We recently attended the Programmatic Pioneers Summit in London to find out more about changes and developments in our sector.

We’ve gathered some of our key takeaways and learnings from the event, including industry updates and discussion points on the main challenges facing brands, suppliers and agencies today.

1. Brands are breaking down borders

As companies seek opportunities in emerging markets, there is a growing need to centralise global marketing teams and align delivery.

Something we’ve seen with clients running international activity is an increased appetite to upskill teams and share information and best practice across different territories.

Here’s what a couple of brands spoke about in relation to this at the event:

A few brand examples:

Uber is centralising the main functions and operations across the countries it operates in, ensuring strategies are aligned and consistent.

Remy Merckx from Radisson Hotel Group talked about the need to compete with OTAs, and so is bringing its multiple hotel brands and platforms together to create global standards.

2. Brands still need agencies

A much-discussed topic at the event was brands in-housing paid media services.

Whilst this is certainly the case for some brands who want to own and control this function, many are looking to rely on their agencies on a more consultative basis.

Clients are looking to be closer to media operations and activation so they’re able to challenge their agencies as experts in their own sectors, and this is something we definitely welcome at Epiphany.

Agencies vs. in-house

Josep Hernandez, Head of Media at Pepsi Co talked about how they are working to upskill internal teams. They want to see what their agency does and what it takes to deliver their ads.

He was also keen to point out that Pepsi Co is not a media company; the core business is food and beverages so it still needs agencies and their expertise to deliver its media.

Uber uses a hybrid model of in-house teams and agencies for their multi-country approach as the brand needs experts with local knowledge in each global territory to deliver media effectively.

Radisson Hotel Group also favours a hybrid model. Their specialism is hospitality so this needs to be the primary focus for their hotel managers. They still need agencies to deliver a digital strategy so they can focus on their core specialism rather than build large media and delivery teams in-house.

They look for agency partnerships that are more than a purely commercial relationship and who will push innovation for the brand.

In a discussion panel, Omnicom talked about their relationship with clients and how it’s changed. They’re now working with clients much more collaboratively and in-house knowledge is improving.

Omnicom now works with clients in areas such as audience modelling, advanced bidding strategies and minimum standards for brand safety.

Publicis is working with clients based on their short and long term needs e.g. consultancy through to in-housing.

Publicis finds that clients come to agencies due to the company’s scale and knowledge across different sectors, knowledge the client might not have access to within a single business.

3. Programmatic requires continuous education

Another repeated theme carried through the workshops and panels was continued education. ‘What is a DSP?’ or ‘what does CPM/MPU/RTB/OTT stand for?’ are all completely valid questions if you live outside the paid media bubble.

We’re always looking for ways to simplify how we talk about something that may be complex in delivery but doesn’t need to be made complicated to be understood.

We actively seek feedback on this across our agency to help us tailor training and workshops to different levels of knowledge. We know how quickly our industry moves so staying up to date is key.

The complexity of delivery required for programmatic means that there is still a process of ongoing education for other teams in many companies.

One tip a representative from Pernod Ricard gave was that he runs programmatic presentations on what audience targeting is and how programmatic works, which are intended for CEOs and Financial Directors.

This helps to simplify the language used as the FD doesn’t know the detail and acronyms involved. This ensures it is simple enough and ensures the language is fit for audiences not typically exposed to the channel.

4. A growing need for cross-channel and cross-agency collaboration

One of the biggest challenges marketers face is how to make sense of all of the datasets at their disposal.

With smart speakers and other connected devices adding to this mix, how can this data be woven together to provide a more complete picture of a customer and their path to conversion?

We advise clients to use bidstream data from programmatic and other sources to create an overall picture and feed into other channels.

Another major theme of the day was agencies and brands starting to stitch different datasets together across teams to analyse the full view.

Using data available from programmatic platforms, search, Amazon and ad servers, they are able to get a better view of the customer and improve their approach accordingly. This may take a multi-agency approach.

