How Publishers Can Use Programmatic Direct Mail to Drive New Revenue
Programmatic ad campaigns have been around long enough that most publishers know them intimately. Know the ins and outs of what they can — and can’t — provide, and how they can be used to drive ad impressions and branding for advertisers.
At its core, "traditional" programmatic advertising allows advertisers to efficiently purchase ads with limited human intervention. Often programmatic campaigns are executed with little knowledge of who is actually viewing the ad and based on securing a certain number of impressions. More advanced campaigns take that a step further, and use demographic and behavioral data to target advertisements to web users that will find those ads more relevant. This more targeted approach serves ads based on the online browsing behavior of individual users, ensuring the advertisements they see online correspond to their individual wants and needs.
At the DigiPub Conference last November, Adam Solomon, chief product officer of PebblePost, took demonstrated how programmatic advertising is now being integrated with the world of physical advertising by exploring “How Brands Are Capitalizing on Programmatic Technology & Direct Mail.” Companies like PebblePost have taken the concept of programmatic advertising one step further: now it can be used to drive print outreach to consumers.
The way these more personalized, data-driven programs work is that platforms like PebblePost look for what Solomon calls “signals” as consumers browse the internet. These signals include all the various ways that a person interacts with a brand — from browsing a company website, to putting an item in a shopping cart but then not checking out, to reading articles or social media posts about that brand or product. But instead of simply delivering a programmatic advertisement on their screen, PebblePost can send direct mail.
Publishers, in particular, are in an excellent position to take advantage of this new platform. Part of the challenge in using a programmatic approach to send direct mail is matching up the “signal” or “intent” with a real person’s name and address. Publishers have a built-in database of names and addresses, as well as users who log into their sites and provide more details about themselves. When used in conjunction with a technology that enables the deployment of targeted print advertising, this can be a powerful opportunity to offer new, high-impact advertising solution to clients.
Why Programmatic Direct Mail?
According to a recent presentation by Eric Fahey, research manager, Mintel Comperemedia, direct mail outperforms all digital media channels by as much as 600% in terms of response rate. This is because, he noted, consumers receive as many as 5,000 marketing messages a day via digital channels, but 98% of consumers are still checking their physical mail on a daily basis, and 77% of them are sorting through it as soon as they receive it.
So what are the benefits of a platform that combines the digital and printed channels? Because programmatic print campaigns are based on real-time behavioral data, consumers are receiving direct mail pieces that are immediately relevant. Brands, first and foremost, want to drive sales, not just awareness, and sending relevant, programmatic mail pieces that demonstrably lead directly to purchase decisions is a major coup for the publishers who produce and manage the campaigns. It is easy, with today’s print technologies, to include a promo code that is either one static code for the entire campaign, which tracks the leads coming from print, or by using variable codes unique to each piece, to track individual consumer purchases..
Solomon also noted that another way that programmatic direct mail can be used to track sales is through matchbacks. “Basically, we have the names and addresses of everyone we’ve sent mail to, the marketers have the names and addresses of everyone who converted or purchased. And so with a safe haven, double-blind matchback partner, we can upload all the people we sent mail to, have them upload all transactions, and those partners can match up name and address with name and address, and get very precise about who converted.”
One thing Solomon did stress, however, is that while there are ways to work with multiple clients, each brand needs to be guaranteed that their customers' personal data is protected. If publishers pursue programmatic direct mail, a platform such as PebblePost can help navigate those waters and ensure that while bringing value to the brands, they are also very careful about protecting the privacy and security of the data.
The Right Moves
Like with other forms of programmatic campaigns, determining what is a true “signal” and what is just noise can sometimes be difficult. This is where the first-party data that publishers bring to the table can be a powerful revenue opportunity. With that data, brands can get far more sophisticated when determining if that individual is truly in the market for a new pair of sneakers, for example, and might be converted with a postcard containing a coupon code with a discount, versus someone who just came across a page while surfing and would think it is “creepy” to get a postcard after viewing a website briefly.
Solomon gave an example of how this process could work to drive revenue for both the brands and publishers without crossing that “creepy” barrier: Take a consumer looking at content about the Ford F150 truck across a publisher’s platforms and social networks and following a story sponsored by Ford. The publisher could then, using a programmatic direct mail platform, generate and send a brochure with more details about the features and functionality of that truck on behalf of the brand. “It’s possible using this technology,” Solomon noted.
That said, he cautioned publishers and brands alike to be thoughtful in how they approach these technologies. “Let’s be thoughtful about how we do this,” Solomon said. “With great power comes great responsibility: with this technology, I can put the pair of socks you saw in the creative, and have that pair of socks show up at your door. But that’s really going to freak people out. We have to be very careful with these technologies: just because we can do a thing, doesn’t mean we should do a thing. That got completely lost in the world of digital, but now we have an opportunity to bring these worlds together and do it correctly.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about giving consumers a richer, respectful and more relevant experience. And publishers are well positioned to be the ones to bring all those elements together for brands looking to make the most out of the convergence of print and digital technologies, driven by programmatic tech and intelligent data.
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