The programmatic industry is constantly evolving. As part of The Drum’s Digital Trading Awards Manifesto, we ask industry insiders how it’s changing and what agencies and brands need to look for on this shifting landscape.
In the first of a series of three articles delving into programmatic, we ask: What are the main challenges facing the industry at the moment?
The main issues at the moment for advertisers are ones of quality and visibility. What quality can I expect when I buy inventory using programmatic? To date, the need to drive revenue via programmatic placements has often led to quantity over quality in terms of supply and this situation is starting to be redressed as the marketplace matures.
Big brands are beginning to invest much more heavily in programmatic and they have some challenges when it comes to putting the right metrics in place. Up until now, direct response campaigns have dominated programmatic buying, with revenue-based conversions that are relatively easy to track and measure.
Arguably, programmatic isn’t built for brand campaigns yet, making measuring the effectiveness of brand campaigns a bit trickier. However, an increase in brand spend via programmatic and increasing demand is putting pressure (and creating opportunities) on tech providers and publishers to provide the right sort of programmatic solutions for brands moving forward.
The main challenges are it’s too complicated and with too much choice. Take verification as an example: there are over 15 different companies offering viewability tools and benchmarks and 10 companies claiming to tackle ad fraud.
Add in brand safety and you have a very complex mix, when all advertisers are really concerned with is overall quality.
The evolution of mobile programmatic in particular over the past 12 months has been a significant development for the digital trading industry, but if we are to continue a positive trajectory there are three specific areas of focus we need to address.
The first is education, on both the buy and sell sides. There are still some that find themselves confused by the ecosystem and what it offers, so both sides of the ecosystem need to look at how the benefits of mobile programmatic – in tracking, data, and inventory quality/transparency – are effectively communicated.
Secondly the issue of cross-screen, namely what does it actually mean and how is it being deployed? Programmatic allows advertisers to run always-on, real-time campaigns efficiently, that’s a given. However, a joined-up cross-screen advertising strategy should shift the focus beyond clicks and impressions to better understand consumers across multiple screens.
Finally, and one of the key areas for mobile programmatic in 2015, we have mobile private marketplaces (PMPs). Here we need to ensure that brands understand the benefit in mobile, ensuring that Deal ID is being adopted and bidders upgrade to Open RTB 2.2 and 2.3 quick enough to offer deals and native to their licensed partners.
Over the last three years, programmatic has marched steadily into the minds and workflows of agencies and brands in the UK. As with any emerging technology, programmatic has had to surmount challenges during its evolution.
As we've moved into 2015, the rise of major ad technology firms and their efforts to lock advertisers into a single tech stack has become the hottest topic of conversation. While these companies spin a good story about ease and efficiency when everything happens under one company's proverbial roof, the reality is that inherent conflicts of interest and vendor lock-in make these dubious choices for advertisers.
The primary challenge facing the industry is one of demystification. There’s still an awful lot of confusion out there about who operates in this space, what they do and how they do it. Educating the marketplace is the key to helping brands participate in the automated advertising space.
For our part, at the end of last year we launched Rubicon Project University, a series of events aimed at dispelling some of the myths and confusion our customers encounter on a daily basis.
If the industry is to hit the kind of growth figures being forecast, we all need to be better educated around the operational improvements and cost efficiencies that programmatic is capable of delivering. We should always remember that automated advertising emerged at a time when ad networks were dominant. In fact, in many cases it has supplanted the network model as a more transparent, efficient and beneficial model for buyers and sellers alike.
Just as then, trust and confidence are key: we need to ensure that the marketplaces that we all trade in are as 'well-lit' as possible for clients.
Mobile usage is continuing to skyrocket but ad spend has not yet caught up. We're in the midst of a period that will be looked back upon as a turning point for media consumption and consequently, advertising technology.
Being able to accurately measure return on ad spend and target across devices is key for both publishers and advertisers to find success in today's fragmented market – and to ensure ad spend catches up to where people are spending the most time. We're seeing a shift from focusing on impressions to a focus on people, as their time with digital media is now spread across multiple devices.
As advertisers start to get to grips with programmatic trading, their focus is shifting. Now that programmatic is more of a mainstay in the digital space and as the technology develops, advertisers are asking more questions. For example, viewability; advertisers want to know if their users are seeing their ads, this metric has led to more brand budgets flowing through programmatic which is positive.
That same notion extends to brand safety. This can only come from giving advertisers more insight about who is seeing their ads and where they are seeing them. This is creating huge challenges for vendors and agencies as the industry scales and more ad impressions are bought and sold every day.
One of the key ways in which to solve these challenges is education. The more the industry understands the technology and the nuances the easier it will be for the challenges to become opportunities. We are all still in the discovery stage, the more curious we are the more we will find out.
This article was first published in The Drum’s Digital Trading Awards Manifesto on 27 May.
The Drum Digital Trading Awards 2016, in association with The Trade Desk recognise and highlight the best examples of digital trading in practice. We aim to reward those who can actively show that what they do, day in and day out, works for their clients and themselves.
As ever, this isn't just a an awards show. This is just the start of an editorial programme and calendar of events culminating with the awards ceremony in May, showing The Drum's commitment to automated trading. We would love you to get involved.
Entries are open to anybody in the digital media/trading eco-system who can show that they offer a high value service or technology. Agencies/companies must have had a UK presence for the last 6 months. The work judged should be either with UK based clients or international clients providing the agency/company is UK based.
ENTRY DEADLINE: FRIDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2016
Awards ceremony: 4 May 2016 - London