Online advertising has been a core ad offering in most association for years, but the landscape of digital advertising is ever-changing. Most recently, the adoption of programmatic advertising strategies by B2B marketers is challenging associations to update their ad offerings to use this latest tool. While there are tremendous opportunities for associations who embrace programmatic advertising solutions, the complexity of the programmatic ecosystem can pose a challenge.
Association Adviser spoke with Laura Taylor, vice president of digital operations and development at Naylor Association Solutions, to help demystify programmatic advertising and share how associations can start using programmatic today.
Q: First, let’s talk about the basics. What is programmatic advertising?
A: Programmatic advertising is the use of technology and automation in the buying and selling of online media. Taking it just a step further, it also utilizes data that’s collected from site visitors, allowing ads to be sold by each individual impression in a more targeted way. This is separate from the traditional broad stroke approach of placing ads to be seen by all visitors on websites you know your target audience frequents.
For associations, as publishers of digital content, there are two types of online inventory to sell programmatically. The first type involves ads placed on your various digital properties. This could be websites, event sites, job boards, et cetera. The second type involves retargeting. This is targeting visitors after they leave those sites.
Q: How does programmatic work differently from the traditional ad buying process?
A: One of the major differences between traditional ad buying and programmatic is the use of automation and what’s called real-time bidding.
The real-time bidding sales environment allows ad space to be sold by each individual impression through a live auction. This live auction is a complex process, but it all happens within a fraction of a second as the webpage is loading. Let’s take a very simplified example; a user visits your website. As a page is loading, data about that user is passed through the ad exchange system, and their impression is put up for auction. All available and interested parties that want that impression for auction will submit a bid. The auction then takes place, and the system determines a winner. From there, the winning ad is then loaded onto the user’s page.
There’s much more to programmatic than just real-time bidding, but this automation in the buying and selling of online media is the foundation on which programmatic advertising was built.
Q: You also mentioned retargeting earlier in your definition of programmatic; can you explain what that is?
A: Sure, retargeting is one of the most commonly known and relatable forms of programmatic advertising. You’ve likely experienced it when you’re shopping or researching online a particular product or service. Once you conclude your searches or shopping and begin surfing the web on unrelated sites you begin to see ads for that same product or service. While most people can remember experiencing this as a consumer, this is a valuable targeting tactic for B2B marketers as well.
Associations can extend their audience through this tactic for both their own marketing efforts and to generate more non-dues revenue. Simply by placing a pixel on your website that will attach a cookie to your website visitors IP address, you can track that user’s behavior as they surf the web. Based on the data collected, personas can be built to create highly specified ad campaigns, enabling your association to serve ads to those people around the web. This approach allows advertisers to really focus their marketing dollars on getting in front of the right audience and at the right time.
Q: In today’s climate, there are a lot of questions floating around about online privacy. Does this pixel and cookie placement put members’ personal information at risk?
A: That’s a great question and a big concern for organizations who are working to keep their members’ information private. And the answer is no. Programmatic advertising has certainly evolved over time in this area, and there have been guidelines put in place to protect the end user. It’s important to know that no personally identifiable information, or what’s called PII, is used. Meaning, no data that could potentially identify a specific individual is utilized in programmatic advertising. No members’ information should be at risk of being shared or collected if you’re working with a trusted vendor.
The data from the pixel or cookie is anonymous and attached to the user’s IP address, focusing on user behaviors such as site visits, articles read, keyword searches or geographical location. Any other information that’s collected by the vendors would be only if the user had elected to make that data public via other sites.
Q: Great! So, let’s talk more about the benefits of programmatic. How does this help associations?
A: Adopting programmatic advertising has a number of benefits for associations. First, it allows you to bring added value to your advertisers, providing them new tools to market to your members and measure their ROI so they can continue to bring those advertising dollars to you and opening up an additional revenue stream for your association.
Second, it’s going to help you increase member engagement. This is achieved through connecting suppliers and customers more effectively by posting ads that are more relevant to their needs, and by utilizing programmatic tools in your own marketing initiatives to promote engagement through events and other member resources.
And third, it’s going to help maximize your non-dues revenue by ensuring that there are no wasted impressions. It can extend your reach and potential, even tap into B2C advertising, through selling retargeting ads to reach users once they leave your site.
Q: How can an association start utilizing and offering programmatic advertising?
A: Getting started on your own can be daunting from an operations standpoint. It requires a lot of investment and time to build out the programmatic infrastructure needed, from connecting with demand partners to utilizing programmatic tools. It’s also a volume based business. Vendors often have minimums you need to hit each month, and you need a high volume of impressions to be profitable. That’s why I believe it’s best for associations to view this as an outsourced solution that has made the investment for them and built a network that they can benefit from joining
Looking for vendors with industry knowledge is vital and not just knowledge of your particular industry, but the association industry as well. As discussed, protecting your member data and people’s privacy is important. So, you need someone to help you navigate those waters and ensure you’re making the right decisions.
Q: What else should associations look for when choosing a programmatic solution?
A: Associations should look for sales expertise and an established programmatic infrastructure. To elaborate a little more on that, this is a relatively new world of digital advertising, which can be different from the type of advertising associations are currently offering. Programmatic tools still need ad sales professionals that know your association audience and can assist advertisers in building campaigns that result in a strong ROI.
Secondly, working with a vendor that has an established programmatic infrastructure is very important because, as I mentioned, the programmatic ecosystem is very complex. It requires a strong tech stack and relationships with vendors within the industry to ensure you are maximizing your revenue potential while providing the support advertisers need. Look for a vendor that has systems in place and support staff to help, as well as a network that focuses on B2B and B2C advertising to maximize your non-dues revenue.