Over the past five years, Performance Display Marketing (PDM) has increasingly become the ‘go-to’ channel for marketers, allowing them to target new customers and re-engage with site visitors at scale through ROI driven metrics, alongside Paid Search.

Naturally, every PDM campaign is different, depending on the particular goals set out by the marketers and the data points available to boost the campaign performance.  But in general, PDM campaigns use dynamic and personalised elements, such as contextual, product-based, audience or geo-localised related data points. These tactics vary in terms of scale and performance based on the strength of the user intent “signals” collected and the accuracy of the prediction algorithms used to process them.

But regardless of the type and size of campaign, every marketer should always be mindful of 3 pillars, which will very often draw the line between failure and success.  Here, Marieke Flament, Senior Director Marketing, EMEA at the Hotels.com brand and Sylvain Piquet, Director, BI & Account Strategy, Criteo discuss the importance of Information, Insight and Inventory  and how they can help deliver highly successful PDM campaigns.

1. Leverage Smart Data (vs Big data)

Criteo: The Ad Tech industry is now effectively harnessing the power of consumer data – online and offline – to inform marketing campaigns. Big data empowers marketers to predict user behaviour and make accurate decisions, in order to display the right ad content and bid the right price for every impression, based on the predicted propensity for the user to convert. Beyond the enhanced scale and performance it brings, Big data isn’t necessarily smart data. As marketers, you need to be equipped to understand the insight it yields and ask your vendor to provide relevant data points, otherwise the information is useless for your business.

Hotels.com: Data is at the core of everything we do here at Hotels.com. All our campaigns are based on data which enables our marketing teams to create informed marketing campaigns and to quickly make smart decisions.  In addition to automated bidding algorithms, a team of data scientists helps our marketing departments mine the available information in more depth to answer difficult questions. Combining automated bidding algorithms and a team of data scientists allows us to constantly optimize our marketing spend and improve our PDM campaigns.

Criteo: Relevant business insights turn out to be the higher level need in the ‘Maslow pyramid’ of digital marketing. As a result, brands’ digital marketing teams are increasingly bringing data specialists / data scientists on board and putting the IT infrastructure in place to make the most of this data. However, business intelligence is still not broadly adopted yet. Marketers have to lean on their ad technology partners for data insight and ensure they are asking the right questions in order to get the most out of it.

Hotels.com: In my opinion, asking the right questions is key to getting the most out of your data, especially when there is so much information available.  As a result, we are seeing a change in the necessary skills needed to become a successful marketer.  Today, the ability to analyse and interpret large amounts of data quickly is a must.

Another key success factor has been for us to empower marketers to pull and analyse data in real time because, beyond big or smart data, what you need is real time data and access to on-the-spot analysis:  you can’t wait a week to know how well you’ve done, and in an ever-changing environment you can’t rely too much on monthly dashboards as they lack flexibility and can’t deliver real time analysis.

2. Insight: Run user centric campaigns & collect audience insight

Criteo: Gone are the days of media planning solely based on placement, today it’s all about having users at the heart of campaign. Best of breed PDM campaigns are user centric, meaning that your KPIs and bidding strategy should be based on whether you are retargeting engaged audiences or prospecting for new audiences. Getting new users will always be more costly than converting your existing audience, so adjust budgets and targets based on that to get the right scale and ROI. Marketers should be focused on following their customer’s journey from initial site visit to purchase, asking their vendors to provide on-going user flow analysis, in order to understand users’ Life Time Value. Prospecting campaigns rarely provide immediate ROI but pay long term dividends which usually become visible after 30 to 90 days following the first visit.

Hotels.com: At Hotels.com, we embrace targeted marketing and build specific messages for specific audiences across most channels. For example, we differentiate new vs. returning customers / active vs. lapsed customers / members of our loyalty program Welcome Rewards vs. non-members.

To ensure that budget goes into the right channels, we understand our customer journey in depth across marketing channels, which allows us to adapt spend by channel.

Criteo: Also, with smart mobile devices in nearly every hand around the world, there is an ever-growing amount of data rolling in, from search behaviour to in-app engagement, and your campaign needs to engage with your audience across all devices and operating systems and report based on where your audience is targeted. Ad technology platforms are increasingly sharing the insights they harvest, from where the impressions and clicks are coming from, to how many clicks and conversions are generated on each device.

Hotels.com: Whatever the device, we want to be relevant and serve the right content, at the right time. Getting our customers to log-in and sign-in to our loyalty program, Welcome Rewards, is the first step that we are taking to ensure that we can start tracking cross device behaviour and keep delivering the best experience for our customers. Mobile is key area of our business – collectively, our apps have achieved more than 40 million downloads since launch and our goal is to provide the best experience to our customers, wherever they are, whatever their device is. 

3. Inventory: focus on Quality

Criteo: Premium Inventory – ads placed in a prime location on tier one media properties – matters for two reasons. Firstly, because it reaches a significant share of unique high quality audience, which can only be found in premium environments. Secondly, premium inventory targets the users at the start their online journey, when they are the most likely to engage with your brand and convert.

Marketers should ask vendors to be clear on how they buy and sell their premium inventory – which RTB platforms / Ad Exchanges do they work with and do they also have direct relationships with publishers? Where do you, advertiser, usually see your ads being publishers or not? If you and your colleagues are not seeing your ads on premium placements, nor will your target audience.

Bot traffic is another big issue for the advertisers and marketers, as it generates artificial ad impressions and visits. What measures do your vendors put in place to prevent that? Also, if your ad technology providers have direct relationships with publishers, it means your brand is less likely to be a casualty of a bidding war or fraudulent ad placement.  It’s increasingly important for brand marketers to ensure they’re asking their ad networks what they do to maximise their presence on premium placement and what checks and balances they have in place to ensure ad safety.

Hotels.com: As with any e-commerce business, we focus primarily on ROI. However, ensuring that our ads are displayed on safe and relevant sites is crucial for our brand. Finding trusted partners and working hand-in-hand on inventory, display and getting visibility of what we buy and where we appear is therefore extremely important. At Hotels.com, we have brand guidelines which we share with our vendors to ensure that our ads are displayed in the right place, and with the right look and feel.

Sylvain Piquet

Sylvain Piquet


Director BI & Account Strategy, Northern Europe Criteo.