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The nuances of 4 media buying strategies

The nuances of 4 media buying strategies Douglas Melchior

To hear some tell it, if it's quality you want from your digital inventory, you need to open your wallet wide and buy it directly from a publisher. Others say that direct buys are going the way of rotary phones -- savvy marketers should stick to programmatic buying, period.

Fortunately, digital media acquisition isn't so black and white anymore. In fact, it's highly nuanced, and the real savvy marketers let their campaign goals drive their buying strategy. Below are four techniques for purchasing inventory, all of which deliver specific advertiser goals.

Direct buys

Direct buys still gobble up some 80 percent of the digital ad spend in the U.S. -- and that's a problem. Marketers today rely too much on the direct buy when there are better options for some of that money.

To be sure, direct buys are still an important part of the marketer's arsenal, but they shouldn't be your main tool. Direct buys are useful if your goal is to raise widespread awareness for a product or brand and your message will be the same for all readers (e.g., "Our toothpaste will reduce cavities and brighten your smile"), or if there's significant overlap between a site's readership and your target audience -- say an outdoors news site and an ad for camping gear.

But what happens if -- for optimal results -- your message needs to change based on the user who sees it? Given the advances in harnessing big data and programmatic technology, there's no need for spray and pray direct buys anymore. Consider direct buys with decisioning.

Direct buys with decisioning

The direct buys with the decisioning model is ideally suited for both brand and performance-based campaigns where customized messaging will deliver the best results. It goes way beyond the traditional weighted rotation of ad creative and actually considers aspects of the user when determining which ad to show. There are two techniques that drive decisioning, programmatic premium, and dynamic creative -- which can be used separately or in tandem.

Programmatic premium uses first, second, and third-party data, along with predictive algorithms to infer behaviors and preferences of consumers. Dynamic creative customizes ads based on variables captured by the buying platform, such as consumer location.

Let's say you're an auto manufacturer and you want to show mini-van ads to moms and compact model ads to urban residents. Using the programmatic premium approach, you can purchase demographic datasets from Nielsen or BlueKai, and overlay it with eXelate auto-intender data, so that you differentiate between women with children and young urban professionals.

With the dynamic create route, you apply what you know about your customers -- consumers in these DMAs tend to have young kids -- to variables captured on the publisher's sites, such as IP addresses. Visitors with IP addresses in family DMAs see the mini-van ad, while those in cities see the compact model ad.

Nirvana is using programmatic premium to identify a mom in market for a new car, and then applying the dynamic creative technique to display a mini-van ad that includes the nearest dealer's address.

Sounds perfect, right? But what happens if your brand or product doesn't have stores in every DMA. In such cases, you want to limit your targeting to consumers who are close enough to a store to actually visit. In other words, you want to buy inventory via a private exchange.

Douglas Melchior manages big data and predictive analytics products at DataXu, focusing on real-time decisioning and algorithmic optimization technologies. Before DataXu, he co-founded and sold Vaiad, a sell-side ad platform. Douglas is a graduate...

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