Pairing Programmatic With the Customer Journey

Programmatic is a complex advertising landscape that requires expertise and an overhead investment, yet when agencies make it work this channel is extremely lucrative. This is the second post in our series dedicated to helping marketing agencies navigate programmatic advertising.

Programmatic may be our favorite marketing channel ever, but it isn’t exactly a walk in the park as we implied in our first Perfect Programmatic Pairings Series post, Programmatic: The Final Frontier for Marketing Agencies.

We encourage marketing agencies to embrace programmatic advertising holistically, as they understand how to reach their client’s customers through different channels and at different stages of their buying journey. Let’s take a look at broad customer mapping before we get into the world of programmatic and how other agencies have sewn programmatic success into their client’s customer journeys.

The Customer Journey is a Close Cousin of the Media Plan

Start by mapping out your client’s customer journey to identify touchpoints where different channels can complement each other. Determine how each channel contributes to the overall campaign objectives and how they can guide the audience through the conversion funnel. Here’s an example of a customer journey map and the different channels that work at each stage:

A very similar exercise within the realm of programmatic would be the act of making a media plan. A media plan can be described as:

“A media plan outlines which audience will be targeted, across which channels, at what time, and with which message. An effective media plan will result in a set of advertising opportunities that target a specific audience and fit in with the organization’s marketing budget.”

Media plan combinations help you create holistic strategies and campaigns tailored to your target audience’s needs. They’re all about putting the right creative with the right channels (aka the ones your client’s target audience uses!) to yield the most relevant, effective, and efficient results. You’re not just reaching them—you’re connecting with them. With an understanding of the broad customer journey, it’s easier to put an effective media plan together.

Create an integrated approach incorporating the right channels, ad creatives, and customer journey to hit all the marks. Use the first-party data and audience research you’ve collected to gain deeper insights into your target audience. For example, any data around past key performance indicator (KPIs) tracking is useful to create the most effective media plan combinations. With this information, you can create a comprehensive campaign tailored to target audiences’ needs.

For new campaigns or audiences, use paid online research tools to learn about the audience online. SparkToro, for example, is a handy tool that provides in-depth audience research showing who your audience is, what they talk about, and where to reach them.

You can use findings from the tool to understand audience demographics, interests, behaviors, and psychographics. These insights can help identify channels and ad creatives that resonate most with them.

If you’re feeling uncertain, conducting A/B tests with different channel pairings and ad creatives will help determine which combinations yield the best results. Split your target audience into segments and expose each segment to different combinations. Check out this comprehensive guide from HubSpot on A/B testing tools that can help you out.

While anyone can buy ad inventory, the combination of strategy and experience tells you where to go and what to pick. There’s lots of data available, and you need to understand it to get the best results. When you have that data, you’ll need to pair experts with algorithms to figure out what works best and what to avoid. Let’s take a look at some examples of campaigns that have worked programmatic into a cross-customer journey of success.

Examples of Channel Pairings Across the Customer Journey

Let’s take a look at some really successful companies that have made the most of programmatic advertising across their customer journey. Keep in mind, each of these campaigns started with a media plan.

Candy brand Maltesers launched #TheMassiveOvershare to promote maternal mental health on social media and in OOH ads. The campaign included a series of ads tied to International Women’s Day.

Influencers also play a crucial role when paired with trusted brands across platforms. Maybelline New York launched Brave Together to destigmatize anxiety and depression among young women through one-on-one support. To attract its target demographic, the company partnered with Euphoria star Storm Reid on social media and video ads.

Bringing a Media Plan to Life: GenZ Example

Now, let’s say you wanted to make a media plan to target Gen Z exclusively. Hit this target audience from all angles by pairing up these channels—display ads, social media, streaming platforms, and in-app environments. Become part of their online experience, media hangouts, and favorite pastimes – present at all touchpoints, sensitive of the audience’s habits. It’s targeting at its finest.

Research shows that Gen Z spends a lot of time on social media:

Like in the process of programmatic, creating a media plan and even when mapping the broader customer journey, the first step is determining where this audience spends most of its time online.

Further research by Morning Consult shows that YouTube is the most popular platform among Gen Z, followed by Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat:

YouTube provides a prime opportunity for advertisers to reach this audience. They can create engaging video content, pre-roll or mid-roll ads, and use influencers to convey their message to Gen Z viewers who consume content on this platform. Then hit them up on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, creating targeted ads that align with the content and style of these platforms. This TikTok ad from Sephora announces newly launched shades for Bobbi Brown’s cream shadow stick and showcases it in action.

The ad is an unfiltered view of how the stick works, which taps into Gen Z’s demand for authenticity and reliability. More than 90% of Gen Zers in a survey highlighted that authenticity is more important than any other value tested. They’re not looking for “picture-perfect” stories—they’re looking for filter-free, unedited visuals. They want to relate to what they see. Sephora is also present on Snapchat—the ad below is for Asian Heritage Month.

Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, with 48% of respondents in a study identifying as non-white. An ad for Asian Heritage Month aligns with Gen Z’s values of diversity and inclusiveness.

Sephora combines relevant ad creatives with the channels where Gen Z is most active. It taps into the values of its target audience to create an emotional connection with them.

Now, what’s interesting is that research by Vevo and Publicis Media shows Gen Z spends half their waking hours on screens. That doesn’t mean they scroll through YouTube all day but that they switch between platforms throughout the day:

They wake up, scroll through Instagram and TikTok, switch to YouTube during lunchtime, and unwind at night with Netflix.

The data shows that agencies can benefit from a multi-channel approach across social and programmatic if they want to reach Gen Z. You can create consistent messaging across various platforms, ensuring your brand remains top-of-mind for Gen Z users as they navigate their digital journey.

Gen Z also bounces among five or more screens, from smartphones and laptops to TVs.

Picture this: Gen Z is chilling on their couch, binging their favorite shows, and an ad pops up during the commercial break. How did that happen? Through behavioral targeting and having access to the right inventory. Do your customers listen to music a lot? Great, target them right inside the app through Spotify ads. Do they watch a lot of YouTube videos? Amazing, target them there.

When you know your target audience, you can reach them on their TV and mobile screens at the same time with the right publishers. If they’re using their laptop to finish some last-minute work, you can reach them there too.

That’s the beauty of channel pairings—they allow you to maximize reach and effectiveness, taking into consideration how customers actually behave and interact across channels. You can mix and match, experiment, and find out which channels work best for your client’s consumption patterns.

Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash/charlesdeluvio

Image 1: Via Customer Marketing Alliance

Image 2: Via Sparktoro

Image 3: Via Instagram

Image 4: Via Instagram

Image 5: Via Insider Intelligence

Image 6: Via Morning Consult

Image 7: Via TikTok

Image 8: Via LA Times

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