by Elena Dvoirin, Sr. Client Services Manager  |  Digital advertising thoughts from the minds at MediaNet

One major buzzword that continues to be thrown around the digital advertising space is ‘optimization’, but what does it really mean? And more importantly, what is it good for? [Insert Edwin Starr reference here]. As far as simple definitions go, to “optimize” is ‘to make as perfect, effective, or functional as possible’[1], so it stands to reason that optimization in the digital space equals perfecting the execution of online ad campaigns. It seems simple enough, right? However, one must recognize the complexity and intricacy of the many moving pieces of a digital campaign and how seamlessly they must fit together in order to make optimization not only possible, but successful.

Define your goals
Running a campaign without goals is the equivalent of driving without a destination. Sure it’s fun, but where are you going and how do you know you’ve made it there? An important first step in any campaign is to clearly establish your goals. These can include broad marketing goals (increased brand recognition, raising user-brand engagement, promoting a product, etc.) or more digital-specific goals (e.g. clicks to the website, online purchases, form completions, video views, etc.)

Whatever the goal, it should be clearly defined and then communicated to the campaign management team. It is this team’s responsibility to ensure that your campaign is setup and executed to deliver success – but doing so first requires an understanding of what success means for that campaign

Setting expectations
It is the job of the optimizer to be honest and realistic when discussing expectations (of established goals) by explaining what real success looks like and why. The “why” is where understanding of the industry and the tech align. Digital media cannot, and should not, be held to the same standards as traditional media, and how success is measured relies on what success really means.

Optimization experts should be able to convey that picture clearly, drawing on their knowledge and experience to communicate what is realistic and how it aligns with what is desired. For example, 75% CTR is not only highly unrealistic, but is very much indicative of ad fraud – much like believing that Red Bull gives you wings (disclaimer – Red Bull does not actually cause physical wings to sprout from ones’ body).

Actionable targeting
Programmatic buying enables the purchase of audiences at scale. This means that instead of using content as a proxy for audience (e.g. a diaper brand hoping to target moms places ads on parenting websites), technology has evolved to enable audience-specific targeting based on desirable audience-level characteristics (e.g. a mother with a child 0-2 years old in the household) – in other words, targeting that mom with diaper ads by buying impressions on any site she may be visiting, not limiting the campaign’s scope to parenting sites.

The reasoning is clear: a desirable user often visits sites and exhibits behaviors unrelated to the characteristics being targeted (e.g. that mother may be shopping for shoes, catching up on the news, etc.). Focusing campaign spending on the audience allows for greater scale, more effective frequency control and more efficient spending.

The human element
As programmatic buying happens in the span of milliseconds, quite literally in real-time, it is essential that campaign data is monitored and acted on continuously to ensure the best path to success. When goals are established up front, an Ad Operations team can use the combination of campaign parameters and client-mandated goals to define and control how, when, and where to bid on impressions, constantly fine-tuning parameters within a set budget to most effectively ‘run the show’. Real experts not only set up and launch a campaign, but collect, understand and use data to streamline the ways in which they reach client goals from the start to finish of every campaign.

The optimization process involves many moving pieces, but with a strong framework of clearly established goals, a willingness to test and learn, and a knowledgeable team at your side, your digital campaign will achieve great success. Now, that’s optimization for you!