An interview with

M2 Universal's Meir Vatagsky

Mar 4, 2015

The Numbers: How Programmatic and Financial Services Calculate Digital Marketing Math

Illustration by Graham Erwin

An interview with M2 Universal’s Meir Vatagsky, Digital Marketing Director

As Director of Digital at M2 Universal, a free-standing division of MacLaren McCann, one of Canada’s largest advertising agencies, Meir Vatagsky spends a lot of time explaining the unique opportunities programmatic offers marketers. You can call him (and his agency) programmatic evangelists, since they’re actively developing proprietary technologies that will go a long way in mainstreaming programmatic among all marketers.

How long have you been in the digital advertising space, and what gets you most exited about your job at M2 Universal?

I’ve been in digital advertising for 15 years. What gets me most excited about my job at M2 Universal is working with some of most sophisticated advertisers in Canada, and by using data and technology to drive their business results.

How does an agency like M2 Universal and a brand that you’re working with discuss your approach to programmatic advertising? Is there a sense of a symbiotic and collaborative relationship between the agency, brand, and ad tech vendor?

M2 works with all its clients’ partners to ensure that all programmatic buying uses a methodology that’s appropriate for the brand and product.

Our approach begins with a full-day strategic session to cover a wide range of issues, including the client’s philosophy in driving business results, translating business KPI’s into media KPIs, who the customer is, as well as how to identify typical online behavior and pick up data signals that programmatic can target. We also discuss how to strike the right balance between scale and efficiency, as well as maintain the optimal media mix.

In addition, we collaborate with our client’s partners to select ad-tech vendors for data management, campaign management, and optimization and so on.

You work with a lot of financial services companies. What are some innovative tactics those companies are using in the programmatic space?

The tactics they’re using have actually been in place in other verticals, though they’re still considered innovative for the Canadian financial services sector. These financial institutions are using a data management platform (DMP) to slice and dice various combinations of first- and third-party data to build specific audiences. They’re targeting prospects across channels (search, social, display and video). And they’re making good use of message sequencing.

Do financial services companies view programmatic advertising differently than, say, a CPG or Retail company?

Advertisers with an online point-of-sale or lead use programmatic to drive acquisition, while brick-and-mortar advertisers look for a combination of brand and product awareness and driving in-store traffic. Financial service companies are closer online retailers in terms of programmatic strategies.

Some of the biggest financial services companies in the world, American Express, for instance, are on the record stating they will buy upwards of 70% of digital ads programmatically. Do you think many more financial services companies will follow suit? What will be the impact as these advertisers duke it out in digital?

It’s inevitable that most, if not all, financial institutions will spend the majority of their digital budgets in programmatic within the next two to three years. With continuous focus on using digital media to drive business results and to increase efficiencies, programmatic provides these companies with the solution that addresses both requirements.

As tier-one financial institution advertisers increase their spend in programmatic, the competition for the finite pool of prospects will become fierce, requiring all major players to become more sophisticated in their targeting, bidding, and optimization approaches to ensure similar efficiency levels are maintained.

One of the ways to become more efficient is to start targeting and optimizing media spend based on revenue generated through paid media, rather than acquisition volume. How are advertisers using data and programmatic technology to tell their brand story more efficiently today?

While data provides advertisers with insights as to who their ideal audience is and where they might be, the right technology allows advertisers to find those audiences, apply the right pricing strategy to targeting them, and optimize media spend towards the agreed upon KPIs.

One issue that still requires improvement is the timing of our ads for push-based strategies. While the ad-tech sector has made great strides with predictive analytics in recent years, I believe that additional advancements will allow advertisers to truly connect with their audience with the right ad at the right time.

What are the biggest challenges brands will encounter when it comes to programmatic? How does an agency like M2 Universal address those challenges?

All advertisers confront click fraud, and would like to see full site transparency. Brick-and-mortar advertisers see additional challenges. They’d like standardization in viewability, as well as a reliable way to measure the awareness that results from their campaigns. And they want a way to link media investments to business results. Online retailers want conversion attribution, and to find the right balance between prospecting and remarketing tactics. They also want to understand which prospecting tactics fed their remarketing efforts, and ultimately drove conversions.

How will M2 help our clients meet these challenges? We’re creating proprietary attribution models for online conversions, as well as econometric models that link media spend with brick-and-mortar business results. We’re also developing a quantifiable currency to measure brand awareness, and partnering with ad-tech vendors to tackle viewability and click fraud.

How do you educate brands on the benefits of programmatic? Is there a silver bullet during meetings that really gets them excited about its potential?

All advertisers have great knowledge of their businesses, and the numbers they need to drive results. Many of them have a full understanding of how traditional media can help them achieve their goals, and which approaches best get them there.

But everything is different with digital, and especially with programmatic. That means we need to educate advertisers with regards to how data and technology work together to drive campaign results, as well as how supply side operates from a targeting and financials standpoint.

Once they become familiar with programmatic and understand its potential, what gets them excited is seeing benchmark-backed data that clearly display the type of ROI that can be generated from programmatic.