Programmatic content: from chasing clicks to determining intent

By March 9, 2017Uncategorized

Programmatic content isn’t new. Matching marketing messages to the sales stage of the prospect has long been a staple of direct marketing and retail websites. What is new is the way web programmatic solves the problem of catching the consumer in the right place, at the right time – by using trigger events and knowledge of the customer’s past behaviour to serve up content they’re ready for right now.

Because it’s easier to customise, the content that consumer sees has been primarily textual. An article to read; a headline to drill; a use of personalisation according to a psychographic segment. Here at Scorch, we think it’s time advertising agencies utilise programmatic advertising to broaden its horizons, with a move into video.

Imagine entire campaigns of expertly-produced video content, engaging the consumer both intellectually and emotionally – delivered in a way that boosts the chance of a conversion. With the same high production values as the best broadcast ads.

Yet many marketers, even in the big-spending automotive sector, are unsure how to apply programmatic principles with video. Isn’t it more expensive to produce and harder to customise? And how can video be personalised the way textual content can?

Surprise, surprise, it’s all possible with a bit of understanding of how movies are made.

Get with the programm(atic)

You’re reading an article on the Spanish language, and off to one side there’s a story about a student’s experiences at a Madrid school. You’re getting to grips with a natural diet, and within the text there’s an interstitial paragraph explaining gluten. It’s six months since your wedding, and your Facebook feed has started showing you ads for strollers and nappies.

The side links and the popup paragraphs are programmatic content, a co-evolution of content marketing and paid search advertising. The basics: an advertiser uses knowledge of the reader to serve up content that’s appropriate to his/her state of mind and position on the customer journey. This knowledge isn’t limited to the individual’s interaction with a single website, but strives for a more complete picture using touchstones from across the web.

How your diet, green creds, and relationships help a carmaker

Let’s say you’re in automotive. (A sector that produces some of the best ads anywhere.) How could you use the information that a prospect is studying Spanish? Perhaps your messaging could include visuals of Andalucian vistas. Or for people interested in wholefoods – perhaps they’re also environmentally aware? They’ll be revved up by your new low emissions engine. While for the newlyweds, it may be time to swap the carefree convertible for a sensible four-door. Programmatic shows them the right model for their mindset.

While it sounds like traditional content marketing – work out what will draw your target audience in, and leave content lying in wait – the business model differs. Conceptually, programmatic advertising is more like the display/banner model, where a site maintains an inventory of available space and charges fees per impression or click. The chances of the reader seeing the content is triggered by a combination of factors: reader psychographic, audience profile, link source.

So far, so good – but there’s a problem: in our visuals-obsessed world, a great deal of today’s programmatic is stuff to read, or at most, static images, which don’t have the same impact as moving pictures.

So could video programmatic content cut through the clutter, and drive conversion rates even higher? At Scorch, we think it can. With an old editor’s tool: the jump cut.

Sidebar: in praise of the jump cut

No film is made in a single shot. (Well, not anything you’d pay to see at your local multiplex.) Jump cuts are those quick transitions between scenes that keep a narrative moving forward. They’re the “paragraph breaks” of a film, just as chapters are the “scenes” of a story. Cutting is pretty rapid these days – a typical scene on MTV lasts less than two seconds.

Here’s the key thought for programmatic potential: when you join different shots together into a film – something we do all the time at Scorch London – you don’t have to stop at a single version.

Hollywood’s been doing this for years. To appeal to local tastes, different markets get slightly different versions of the latest blockbuster. And our recent campaigns for Citroen and Renault each turned a few minutes of footage into dozens of assets of different lengths and carrying different messages.

And there’s our key thought. Different cuts can convey different messages, without needing to create thousands of films for each consumer from scratch. But how many cuts do you need to cover your audience? Time for some Scorch back-of-envelope calculations.

Sizing up the video need

We looked at one of our carmaker clients, and imagined they had a brief for a programmatic campaign showcasing their entire range. (Cars are a great example for programmatic, because their purchase is so often linked to a major life event.) Simplifying massively, we mapped some events in the buying process.

If your target has . . .

He/She is probably . . .

Recently visited a car site Early stage shopping around
Completed a form on your site Next stage gathering info
Visited a dealership Late stage consideration
Booked a test drive About to make a buying decision

So from one data point, you can tell which stage of the sales funnel the consumer’s at. That’s valuable information – so we can already start storyboarding our advertising message to suit, but programmatic content enables much more.

Let’s look at some life events today’s marketer can often glean from buyer behaviour on social media:

If your target has . . .

So you emphasise . . .

Recently graduated The no-frills price
Recently married The space in the back
Recently moved house The options list
Recently retired The miles per gallon figure

Another data point – knowing just these two facts about our consumer lets us divide our audience into 16 segments. (4 x 4.) If our video content can be targeted effectively to each segment, the click-through rate is likely to rise. But we don’t have to stop there.

If the time of year is . . .

They’re looking for . . .

New registration season That new car smell
Bleakest January An off-season bargain
Summer sunshine A fun driving experience
Snowy season Safety on the school run

A third data point lets us segment further to 64 basic customer personas. (That’s 4 x 4 x 4.) That allows far more precise targeting than any broadcast TVC. But how can we tailor our creative to 64 audiences without breaking the bank?

That’s where jump cuts come in.

Calculating the potential audience

In this ultra-simplified example, approaching those 64 segments with an ad that appeals to their desires doesn’t mean making 64 films. Rather, you can shoot just three sets of four scenes, 12 in total – one for each based on the assumptions in our three tables. And splice together 3 scenes to make a finished piece of content, each film hitting the three hot buttons of a particular consumer. So, from 12 filmed scenes come 64 pieces of content.

Even with this small example, the numbers work. And they get better – exponentially. If you have four data points instead of three, 256 possible films stem from a set of 16 scenes. And if your list of four-item tables runs to 10, the number of ad variants you can show your audience – splicing together just 40 scenes in different ways – runs to over a million.

Imagine. By assembling fewer than a hundred shots into different video sequences, you can reach billions of consumers with an ad that’s all but made for them. Storyboarding and shooting a hundred pieces of film can enable you to offer a different ad for every human being on Planet Earth. (And we’re not talking David Attenborough here.)

That’s why we believe video content is ideal for the programmatic age, because of its ability to splice together stories.

Conclusion: shoot, cut, sell

So next time you approach a programmatic brief, don’t think in terms of PPC headlines or one-trick-pony topic paragraphs. Professional video content tailored to each segment of your audience may be a more exciting (and profitable) option. You’re not showing consumers a film – you’re showing them their film—from a grab-bag of cuts spliced together to appeal in the right way.

Scorch frequently squeezes dozens of pieces of content from a single storyboard, all in the interest of making the most of the content we create. And doesn’t that sound like a great way to do marketing?

We truly believe we are one of the best creative agencies London has to offer – and we’d like to talk programmatic video content with you, because if we can come up with fun ideas like this, there are probably a few things we could suggest for your advertising campaigns. To find out more information on programmatic advertising, or to talk through any other aspect of digital advertising, get in touch with one of the members at Scorch today.