CFO World

How REA Group uses adtech to deepen customer reach, engagement

Digital advertising company explains how it's activating audience data and improving customer experience

REA Group’s Braden Clarke is laser-focused on audience management and automated trading and using the latest adtech and martech solutions to drive brand and direct response outcomes for buyers and sellers alike.

REA Group operates Australia's property websites and real estate websites in Europe, Asia and the US. Clarke, who’s head of audience solutions and automated trading, is on a mission to deliver better customer experiences by pumping up engagement, and recently deployed MediaMath’s unified platform to enhance audience reach and engagement and deliver better outcomes.

MediaMath provides programmatic marketing technology including data management platforms, omni-channel DSP, audiences, supply and intelligence.

Since joining REA in 2009, Clarke has built out a programmatic operation that spans supply side as a publisher; and demand side as both a brand advertiser and independent trading desk.

Focused on activation of first-party data assets, REA's Audience Solutions team creates opportunities for brands to reach a targeted, qualified property audience across both the site's inventory and the broader Web. This includes solutions for REA brands across Australia and Asia, as well as bespoke executions for REA's advertiser and agency partners.

REA Group's Braden Clarke
REA Group's Braden Clarke

Clarke said the adoption of the MediaMath solution delivers a couple of primary use cases, all centred around activating the company’s audience data.

It is using  a combination of MediaMath DMP and DSP, and also using the Data Mining Console – which is  DMP’s advanced analytics product and part of the DMP that allows for mass audience segment generation.

“The first use case is for our own brand and marketing, the REA brand, to drive both the brand awareness and direct response outcomes for REA’s various product sets. So whether that be residential listings or our home loan products or commercial listings,” he explained. 

The second use case is around the commercialisation of audience insights. “How do we take what we know about property seekers and use those insights to drive value for our customers - whether those be real estate agents, property developers or banks and insurance or other company stakeholders?”

Overall, Clarke said optimising through adtech has resulted in cost efficiency thanks to accessing inventory effectively at great rates and great scale.

“One of the things that’s really important for us is to be really close to our data. The MediaMath platform allows us to integrate really closely with how the decision works and what users we’re going to to targeting for advertising so we can onboard the insights that we can drive from our data science behavioural communications team to drive those better outcomes,” he said. 

Clarke explained one of his main challenges involves running very high-volume micro campaigns on behalf of clients - in particular, the real estate agents. Traditionally, REA's manual process relied on a fixed set of rules based on a property type, location and price, which then determined which users were targeted to deliver the listings.

“There’s a very high volume of smaller budget campaigns and so this is where we might be pushing out a particular property listing, and broadening the exposure of that by distributing it offsite. We have quite a challenge there given the high volumes of property listings and we’ve got to be able to create custom targeting and custom campaigns on an individual property level," Clarke continued.

“The MediaMath and data mining console enabled us to be a lot smarter about how we run that targeting and then use a customer bespoke segment for each individual property in which we create in real-time using the APIs."

On the change management front, the company needed to make a number of background changes internally in order for the processes and workflow to support additional campaign volumes being pushed through.

“There is also a multi-layered education piece, particularly when you’re using targeted ad products that can get quite detailed in terms of what sites they are running on, what ad sizes are being used," Clarke said. "There is quite a large education piece internally just in terms of what are the capabilities of the product, what are the core benefits, how do you communicate that in a way that really makes sense for the customers, the real estate agent or the vendor who’s putting the house up on the market.”

Up next: What results REA has delivered and the next evolution of audience engagement

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Delivering results

Asked to highlight some of the tangible results, Clarke said one of the big benefits is around efficiency in terms of a reduction in man hours.

“Initially, we were saving the equivalent of around 10 hours a day of manual campaign set-up time and optimisation. As the scale has increased, that is up to around 15 hours a day that we’re saving in terms of the manual effort that used to go into the campaigns,” he said. 

In addition, there's been a significant increase in scale in terms of the amount of users the company can reach, and the amount of impressions it is able to deliver, while still driving direct response outcomes as well.

“We have maintained and in some cases increased the clickthrough rates, the amount of traffic that’s coming through for each listing," Clarke said.

Deploying the technology has been an “iterative process”. “It is certainly not just a set-and-forget type of application," he said. 

"We are constantly changing the way that integration works in terms of what data we feed in, how we create the segments, and how the templates are set up for the campaign. It is definitely an ongoing iterative process and we’re seeing continual uplift as we continue to evolve that product as well.”  

Hindsight and moving forward 

During the deployment process, Clarke found it fascinating to observe technical people talking to other techies, and trying to collaborate with multiple stakeholders.

“There are a lot of moving pieces and involving multiple vendors as well, so it can be challenging to get the right people in the room, whether it’s various product management folk from the different stakeholders or whether it’s getting the engineers and the technical folks who speak the same language onto the call,” he said. 

Asked his next steps, Clarke said REA wants to continue exploring how it can best harness customer insights to be able to provide more value in a personalised experience.

“We’ve already seen the benefits of personalisation, so using those audience insights to deliver a more relevant experience - the right properties at the right time to the right people," he said. "For us, it is about continuing the journey - how do we use the insight that we have from the 6.6 million users we have across our websites and just be able to provide a better property experience to consumers.

“More and more, that property experience can live outside of our website. It might be users we’re reaching across other websites, using the likes of MediaMath, or across social media.” 

REA is arguably in a unique position with programmatic, given it is both a buyer and a seller of programmatic inventory and focused on audience.

“We are continuing to see more and more dollars shift to programmatic trading. Traditionally, it has been a predominantly direct response dominated channel, whereas more and more brand dollars are flowing through those channels now," Clarke commented.

“Marketers, brands and publishers are all realising the importance of that real-time activation and real-time audiences to derive outcomes, and the immediacy and the accuracy of the targeting and the access to inventory really just opens up the door and broadens what you can achieve and the type of scale you can deliver.”

Read more about how REA Group is maximising technology for audience engagement

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