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Getting on Track with Programmatic Buying

Programmatic is a key buzzword at the moment and the advantages of programmatic are being championed left and right. Everyday it seems I see another article on LinkedIn about how much it’s grown in the last quarter and how much more it will grow. However last week the World Federation of Advertisers published a set of guidelines for programmatic trading and in it they have a statistic that more than 70% of advertisers “prefer the traditional way of ad trading”. As well as reports of growth in programmatic we’re also seeing reports of fraud and “bot traffic” which can turn someone who’s already not sure of programmatic into a downright skeptic who avoids the whole messy business entirely.

So is everyone actually on board the programmatic train and what’s stopping it from reaching its full momentum?

A main advantage of programmatic is that it’s using automation in order to make media buying and selling more efficient and ideally saves time on both ends. Buying programmatically also means that a brand can buy an audience rather than a site, which has advantages for the user too – we like to see ads for things we’re interested in. When people talk about how they hate ads I like to believe that what they really hate are ugly and irrelevant ads. Side note - Does anyone actually care about “this woman’s amazing transformation”?

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A major challenge of programmatic looks like it comes down to education and perhaps a fear that someday the machines will take all our jobs. The fact that there’s a lot of jargon (RTB, DSP, WTF?) being thrown about doesn’t help either and no-one wants to look out of the loop with such a trending topic. In order to combat this, the IAB are collaborating with a number of ad tech vendors to produce a whitepaper to set down definitions which will hopefully clear up misunderstandings. The IAB also plan to create a Task Force that will educate both buyers and sellers about programmatic.

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Artist’s rendering of what the IAB Task force will look like.

The way programmatic, especially real time bidding, is perceived also looks to be an issue. Historically RTB has been seen as solution to sell off any remnant inventory and as a purely direct response product. This is changing as we start to see more and more branding activity to come through programmatic. Even premium branding products like Site Takeovers have been sold on a programmatic basis, proof that attitudes towards it need to start changing. Again this comes down to education.

Another challenge for advertisers is the lack of transparency of what kind of inventory they’re buying. It’s important that they are able to see where their ads are being shown and know that their brand is safe. The WFA’s report showed that a major concern brands have when it comes to programmatic is that they’ll show up on inappropriate content. In today’s social media driven world the last thing a brand needs is for a screenshot of them on a dodgy site to go viral.

At the moment it seems the big challenges for Programmatic stem from education or the lack thereof.  Right now it’s hard to wade through all the overwhelming statistics and find helpful, relevant information. The fact that the IAB have recognised this and have taken some steps towards rectifying it is a start. Programmatic is only going to get bigger but hopefully it’ll begin to be less confusing.

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If you have any comments or suggestions to add to my article, feel free to leave a comment below or just tweet us!