Uncovering Programmatic Marketing with Bill Updegraff

AMT Lab contributor Wei Wei sat down with Bill Updegraff, Founder of Grapeseed Media, to talk about how data is gathered and used in programmatic marketing, as well as the best social media strategies for arts organizations.

1. When you work with a client, how do you pick the platform to place paid advertisements?

We are more about picking the right audience at the right place. What we do is what we call programmatic advertising, meaning we use software and data to make decisions. Programmatic advertising is auction-based, meaning that every placement is one in an auction fashion for that particular placement and that single action. Because we're able to do that, the benefit is that we only bid on the audience that are really right for the advertiser. We care a lot more about who we're serving the ads to than where it is placed.

2. How do you know the customers exist and how do you find them? Where do you get the data on those customers?

In the digital world, all of the users out there have, for example, 800 different data points associated with them because of all the websites they have been to, then we can start figuring out where they live, their IP address, their interests with all those data points. You know a hundred thousand things about a person. When you visit a site, the auction process starts. We have got the ad, the placement, the content surrounding the ad and the users who are about to view the ads. When person A is about to see the ads, if certain combinations of data points surface up from that person, then we are interested in bidding on this person. We place the bid and compete with other advertisers.

There is first-party data and third-party data. We even sometimes deal with second-party data. First-party data is the data we own, the data we get from putting a piece of code under emails and websites. We anonymize those data and find users on the world wide web. Third-party data comes from credit card companies, websites, data providers. You really just found out today that providers have collected information on people and that data you have to pay for. In that instant, we don't need to pay them while we're searching. You know what every other publisher knows. You kind of get access to all the data points for free up to the point you use it. You can access the data to find the person you bid on, as soon as you win a bid using that particular data, once you've actually used it successfully, you get charged a premium by the third-party data providers. Second-party data can be defined as like somewhere between first and third. And it's not the data that a client owned, but it is not third-party data that we are paying for. We have partner relationships with other websites to get those data points.

3. For a small budget arts organization that does not have a digital marketing employee or firm, what is your advice to manage their social media marketing?  

We deal with social media as an inventory source, a platform for advertising, not so much for marketing or promotion. Social media becomes a place to place media rather than the social network. We don't have a lot of experience actually using them as a marketing platform. I would say if you are a small budget arts organization who can’t find outside help, my advice is to, first of all, if you don't have any resource, pick a platform that actually changes with the times. I would think about picking the best platform that could really work for you and then focusing on that rather than trying to do everything. See if we can just do one pretty well and then use that to engage.

4. We know Facebook has millions of audiences, but reaching those audiences comes at a price. What do you recommend to strike the balance between investing resources on Facebook and an organization's website?

I think that your own website is a priority over Facebook. We might not even be talking about digital at this point. Even if you're running a print ad in the city paper, people are going to come to your Website, everyone comes to your website. I don't know the statistics, but I would be surprised if it wasn't something like 90 percent or more of the people visit your website for attending a performance or interacting with your organization in some way. Again that's not based on any actual survey it's just my feeling. I know organizations that have 10 - 30 million dollar budgets and they spend incredible amounts of money on marketing and think it's too expensive to spend $100,000 on a website, they think it's not worth it and it’s a waste of money. I would disagree. I think it's your most important asset. And it doesn’t have to mean that the website has to be fancy, sometimes to create a very simple, well laid-out, well thought-out, well designed, welcoming website is deceiving. It could look very simple, because it has so much design thought in it. It actually requires a lot of resources to make sure the back end is created well so that the organization staff can update it quickly. I would say probably a factor of 20, maybe 30 to 1, in terms of resources I would put in your own website versus Facebook. I don't think Facebook is irrelevant. There is a place for Facebook. I just think that between the two, your own web site is more important. When you talk about what's important for Facebook, or really any social media, it’s mostly about content. Creating content, not even only great content, but a lot of content. Short homemade videos, even arts organizations with no budget could take their iPhones to create a video every day and post it. It doesn’t even have to be that interesting, they could take a video interviewing a colleague in the hallway, or updates on the street. It has to be a little bit interesting but it does not necessarily have to be highly produced. The resource needed wasn’t anything to do with Facebook or social media, the resource was creating the video and the content. Then it’s just as simple as putting it out there and pushing it on social.