In addition to this data, we need to start thinking about how to start including and testing future data from connected devices, audio and voice and OTT (Over The Top) TV.

5. GDPR has improved targeting

What effect has GDPR had on brands and suppliers who rely on being able to target consumers and deliver messages at scale?

You can’t go to a programmatic conference without discussing data so, as you can imagine, GDPR cropped up on many occasions.

The key takeaway from brands was, on a positive note, it helps them to readdress how they talk to customers, whilst ensuring they were talking to the most receptive.

Radisson Hotel Group talked about how they saw better responses from opted-in consumers.

GDPR helped them to focus on quality over quantity which in turn helped to focus on improving conversions. Interestingly, they have now applied GDPR globally, not just in Europe, as standard practice.

6. Audio continues to grow in importance

The growth of audio as a digital medium continues and companies are investing in their own sonic branding.

Earlier this month, Spotify brokered a deal with the Obamas to host exclusive podcasts, helped by the likes of compulsive listening from Serial, Dirty John, The Shrink Next Door and yes, even ‘The Wayne Rooney’ podcast.

TV programming is not even being originated from some of the most popular podcasts. Time spent on the Spotify app has now overtaken Google and Facebook so how do we communicate with consumers on such a personal and emotive medium?

Zuzanna Gierlinska, Head of Automation, Europe from Spotify delivered an interesting session, pointing out that there are only so many ways you can reach users when on a screen. They state that 79% of audio consumption is off screen.

Audio provides an opportunity to reach users when they are off screen and in more intimate moments. The growth of connected devices in homes is driving an increase in screenless consumption e.g. home speakers, podcasts.

This means we have a new addressable moment we didn’t have access to before. We are now able to reach consumers as they go about their morning routine, cooking, working or exercising. Spotify’s own research states that 56% of people agree that audio is an escape from visual stimulations.

With platforms such as Spotify, datasets such as streaming information can be used to personalise a user’s experience. We know what they listen to, how they listen and what their mood or mindset might be. This can be used to drive personalisation and engagement in a more intimate and emotive medium.

Zuzanna then went on to share some great examples of how audio can be used for a dynamically targeted and immersive creative experience.

Here are some of the great examples Zuzanna shared:

Snickers: Hunger Spotter “You’re not you when you’re hungry”

Snickers used Spotify streaming data to target people when they branch out from listening to their usual music genre on Spotify with different versions based on the genre they have strayed away from (Pop, Rock, Grime). The campaign also linked to branded playlists around the theme of ‘not being yourself’.

You can hear the audio here.

Gordons Gin: 3D Audio

This ad was created using a 3D effect to bring to life the surround sound of enjoying a drink (even better using headphones).

Listen to the audio.

7. Luxury markets require a different approach

The programmatic approach for a luxury brand can look very different. For example, what value do you place on published direct buys as a high-end luxury brand and how do you get the quality of your product across to discerning customers?

We find that clients have become more aware of the options available to them for brand safety and verification and are willing to get involved in a conversation on where their ads appear.

Montblanc shared some interesting stats on the split of spend by channel for luxury brands. Print still has a high share with 57% of overall spend, followed by 25% in out-of-home, 10% in digital and 8% in TV.

For their own gifting campaigns, 50% of digital investment is spent on programmatic and 20% on search. Their programmatic focuses on direct publisher deals so they can control the environment their brand is seen in.

Montblanc carried out an audit of where their video ads appear on YouTube for their Rochemont brand and they saw that a huge amount of the undisclosed content was appearing in videos related to violence, children’s content or religion.

This helped them to reassess their targeting and negative keywords lists, brand safety being of paramount importance to a luxury brand.

Get in touch

The conference was a great opportunity to find out how leading brands were approaching their programmatic strategies, if you’d like us to assess your brand’s existing campaigns or provide some consultancy, please get in touch, we’d be happy to help.