Why you should be demanding real-time ad feedback

With a name like RTB (real time bidding), you can understand why CMOs assume that the whole programmatic process happens instantaneously. 

Certainly it’s true that the buying process for digital advertising can happen within a fraction of a second of a consumer clicking on a website.  The advertiser will have preset their audience segments and, if the consumer looks to fall into that target group, the highest bidder will win and their ad will be served – all in the blink of an eye. 

However, contrary to what most senior marketers think, there is no ‘real time feedback loop’ in most programmatic campaigns. 

In fact, there is a relatively significant delay between buying an impression and being able to learn from that customer interaction.  This is because most advertisers tend to use the DMP (data management platform) owned by one technology firm along with multiple DSPs (demand side platforms) to buy impressions. 

These DSPs work in silos and by the time the data from these is pushed into the DMP, given the way most technologies work, it is typically 24 to 48 hours old.

Too slow

Clearly, being able to analyse response and act on it within one to two days is a huge improvement to the old standard of weeks and months.  However, not being able to move faster means that many advertisers are unable to harness the full potential of their digital marketing. 

Consumers work to their own timescale when it comes to moving along the notional customer journey – and if you can’t keep up with them then clearly it’s an issue.

If you cannot respond instantly to a customer reaction then you can’t adapt your messaging and creative according to the behaviour you have observed, so your ability to achieve the marketer’s Holy Grail – delivering the right message to the right person at the right time – will always be impaired.

In order to achieve true ‘real time’ campaign evaluation and execution more advertisers are moving towards greater integration

The first ad you serve to someone is likely to be targeting a segment – e.g. mothers living in the North of England with an interest in fashion, men aged 25 – 54 interested in cars – but once they have interacted with your ad you should be able to instantly input what you have learned about that individual into your targeting strategy and personalise your campaign accordingly in true real time.

Advertisers should also be able to customise frequency capping rules according to what they learn.


Currently brands tend to frequency cap the number of ads they serve to an individual based on a pre-determined number to avoid ad over-kill. 

However, real time decisioning enables brands to tailor frequency capping around an individual’s unique position on the customer journey. 

It may actually be appropriate to communicate many times in one day with a consumer if their attitude to your brand is moving quickly – as long as you adapt the message to reflect these changes. 

If you are unable to tailor frequency capping in real time, your cap level could be too high for someone who is totally uninterested at that moment – and so you will have wasted impressions and restricted the potential reach of your campaign. Real time decisions makes it possible to reduce waste and boost effectiveness simultaneously.

In order to achieve true ‘real time’ campaign evaluation and execution more advertisers are moving towards greater integration. Instead of using separate systems in a technology stack they are employing one single platform to manage data and buy media. 

This means they avoid the problem of disconnection between systems and they can integrate their data directly into the platform in real time – making it possible to not just buy media in real time but to optimise the campaign in a matter of seconds rather than 24 hours. 

Moment of truth

This brings to life Google’s concept of the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) – what they define as the precise moment in time when someone has a need, intent or question they want answered online. 

This is the critical point in time when a brand should tailor its communications and nurture that consumer to a higher value state – asking the right questions at the right time and being as relevant to that person’s needs as they can be.

So if you have to hang fire for a day then that moment is gone.

Brands that understand the difference that ‘true’ real time can bring and act on it will bring an immense competitive advantage to their digital advertising – but it shouldn’t stop there.

The great thing about the single platform approach is that it will also help drive the next generation in advertising automation.

How? By removing the ‘silo effect’, a single platform enables brands to observe the myriad of ways in which an individual customer interacts with them every day – from display ad to email campaign, from website to digital TV.

In addition, it makes it possible to identify interesting behaviours which the same individual may display outside of a brand’s ‘owned’ opportunities. 

So, add to this the ability to take advantage of these observations in true real time, and across all channels, and you have a real game-changer in the way brands can automate and personalise their communications to push consumers through to purchase.

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