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As 2019 approaches, marketing departments up and down the country will begin frantically analysing campaign performance, budgets and ROI figures looking for opportunities to make the coming year the best yet. With retail’s Golden Quarter well underway, next year’s planning will quickly become a priority raising the question of where the opportunities are to optimise and improve performance exist. As part of this, the issue of potential wasted ad spend will be at the forefront of marketer’s minds as they seek to optimise activities for the upcoming year.

In 2018, digital advertising spend figures increased by 15% year-on-year to £6.4bn according to the IAB. Ensuring that these rising budgets remain effective is essential. To put this figure in to context, these increases mean that search spend alone has more than tripled over the last 10 years, increasing from £958m back in 2008 to £3.3bn in the first quarter of 2018.

With the power and personalisation of retargeting driving some of this increased investment, programmatic is set to represent a key strategic pillar for brands again next year.

As planning progresses, the best use of this technology will feature prominently in discussions with some brands opting for a hybrid strategy, engaging multiple partners in a quest for heightened ROI.

For companies looking to maximise budgets and get the best out of programmatic in 2019 and beyond, they should really be distancing themselves from this approach, opting instead for a single approach to the market, and their audience.

The pitfalls of double bidding

The temptation of building two retargeting providers in to the marketing mix is not uncommon with brands hopeful of identifying peak performance across two different networks, both being optimised by learnings cross-campaigns. The problem here is that with two retargeting partners in play, brands essentially begin bidding against themselves.

The reality here is that if a business is fragmenting campaigns across multiple platforms, they likely aren’t getting the visibility they need across audiences, campaigns, and devices. This is a major risk with using different retargeting platforms. The fact is that in this scenario, it’s possible for a single user to see and click on both partner’s ads. This makes it extremely difficult to quantify the impact of each ad, in terms of driving sales. The bottom line: there is often inefficient budget allocations – something every marketing team will be looking to eradicate as they plan for the year ahead. 

Managing ad views

While the possibility of double bidding is an obvious pitfall to the employment of multiple networks, there’s another downside which is all too often forgotten: ad fatigue.

As advertising spend continues to grow, the issue of over-saturation should be a serious consideration for brands looking to ensure every penny is delivering a positive return. After all, exponential increase in spend isn’t any guarantee of similar returns, particularly when specific audiences are being targeted. However, if spend is disparate across multiple advertising networks, the frequency of ads delivered cannot be controlled in the same way that it could be with a centralised strategy. What’s more, brands opting for this approach will lose the visibility to effectively control ad dissemination.

The result of self-imposed competition is usually a steep drop in the click-through rates caused by ad fatigue among the target audience who simply grow tired of seeing the same message wherever they go online. This, in turn, can cause marketing teams to push for higher performance levels, overbid for CPC and, inevitably, waste adspend. 

Plan for success in 2019

Clearly as the battle lines are drawn ahead of 2019’s campaign planning, duplicate spend and ad fatigue should be avoided at all costs. Retargeting vendors understand these problems and know how to overcome them with specific systems designed to deliver optimal ad frequency and minimse overlap. Pitting multiple vendors against each other often results in a brand losing the benefits of these features and, as a result, adspend that could be helping meet 2019’s targets.

The dangers of a brand bidding against itself are real. Driving up costs, complicating ad sequencing, and compromising the accuracy of measurement against key metrics will all lead to squandered spend and effective planning should be doing everything it can to safeguard against these issues. While multiple options, platforms and vendors are out there, the promise of programmatic retargeting can only be realized with a laser focus on one solution that really works and is easy to implement and manage.

John Gillan is managing director (Northern Europe) at Criteo