connect with their audience at the right time, place, and environment. Identifying your target audience can be tricky and advertisers mostly fall into the trap of assumption. Here’s a good example: If a tourism board wants to target travelers globally, their assumption is to target “travelers” as a persona, but in reality, this is not the right group of people to target at the moment. User behavior online has changed drastically and their interests and needs are no longer the same. I would advise in this case that the tourism board use ‘lookalikes’ to identify their previous targeted audience’s behavior, to then create another data set. One word of warning however; it takes time and effort to build a data strategy. It doesn’t happen after just one or two campaigns, but it’s worth doing to know who you are actually speaking to.
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2. Contextual Is Key: Programmatic or automation makes it easier for advertisers to reach their users using platforms to ensure transparency and automation in the buying and selling of media. With the ongoing browser changes changing the landscape so dramatically, we’re now entering a ‘cookie-less’ era, which means publishers will have to pivot, and pivot fast. The contextual strategy gives personalized content to users, and with a blend of martech and adtech methods, advertisers can start connecting and understanding their users beyond online. This is more important than ever given that the consumer journey is no longer linear; they are not so easy to predict in their behavior or intent to purchase. Even with covid shifting a great deal online, as more people venture out into ‘normality’ there needs to be a complete understanding of both offline and online intentions in order to accurately predict and serve relevant advertising.

3. No More ‘Sweet’ Stuff: With the death of third-party cookies, there are alternative strategies to adopt in targeting relevant users:

  • Building your very own first-party data pool using contextual advertising and building content catered to your users/brands
  • Developing universal IDs for user identification on mobile
  • Preparing and creating a whitelist of premium publishers

As the digital ecosystem continues to evolve, especially with the likes of Apple and Google holding court, now is the time to really take ownership of the data you are gathering, ensure compliance, but also begin to nurture a relationship that speaks to your audience on 1-1 level. Consumers are getting wise to how valuable their data is, which is why you can no longer rely on third-party sources; now is the time to get back in the driving seat and take control.

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4. Timing Is Everything: Imagine targeting your audiences based on their interest during a specific timing of the day or night. It’s the smarter way to advertise today, ensuring hyper-relevance, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. By developing your data strategy based on how your users would react to your brand/service at a specific timing of the day using dynamic creative, you can monitor, tweak and serve advertisements that answer a need at that specific time.

Before I sign off… I’d like your input. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or topics you would like me to cover around programmatic and I’ll pick one for my next article. Thanks!

By Nader Bitar