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Op-Ed: The challenges of executing programmatic on a global scale

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Alex McIlvenny of native advertising solutions provider, Ligatus, asks the question why brands only execute programmatic on a regional basis when the technology exists to go fully global in both reach and scale.

Programmatic is built to function at scale, so automated execution of a worldwide, multi-market advertising strategy has always been theoretically possible, but until recently use of the technology has predominantly been limited to regional silos.

Programmatic is growing rapidly across the globe – supported by technological sophistication and driven by a need for efficiency, precision targeting, and reach – and is already the dominant method of display trading; expected to account for 58% of worldwide spend this year. Targeting capabilities and system integrations make it easier to personalise campaigns across multiple markets – optimising for local audiences – and to coordinate multi-country activities without regional offices. In making the global marketplace more accessible, innovation is allowing programmatic to thrive.

But despite these advances global brands still set programmatic strategies for individual markets, and fail to enjoy the efficiencies a unified global programmatic strategy can bring. So, what is preventing brands from executing programmatic on a global scale and how can this be resolved?

The role of culture

Applying a multi-market strategy isn’t easy – especially in diverse regions like Europe, which consists of 50 countries – and brands must understand and meet consumer needs in each market, as well as dividing ad budgets for maximum impact. Culture is particularly important; an ad campaign seen as humorous in one region may easily be offensive in another. Language is another factor, for instance in Hong Kong consumers respond better to local language messaging in Chinese and Cantonese, while in Singapore ads are more effective in English. Finally, ad format and device preferences vary greatly by region and must be considered. In a global campaign, ad messaging must be carefully tailored to both pique individual interest and adapt to cultural context.

 The technological climate

Every market has its own distinct technological climate. The US, for instance, supports innovation and taking risks to drive development — hence the rise of Silicon Valley and the region’s technological maturity — while Europe can be more reserved and often limited by regulation.  In some countries internet use is almost universal, driving investment in digital, while in others it is limited resulting in minimal programmatic infrastructure and inventory. Equally smartphone adoption varies greatly across regions, with developing countries often skipping desktop altogether, resulting in an uneven uptake of mobile advertising.

Standards and regulations

The digital advertising industry is moving towards more robust standards, but this still varies by market. The GDPR, for example, has raised the bar for transparent data usage and privacy protection in Europe. However, as the rules apply to any company processing EU citizens’ data it will inevitably have a global impact. As multi-country programmatic campaigns become more common there will be a push for universal standards and the IAB’s new Ad Portfolio is already increasing awareness of the need to follow best practice principles and build ads that add real value to the user experience.

Native helps address the challenges of global programmatic

A recent shift towards native programmatic – driven by anxiety about brand safety – allows brands to achieve the ultimate goal of digital advertising: delivering engaging and contextually relevant ads quickly, and at scale. This trend is a big step forward in addressing the challenges of global programmatic.

By adapting seamlessly to the device it is viewed on, as well as the content alongside which it is served, native advertising delivers a relevant, localised experience regardless of region. When the New York Times introduced a suite of native ad units known as Flex Frames, which adapt to the look and feel of content across all screens, its CTRs increased six-fold, with four times more viewable impressions. Now automation is allowing native to be delivered efficiently and at scale, messaging can be consistent across multiple territories while also tailored to the individual, and the New York Times is now looking to transact Flex Frames programmatically to achieve these goals.

Native programmatic takes into account the paramount importance of building messaging around consumers; making sure ads are relevant, appropriate and aligned with their context wherever, and however, they are placed. When the San Francisco Travel Association used native programmatic to drive direct response bookings among travellers who signalled intent to visit the city, it achieved a 166% rise in hotel bookings and a 92% decrease in CPA. While this campaign only ran in the U.S, it could have been just as effective at reaching and engaging travellers across other regions. By using smart algorithms, brands can rapidly collate, analyse and action numerous consumer data sources to formulate one cohesive strategy that maximises the relevance of messages for a range of markets, instead of wasting time and resources on building separate strategies for each country or region.

Saudi Telecom (STC), the largest telecommunication services provider in the Middle East and North Africa, wanted to increase awareness of its QUICKnet brand in Saudi Arabia, appealing to local young tech-savvy consumers, as well as a diverse expat community which spoke multiple languages. By using native programmatic to target different segments with relevant messaging across desktop and mobile, STC doubled operational efficiency, and achieved a 132% increase in CTR, a 20% decrease in CPC, and a 30% increase in unique user reach.

The rise of global programmatic is enhancing the industry’s focus on ensuring messages are optimised for specific audiences — the individual, after all, must always come first. While there are still challenges to overcome, multi-market executions are improving global ad quality and consistency, and native programmatic is bringing the industry closer to uniform excellence, which can only be positive for brands and consumers.

Alex McIlvenny, UK Country Manager, Ligatus


About Ligatus

Ligatus is the leading Native Advertising Solutions provider for Publishers and Advertisers. Ligatus’ key mission is to enrich online advertising by developing and providing native advertising solutions that create positive advertising experiences. Publishers are offered a powerful native SSP (Supply Side Platform) and expert consulting services, based on more than ten years of experience in this field. This results in generating the best revenues coming from high-quality brands. Advertisers reach, engage and convert their target audience with the help of sophisticated algorithms integrated into the Ligatus proprietary DSP (Demand Side Platform) or through their preferred native DSP connected to Ligatus.

Ligatus has more than 180 employees in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK. The company is headquartered in Cologne, Germany, and is a 100 percent subsidiary of Gruner + Jahr , which is fully owned by Bertelsmann.

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