What role can strategic social listening play in programmatic?

By @AIFNelson

blog post

I recently attended the @adtech_london conference with, among others, the objective to learn more about programmatic advertising. More specifically, I wanted to see what role, if any, strategic social listening (SSL) could play in this relatively new game. Programmatic media buying (also known as programmatic marketing or programmatic advertising, sometimes just programmatic) is the algorithmic purchase and sale of advertising space in real time.

Considering how SSL can help brands understand consumers better at a granular level by, among other things, identifying the language and emotions of target segments, I formed the hypothesis that SSL could play a role in devising key messages and building the algorithms used by programmatic advertising…

With this hypothesis in mind, I attended a panel session entitled “Programmatic: Concerns, excitement and kick-starting investment”. The panel included a good mix of clients and agencies who aired their views on programmatic, among which Khurram Hamid from GSK, Sammy Austin from TUI, Gawain Owen from Nestle, Nick Mouter from Admedo and Marco Ricci from Adlooz.

Some of the key points raised by the panel were that:

• Agencies and clients are still on a learning journey.
• Viewability is a problem, Khurram Hamid best summed this up when he said “cookies don’t know if you’re a human”.
• A human touch, sense check is important; it can’t all be left to machines!
• Gawain from Nestle added collaboration and transparency as being key. He added that a clear understanding of the brands objectives by all partners is critical to producing the most effective campaigns.

It became clear though that without asking the question directly I would not be able to understand what role SSL could play. So I put my hand up and asked: “From what I have heard programmatic technology is getting better at reaching real people within target audiences. Do you know what to say, once you know where to play? Do you have insight to inform the message?

Thankfully Khurram Hamid from GSK responded immediately: “No, we need more insight on what the right message should be, so far it’s all been about reaching the right people, we need to do a lot more and be better at this.

None of the panel disagreed with his statement. Also, if according to Gawain Owen, 2016 is the year creative meets programmatic then I believe SSL should be a key input in informing what the message should be for specific audiences.


SSL can help inform messages by identifying the language and emotions of target segments, and in turn inform the creative.

But that’s not all, SSL can tell brands which sites must be included to reach certain segments. If one of the biggest challenges facing programmatic is viewability, then perhaps SSL could identify priority sites, communities (forums) and conversations (threads) URLs within communities. The numbers of sources will be small but of high quality.

I came away thinking that there is definitely an opportunity for SSL and programmatic to work in harmony and perhaps better inform the message as our recent frizzy hair case study shows.

Andrew Nelson @AIFNelson
Director, Brand Insight