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‘Programmatic seems the only way brands chase audiences without caring where ads appear’ claims The Telegraph's programmatic chief

The deadline for submissions to The Drum Digital Trading Awards for 2016 is 12 February, with the entire process culminating on a gala ceremony set to be hosted on 4 May in London.

Below Nicole Holtsmark, the Telegraph’s head of programmatic trading and audiences and member of the DTA judging panel, offers her insights on how the purchase of ad tech outfits will affect their new owners, how coherent industry action is needed to reduce instances of fraud, plus how brands’ are increasingly willing to utilise ad tech to its full capability.

The Drum: There has been much consolidation in the space over the last 12-18 months, in particular Facebook, Google, and now Verizon have been acquisitive in the space. Not to mention the many ad tech players. How do you think this is likely to affect media trading in the sector?

NH: The acquisitions we have seen seem to be about driving growth and revenue diversification at a faster pace than can be achieved organically.

So, while it's not actually about media trading there are by-products that do affect the power balance there, and it will be interesting to see how that develops over the coming months and years as these companies settle in with their new owners.

Ultimately the end user will decide where content is consumed, and trading will have to follow.

The Drum: Much has been made of the move towards more closed trading environments (i.e. away from open exchanges, towards things such as PMPs, etc.) at least from the sell-side. What has driven this, and do you think buyers are likely to follow suit?

NH: Buyers need to be able to secure advantageous access to premium environments for their clients, and Sellers need to add value and assert expertise of their own audiences, so PMPs became popular out of a joint need to recover some control from the algorithms and bidders.

In the next wave of evolution we are seeing a greater focus on planning PMP activity and planning it ahead of time, which suggests that programmatic budgets are no longer 'remnant' budgets. The inventory available for these marketplaces hasn't been 'remnant' for some time now and it's encouraging to see that catching up.

The Drum: Many still bemoan the disparity between data-driven marketing techniques (and those who espouse such techniques), and the advertising industry's creative community. Why does this gap continue to exist, and can you suggest any ways to help improve the lack of cohesion?

NH: Data-driven buying relies on standardised technical specs whereas creative for branding should be eye catching, different, a media-first. In order for them to work together that eye catching activity needs to be able to run in both worlds to keep things simple, but that isn't so simple, and so we have a gap to address.

The Drum: How much of a problem do bad actors (i.e. fraudsters, etc.) continue to play in the sector? And does this continue to significantly hold back spend?

NH: Programmatic seems to be the only channel where brands are chasing audiences without caring where the ads appear. This is changing and if the same buying rigour is applied as we see in TV, radio, print and outdoor this can only improve campaign effectiveness and reduce fraud.

If it doesn’t happen, there is a real danger we could see brands move out of digital altogether.

The Drum: Ad blocking has been one of the key issues of 2015, do you think this will lead to innovation in the sector, as advocated by outfits such as AdBlock Plus?

NH: The increased focus on ad blocking is not something we should ignore because it informs us about our relationship with the end user. With extra focus on it we should expect to see a variety of outcomes from creative formats to business models and everything in between.

The Drum: Do you find awareness of programmatic advertising has increased among brands? If so, what has the effect on the wider industry been?

NH: We are at the beginning of a new learning curve for a new set of traders, and some brands are embracing it more than others.

Across the market we are fielding more questions than we used to but in many cases it is still the wrong question. Programmatic is an exciting trading mechanism but the decision of where to buy ads should still happen before deciding which pipe to use to buy it.

The Digital Trading Awards are held in association with The Trade Desk and sponsored by Audience2Media, eXelate, Integral Ad Science, Rubicon Project, Sphere DigitalRecruitment and TubeMogul.

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Ronan Shields

I'm the digital editor at The Drum, and cover adtech and martech. Prefer news and analysis, over opinion pieces. Current fascination(s) are blockchain and media futures trading; also curious about transhumanism on a personal basis. NYC-based, but really London Irish.

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