Retargeter Blog

The Human Side of Real-Time Bidding

Real-time bidding (RTB) greatly increases the accuracy and efficiency with which marketers can run online advertising campaigns, but many are concerned that it threatens the human elements of media planning. Even as RTB lightens the load on marketers by automating many of the steps involved with media planning, many aspects of online advertising still strongly rely on people and will continue to in the future.  Having relinquished much of their optimization duties to algorithms, marketers are now spending more time during initial campaign execution. Buyers rely more on trade portals to purchase ad space without having to maintain so many direct relationships with publishers. Niche market networks are opening up to trade desks but access to the most exclusive ones still relies on a phone call.

The Shift in Human Involvement

Successful online campaigns have traditionally relied heavily on a marketer’s socio and psychological knowledge of their target.  Using their knowledge of the target market’s interests and habits, marketers pick where they want to advertise and what they want to show their target. Marketers then contact the individual publishers and purchase blocks of inventory where they will place ads within the site. They revisit their campaigns after a period of time, choosing to allocate more spend to the sites that produced the best results.

With RTB, the decision of what to place and where to place it has been made far easier due to the ability to layer first and third party data on top of media buys. This data, acquired either by a retargeting pixel, or through purchases from third party data vendors allows marketers to advertise only to qualified audiences, removing the guesswork from the selection process. Human involvement in campaign management has shifted as marketers relinquish much of their optimization duties to algorithms. At the same time, the initial execution of any campaign now requires far more input from marketers, as they must sift through, organize, and package data sets from a virtually unlimited pool of segments.

RTB and Publisher Relationships

The advent of DSPs and SSPs has diminished the need for much of the back and forth between publishers and advertisers.  Publishers enter an agreement with an ad exchange in which their inventory can be bid on by advertisers. Advertisers plug into this exchange through their service platform to place bids on that ad inventory in real time.

Do not mistake this development as the elimination of buyer-publisher relationships. As experts point out, a fully programmatic digital strategy is, in itself, not very strategic. While bidding in real time will help spread the word about your brand at a low cost, inexpensive placement may not always a media buyer’s main priority.  Ad placement acquired through direct response buys is still valuable to brands interested in sponsoring specific content or websites, and is entirely dependent on buyer-publisher relationships.

We Reserve the Right to Refuse RTB

RTB can be very helpful in finding out where your company’s audience spends time online, because you have the ability to show ads only on sites your audience visits. Once you’ve run your campaign, and often in real time, you can view the sites your audience has visited. RTB allows you to choose where ads will go on an impression basis, reducing waste and making your campaign more accurate and cost effective. While the majority of online ad space is open to RTB, there are private networks that cannot be accessed through any of the major exchanges. While access in most ad exchanges is as easy to gain as a YMCA card, other, private exchanges require the fulfillment of specific qualifications. Barriers to access can vary greatly, but relevancy and wallet size most commonly decide whether or not your ads could be shown in these exclusive networks.

One example of a private network is the Human Resources Blogger Network, or HRBN. The HRBN, a product of the partnership between ReTargeter and The Starr Conspiracy, is a network of websites and blogs by HR professionals for HR professionals.  In addition to on-site ads, HRBN’s audience is accessible via retargeting–that is to say advertisers can reach this valuable audience all over the web. The ad space on these blogs is highly valuable to HR vendors and software providers, and he bloggers are drawn to arcicpation because they know advertisers will pay a pretty penny to advertise next to their highly relevant content

RTB will certainly do quite a bit to change the online advertising landscape, but its numerous automations and algorithms will never account for the human element in ad buying. From personal relationships to the value of human capital in managing technology, the human touch will remain firm within the online advertising industry for years to come.

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