Programmatic Buying and Content Marketing: Strange Bedfellows?

Two seemingly different marketing approaches are at the top of every brand’s must-buy list these days: programmatic buying and content marketing. On the surface, these tools seem like strange bedfellows in the marketing ecosystem. A quick refresher on each:

Programmatic puts an emphasis on efficiency, automation, and targeting – more science than art. Using technology to automatically execute media buys and based on a pre-agreed-upon price by an advertiser and publisher, programmatic buying is done through exchanges and real-time bidding platforms. It replaces traditional request for proposals (RFPs) and insertion orders. Used by brands, publishers, and trading desks, the programmatic landscape can be seen in the well-known LUMAscape. According to IDC, spend on real-time-bidded display advertising will accelerate at a 59 percent compound annual growth rate through 2016, making it the fastest growing segment of digital advertising over the next few years.

On the other hand, content marketing emphasizes thoughtful, high-quality content that resonates with the brand – definitely more art than science. It has recently gained a lot of attention given its emphasis on creating and curating content, and is focused on building engaged audiences who interact with brands in a conversational, authentic manner. An April 2013 survey of U.S. marketing and advertising execs from international newspaper website MailOnline found that 70 percent of brands and 77 percent of agencies used content marketing for advertising purposes over the last year alone. This number will only accelerate as brands realize the quantifiable benefits of using conversations to deliver the right message in the right context to the right audience.

As content marketers, at first blush it’s easy to dismiss the power and scale of programmatic as simply a way to quickly and affordably pipe boxes and rectangles onto a web page. We often see our flavor of marketing as a “higher calling,” crafting quality content for and on behalf of brands that travels across the web through personal shares, likes, and tweets.

It’s time for us to start thinking more holistically about the entire marketing ecosystem, including the value that programmatic buying brings to us as content marketers. Otherwise, we’re turning a blind eye to a powerful distribution channel for the meaningful messages and content we create.

As we look to the future, there is a lot to be gained by leveraging a more holistic approach to thinking about how programmatic buying and content marketing can work together to truly create the next generation of marketing. How can the pure scale of programmatic help content marketers amplify their message? How can technology be used to better connect engaged consumers having authentic conversations across the web? As an industry, let’s start to use these seemingly disparate tools to develop new methods for distributing brand messages in an automated, scalable, and quantifiable way. I’m excited for what the future will bring and how we as marketers can further the craft of marketing to better connect with consumers.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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