Investment in programmatic ad buying in the US may be nearing its peak, but spending continues to rise. By 2019, programmatic ad outlays will reach $45.94 billion, accounting for 84% of all US digital display ad dollars. It seems to be all the rage, but is it right for you and EDU?
What exactly is programmatic advertising and why is it attractive for EDU?
Simply put, colleges and universities use a demand side platform (DSP) to decide which impressions to buy and how much you want to pay for them, while publishers use a supply side platform (SSP) to sell ad space to brands. These two platforms are then matched up in real time. Using first and third party data, you can reach the right audience in real time, in the right context with the right message. You choose the price point that is right for your budget and goals.
Why is it attractive for advertisers?
Programmatic has been evolving at an exciting rate to include not only display, but modern versions of more traditional media like digital radio. Utilizing streaming mobile applications will give you the ability to pinpoint your ideal audience and serve them school-specific information while they’re engaged with their device. And more dynamic uses promise to be on the horizon like out-of home, voice, TV, native and video ads.
Brand awareness has always been a key factor when students choose a school, and programmatic display offers a level of reach and impact unlike any other medium. In a competitive market, it’s even more important for universities and colleges to have a larger footprint than they did in the past. Programmatic display offers a centralized and efficient way to do that.
It seems like a good time for traditional EDU buyers to get on board. Early adoption and budget commitment of programmatic has been slower for EDU, so there are opportunities to position yourself ahead of the competition.
So why is it so scary?
Perhaps EDU’s lag in early adoption is well warranted. We all know that your brand is extremely sensitive, and while programmatic has been a buzzword, it’s also be perceived as a bit of a buzzkill.
Google is currently policing itself after a series of questionable placements on their programmatic network. This has prompted media buying giants like Proctor and Gamble to question the integrity media buying supply chain. Issues like paying for space you’re not getting, “spoofing”, misleading publishers masking their url as more reputable websites and placements on websites with questionable content have buyers worried.
If you represent your college brand, it’s crucial to not only protect your yield, but also the reputation of your school. Here are three best practices to mitigate risk and yield great results.
1. Find the right situation for you.
You have options when it comes to buying programmatic. Find partners and publisher networks that place a premium on fraud protection and inventory quality.
Ryan Burch of Cybba notes, “the types of media you can access programmatically are getting more complex, at the same time that the media buying tools are getting easier to use”.
Reputable publisher networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and Twitter are applying a huge amount of effort towards quality control. Using an experienced partner, familiar with the nuances and new opportunities will help you safely navigate the programmatic ad market place.
2. Own your audience.
Use audience segmentation based on personas, and type of engagement, to create more custom messaging. The ability to identify your ideal audience is key. Focus on building personas around students at the top of your enrollment funnel. Create messaging that can be applied to prospects in that phase of consideration. When it comes to choosing publishers, look for those that don’t guess, but know your audience.
Larry Mlawski, Manager of Programmatic Channel at LinkedIn, understands that his platform, while not cheap, gives you the benefit with of robust personal data targeting.
“With LinkedIn you know you’re hitting the right audience and the benefit is that you can use one platform to target prospective students through their consideration lifecycle. For example, you can track and engage them offsite on websites like ESPN, then serve them ads on LinkedIn based on their self-reported education data.”
3. Understand your results.
Look at your current display ad efforts, along with industry benchmarks, to set KPIs to match and exceed. While the key metric with any display campaign is CTR, you want to be sure that traffic is legitimate. A good way to measure any campaign is matriculation vs. results to ensure that your programmatic campaign is yielding leads. It’s also important to monitor increases in site visitors and mentions on social media as a part of ROI to match the amount of effort and spend through programmatic.
Have other questions about the right-fit digital advertising solutions for colleges and universities? Contact me directly or tweet us @convergeorg. We’d love to continue the discussion and hear your thoughts on programmatic advertising in EDU.