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Points North: Mike Blackburn, Managing Director of I-COM


Points-North-Weber-ShandwickStarting this week, we’re changing the format of Points North to give a senior media figure a platform to air their views on an issue affecting their industry.

To kick us off it’s Mike Blackburn, Managing Director of digital agency I-COM, who casts a sceptical eye over the latest trend in digital: programmatic marketing.

Programmatic marketing is the latest buzzword to hit digital marketing. It all started with display adverts where sophisticated management platforms allowed advertisers to only display ads to highly targeted groups of people.

One of the simplest forms is those banners that seem to follow you around the web after you’ve visited a particular site. The ad distribution platform recognises you’ve previously been to the advertiser’s site, and automatically shows you the advert. Increasingly more complex demographic and action based rules have been developed so that different ads can be automatically delivered to different people at different stages of the buying process.

Mike-Blackburn-mana_6208873Recently though the phrase has been hijacked by “social media marketeers” who use it as a way of describing what is really not much more than customer segmentation and engagement.

I’m concerned that this is going to be the next way in which some of the more unscrupulous members of our industry use science to pull the wool over the eyes of less sophisticated clients so as to exploit them with an inferior service.

One of the fundamental marketing principles involves understanding your market, thinking through where you can find the people who will buy your product or service and the development of appropriate messages to achieve a desired effect.

We should know what magazines our customers’ customers read, what TV programmes they watch and where they hang out on social media. We should then devise strategies that help us get our message to those customers in the most effective way.

If we can use technology to focus our activity, so much the better. But we shouldn’t need to give it a fancy name; it is simply good honest marketing advice.

The marketing industry needs to stop creating terms that confuse our clients and ultimately set the wrong expectations of campaigns and focus instead on what’s really important: delivering a good return on investment.

We should utilise the latest technologies to make us more effective, but we need to get the basics right. We need to understand our market and buyers, ensure our clients have good products and services that meet the market’s needs at the right price, and have a compelling message that encourages them to choose our clients’ products.

Whether we call it programmatic marketing or just plain old marketing doesn’t really matter – it has to be about results.

Mike Blackburn is Managing Director of I-COM.

This week’s most-read stories:

1. Sky 1 commissions new Northern sitcom from Craig Cash’s indie Jellylegs

2. BBC launches “unique open-door” for budding CBeebies and CBBC writers

3. Orange Bus takes a ride to London as it targets £10m turnover

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