online conversion funnel: awareness stage

Comparing Programmatic-RTB Platforms

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Impossible to explain in a short period of time. Over-hyped. The next big thing. Today’s big thing. Yesterday’s big thing. Tomorrow’s big thing?

So many bloggers and advertisers are taking about programmatic advertising that it hurts me a little bit on the inside to be sitting here, writing about programmatic advertising; but one thing often gets skipped over in these articles. With so many different companies purporting to have the best Programmatic platform, how could you possibly choose one? The answer is surprisingly simple.

What is programmatic?

What an excellent, and handsome question for you to ask. Programmatic is a pretty broad term, and it covers buying digital advertising space without humans getting too involved in the process. There are no sales people you call up to advertise, so forget about your social anxieties regarding salespeople. Advertising is for sale on publishers sites, through a large number of networks, and you can perform Direct Buys or RTB (Real-Time Bidding) to make this happen. We’ll be talking primarily about trying to make RTB buys, where instead of buying space directly for a set price the goal is to buy opportunities in what could best be described as an auction.

What kind of goals mesh well with RTB?

As with most display and video advertising, the goal here is brand awareness. Eyeballs seeing ads, and intriguing those eyeballs. If you’re a startup, or an established business that hasn’t done much advertising beyond your immediate location you may need to focus on awareness. It doesn’t get much better than RTB to accomplish this, most ad platforms have excellent targeting methods that let you get incredibly specific with your audience, and the location you are advertising to. Even if your end goal is to generate leads or conversions, this is an excellent place to start. Follow up your Programmatic-RTB campaign with a search campaign to pull in the people who viewed your ads and want more info.

Who are the bigger platforms, and what do they do?

The plethora of ad platforms available to choose from makes this no simple task, if you’re evaluating your options when it comes to programmatic platforms you are in for what will basically amount to a series of first dates. You’ll contact them, request more info or a demo, and a sales person will get back to you within a few days. Then the fun begins!

Simpli.fi

Simpli.fi emphasizes their ability to get really granular with locations and targeting. Ads can be seen nationally, in your state, metro area, or even down to certain city blocks. Is that good enough for you? If you’re a mom & pop shop that has some cash and wants more cash, or you have multiple locations you want to advertise around this could be a great tool for you. The minimum commitment they require is $10,000/month in ad spend, hence the need for some cash. They do an excellent job explaining their business, and emphasize that they own all the data they use to target (As opposed to buying it from another company, as they say some others do), with other platforms you get a “…loss of segment transparency. Data is distant and murky.”

For example, another ad platform may use the term “Fashionista” to describe a target audience, where Simpli.fi says they would identify people who enter the searches “Buy Michael Kors” or “Michael Kors” and determine which is a better lead for you.

In terms of pricing, the $10,000 you are spending incorporates ad spend (usually around $2-$3 CPM, and platform/targeting fees.

The coolest feature they explained to me was search retargeting, advertising to people who viewed your ad but didn’t even click it. I like to imagine the salesperson dropped a mic after explaining this to me. Simpli.fi also gives you the option to manage this yourself, have their team do it, or a hybrid of the two.

Seriously, if you’re not simultaneously blown away and creeped out by search retargeting, I don’t understand you.

Choozle

Low entry period for this platform, pay $99/month or $199/month if you want all of their additional insights (some pretty cool data about your website visitors). From here start making your campaigns and begin RTB’ing yourself into advertising glory. (RTB’ing yourself is a registered trademark of Snap, we claim it)

More than any of the other platforms, Choozle is intuitive and simple to grasp if you’ve been running digital advertising campaigns before through AdWords or Bing/Yahoo Ads. It’s built in a way that you should be able to grasp quickly, and if not they are happy to teach you how to become an expert. Their methods for building an audience are likely less in-depth than Simpli.fi, but they can target users based on demographic, psychographics, purchase behaviors, and B2B information which is powered by many industry-leading 3rd party data partners.

To me, Choozle’s best feature (besides the entry point) is the purchase behavior information they can provide you regarding your target audience. Understand how the people you want to advertise to interact with advertising and make buying decisions is crucial. If you need to start RTB’ing yourself, with a low budget, Choozle is a great option to get started.

Chango

This platform is intense. Similar to Simpli.fi the requirement for spending is $10,000/month, but only for the first 2 months; at this point ad spend is evaluated and may drop or increase based on results. Chango finds users who are looking at content important to your business, and shows them ads first after a relevant web session. Selling jeans at your store? Chango will find someone who looks at an article on vintage jeans or visits the jean section of Old Navy’s website and show them an ad; talk about targeting. My discussion with the Chango employee, who really felt like more of a technical expert than a sales person, regarding this process was enlightening.

Chango caps their CPM, around $3, and they say costs will tend to fall as much as $1 below the cap once they optimize a campaign. The key here being “they”. Chango is sophisticated, and complicated, you just wouldn’t understand. They have campaign managers that will supervise your buying and ad serving, you’ll have full access to data and a cool dashboard. This is a great way to outsource the process of doing programmatic advertising, but if you’re a particularly hands on person you’ll be frustrated. I felt like I was meeting the Wizard of Oz for the first time, before being told not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

They know what they’re doing, have a proven process, and will most likely manage your account better than you could. So I understand the managed aspect of it. If the method and the pricing fit with your needs, you may have just found a great platform to advertise through.

How does it all end?

There are countless other platforms. This is not an exhaustive list, however it is technically a list, isn’t it? Sitescout, AdGear, and Orbitsoft were also looked at; all of these have promise and could make a great RTB platform for you but the information and experience we got from the other platforms during the introduction process led to Chango, Simpli.fi, and Choozle being the main competitors. Ultimately, you should recreate our experiment and contact all of these companies to see who best fits what your needs are and who you like working with the most. The different platforms can be frighteningly similar, making the decision seem impossible, but often there is at least one distinguishing factor; use the small things to make your choice.

I’m not going to tell you the result of our exploration, that would be like revealing how a magic trick is done. There are several platforms we didn’t cover, for various reasons, but our top 3 kept us intrigued the longest and stood out. They will all work towards the same goal, generating more impressions (and more relevant impressions) than you have typically gotten from a display campaign, and they also push advertising to more networks than Google’s Display Network. If any of these platforms sounds like a fit for your needs, contact them; or do what we did and try them all. It’s fun!
Have questions about Programmatic-RTB advertising? Let’s talk.


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