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Here’s what you need to know about putting RTB to work in an integrated digital strategy

Real-time bidding (RTB), a type of programmatic buying, is rapidly gaining currency in South Africa’s digital media landscape. A growing number of brands are using it to improve customer engagement, enhance media buying efficiency, and achieve better performance from their digital campaigns.

RTB is essentially an automated, real-time auction for the buying and selling of ad impressions. It is playing an invaluable role for many of our clients in optimising their purchasing funnels from awareness to conversion.

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Reasons that our clients are becoming interested in RTB include their desire to make their digital ad budgets work harder as well as their focus on data-driven digital engagement. They also like the idea of centralising media purchases across multiple channels to improve media efficiencies. But how does it fit into a broader marketing strategy? Our DoubleClick data from various client engagements paints a fascinating picture.

Cross-channel conversions

One of the key behaviours that we’ve seen in our tracking of RTB campaigns is that 36% of our impressions come from mobile devices.

Smartphones account for 20% of RTB impressions being consumed, even in campaigns where we have not done anything special to target mobile devices.

This underlines how important mobile devices are becoming in South Africa’s digital advertising landscape. Any good RTB strategy needs to cater both for cross-channel users who move between desktops, tablets and phones as well as consumers who only access the Web via a mobile device.

For the purposes of most of these campaigns, however, we were most interested in understanding how RTB supported and was influenced by other channels such as paid and natural search. We wanted to understand how these channels could create efficiencies when used together in an integrated strategy.

Looking at the whole picture

Good news is that 30% of RTB conversions come from just one exposure, showing that the right buy can pay off for a brand. Furthermore, RTB influenced paid search conversions by 50% and natural search conversions by 40%. Of the channels we looked at, it had the highest level of impact on assisted conversions.

Yet, at the same time, our metrics show that 70% of RTB conversions need help, which is broadly in line with what we have seen in traditional display campaigns. This shows that it’s important to take a cross-channel look at the customer journey and optimise appropriately. Decisions about allocating spend to paid search or about the search engine optimisation strategy cannot be made independently of the RTB campaign strategy.

When you start looking at the whole picture, some interesting tactical and strategic opportunities present themselves. For example, you could use the creative in your RTB ads to influence customers towards lower-cost PPC keywords.

Another possibility is to use retargeting tactics and target users with RTB display ads based on their previous behaviour.

The importance of a scalable platform

Today’s customer journey is complex, spanning many different channels, marketing touch points and consumer devices. To succeed in this environment, marketers need to understand how each channel impacts on the customer journey and attribute credit for conversions to different channels with a high level of confidence.

This means that marketers need to invest in creating a single tracking platform that provides a single view of as many of their digital channels as possible, or work with an agency who can offer them access to this technology. We think it is ideal to work with a partner that has a robust tracking platform in place, and has extended this to the RTB environment.

A good programmatic buying partner should be able to help a brand layer behavioural, contextual and audience data within the same platform so that it can better understand its targeted customers. It should also be able to combine this with best practice tracking across other digital channels and touchpoints for a more complete view of customer engagement.

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