Brands, CMOs and Programmatic

Standing-presentingCMOs don’t wish for their brand showing up against dicey or low-quality content due to automated placement, but more CMOs and their agency partners need to take advantage of emergent programmatic.

It will enable CMOs to embolden their brand’s reputation with more effective targeting, increased brand association with relevant content and enhanced brand loyalty by being everywhere customers are. Take Generation Z, they take in information instantaneously from a multitude of online sources and lose interest just as fast. How do you reach them?

Programmatic’s focus is narrow and it’s reach is wide from research and strategy, pre­production planning and production through to trafficking, team communication, media, social monitoring influencer management, reporting and analysis are all integrated in programmatic to show the effect of offline, online, owned, paid and earned media. It’s a factotum that’s more productive than people because there are too many sites for media planners to review simultaneously.

Harnessing programmatic has four key benefits:

  • Spend media dollars only when they will be most effective
  • Identify the true target audience in real time
  • Automate mundane tasks
  • Increase marketing resources without increasing overhead
    or agency budget.

To achieve these benefits programmatic needs to be understood by CMOs and agencies who currently think about programmatic as real time bidding. It’s far more than that, it’s about “selling cat food to cat owners”. A better perspective is that programmatic is where ads are bought similar to how products are acquired on Amazon. Only this time it’s buying targeted audiences using a ton of consumer data and analytics to calculate the best ad that’s on brand, on target and on time.

Consider this scenario for buying coffee: for those who love shopping there’s the manual approach where you travel to the store, get a shopping cart, peruse the aisles, select the brands you desire and wait at the cashier or you go on line, click the brands you want and it arrives at your door. Programmatic can do the same for media with a little eBay added for RTB (real-time bidding) for the auctioning of impressions. This is possible because programmatic considers diverse data points to make decisions in a split second for the most effective strategy and the optimum screen for the advertisement. This enables CMOs and agencies to focus on more priority areas like buying cross-platform and cross-device targeting.

ImageProgrammatic’s real time capabilities can create efficiencies in planning and buying, but it’s only as good as the content and targeting that’s employed. The main hurdle for programmatic is that a lot of marketing folks perceive that it’s about buying cheap, second-rate inventory. Hell has no fury than the second rate. Everyone agrees more transparency into the quality of inventory is urgent, but this is a canard, as there already exists an increasing amount of premium programmatic sold with higher CPMs.

Programmatic is the major disruptor in the media marketplace. In addition to providing more effective targeting and transparency when it comes to buying media programmatic enables CMOs and agencies to optimize operational efficiency and reduce headcount. That means more dollars can be reinvested into marketing; typically you need only a handful of people utilizing programmatic as opposed to a small army working on non-programmatic.

Planners and creative teams need to be comfortable with the Screen Shot 2012-08-10 at 8.28.22 AMcomplexity and must be willing to charter a new course in this programmatic world with an open mind, potent strategy and distinctive content. Instead of just targeting an ad, powerful creativity needs to generate content that’s relevant with the use of real time data to drive traffic. McDonald’s and Starbucks are great examples of major brands that have effectively implemented creativity into their programmatic programs.

Programmatic’s growth is not imperceptible. It’s bold, arrogant, cocksure and portentously a game changer that’s going to be hard to avoid. Currently programmatic handles $15B of US digital media ($58B). By the end of next year programmatic could be managing $20B according to industry pundits.

Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted”. Ultimately, programmatic is about making advertising more Imageaffordable and effective for any brand that can implement it. Perceiving programmatic as having baleful consequences is a huge mistake for CMOs. In the dark everything is possible and CMOs need to see the light and transform their outlook for a programmatic future or else face more intense competition for attention.



MetLife Grounds Snoopy. Curse You, Red Baron!

Here’s what I shared with Sapna Maheshwari at The New York Times:

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-8-30-17-amMetLife is firing Snoopy.

The “Peanuts” character, one of the most recognizable figures in American pop culture, is being retired after more than 30 years of appearing in print ads, TV commercials, marketing materials and on the sides of MetLife’s blimps at sports events.

No more big-nosed beagle in the flight cap and goggles chasing the Red Baron on Metlife’s airship. No more television commercials featuring a smiling Snoopy navigating life’s treacherous waters to sell insurance. Cuddly Snoopy hitting a home run? Out.

MetLife, one of the largest insurance companies with 100 million customers worldwide, said the move is part of an effort to update its corporate emblem for international competition.

The global chief marketing officer for MetLife, Esther Lee, announced the change on Thursday, saying that Snoopy was adopted as a symbol in 1985 to make the company seem “more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant.”

“We have great respect for these iconic characters,” Ms. Lee said in the announcement. “However, as we focus on our future, it’s important that we associate our brand directly with the work we do and the partnership we have with our customers.”

The company said it wanted a “clean, modern” design that included the colors blue and green to “represent life, renewal and energy.” They form what it has called “the partnership M.” The broader MetLife palette was expanded to include a range of vibrant secondary colors, reflecting “the diverse lives of its customers,” a company statement said.

New MetLife logo.

There is also a new tagline, “MetLife: Navigating life together,” replacing the old “Get Met. It Pays.”

Dean Crutchfield, an independent brand consultant in New York, said that Snoopy was relevant at the time that it was introduced, but that the change was a smart move that recognized the company’s changing business. “Snoopy was brought in to connect emotionally with consumers,” he said, but was no longer helping as a brand. “It is no longer relevant to its target audience.”

Already, the company’s website shows no sign of the floppy-eared dog whose adventurous daydreams won the hearts of multiple generations of Americans, in the Charles M. Schulz comic strip and its spinoffs.

In the comics, on TV and movies, a hit pop song and even the stage, Snoopy was the loyal pup who loved his “round-headed” human, Charlie Brown, but could never remember the boy’s name. His rich fantasy life included characters like “Joe Cool,” a hipster in dark sunglasses, and the World War I flying ace whose doghouse was transformed into a British biplane.

But now Snoopy and his Sopwith Camel are grounded, at least when it comes to selling life insurance.

The company called the decision the “most significant change” to the brand in decades. Ms. Lee, who joined MetLife last year, conducted research among more than 55,000 customers worldwide and found them “overwhelmed” by the pace of global change. MetLife had to evolve, Ms. Lee said.

“What we did want to figure out, as we started to become this more purpose-built, modern company, is do those characters go beyond being friendly and approachable?” she said.

The answer turned out to be no, MetLife discovered in its research.

Consumers thought the “Peanuts” characters were friendly and approachable, Ms. Lee said, but did not associate them with traits like leadership and responsibility. Nor did the characters affect interest in buying insurance.

The research also asked customers point blank if they would mind if MetLife stopped using Snoopy and the gang. “People are indifferent from us moving away from the characters,” Ms. Lee said, adding that more than 1,000 other brands around the world use Peanuts characters in their marketing. “They basically don’t care.”

The life insurance giant has over the years tried to find a way to make its business, overshadowed by the terms “death benefits” and “beneficiaries,” more approachable, and for years Snoopy and other Peanuts characters provided the warm and fuzzy.

There had already been changes afoot at MetLife in the era of social media. In 2014, the company introduced an online campaign to change perceptions of the life insurance industry, encouraging customers to share the ways they live for their loved ones by using #WhoILiveFor. The campaign’s centerpiece featured a collection of video clips not of the Peanuts characters, but of real people with diverse races, partnerships and backgrounds.

Corporations are viewed as more approachable these days, Ms. Lee said, and consumers are no longer intimidated by them, she added. “So many companies are actually reaching them one-on-one, tweeting back and forth with them.”

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