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Tech Programmatic

Back to basics: why your team should know the history of programmatic


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May 17, 2016 | 5 min read

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As part of The Digital Trading Awards Programme we hear from James Patterson, General Manager, The Trade Desk UK who talks about the history of programmatic.

The Trade Desk

why your team should know the history of programmatic

In an industry that moves as fast as ad tech, keeping up to date can be both overwhelming and exhausting. Advancements and improvements are always imminent, while buzzwords and acronyms are added daily to the already oversaturated list of industry jargon. And yet, this is what we live for.

Advertising folks have a bit of a “shiny new object” syndrome, often overly eager to latch onto the latest trends, sprinkling the hot new topic into their discussions to prove they're in the know. But before we move on to the next big thing in programmatic, it's important to reflect on the history of how our industry got where we are today. Agencies sit at the nexus of the advertising universe. In order to evolve into an agency of the future, a deep, fundamental understanding of programmatic is just as crucial for your team as its nimbleness to adapting trends. Here are three reasons why you should encourage your team to go back to the basics:

1. You can't get the most out of the newest tools unless you understand the basics.

Every programmatic market is governed by its own set of rules, and buyers need a firm grasp of them at all times -- regardless of whether they're purchasing new formats like mobile video or an old standby like desktop display.

Before experimenting with any new programmatic technology, buyers must take stock of the market they're about to play in. Is the inventory you're buying available to other marketers, as in an open exchange, or do you have exclusive access, as in a preferred deal? What kinds of data can you apply to the transaction? Is the publisher bringing any of its own to the table? The latest ad products and targeting tools are ultimately worthless if buyers can't first answer these basic questions about the ground rules that will govern their use.

2. Knowledge of programmatic roots will make sense of recent evolutions.

It's hard to understand why things are happening in the present without a clear grasp of how we got here. For instance, programmatic TV is one of today's hottest ad tech conversation topics, but Google actually tried to make real-time bidding work in television all the way back in 2011. The project failed when major TV inventory holders chose not to participate. At the time, they were worried that the transparency and fluctuation of RTB ad rates would cause them to lose control over their pricing.

That's why the current wave of programmatic TV solutions have all avoided real-time bidding. Instead, these new technologies are focused on automating the workflow and allowing buyers to apply audience data to inventory that the networks retain complete control over.

This is just one example. Unless you have the full back story, it can be extremely difficult to understand what's motivating the biggest players in programmatic.

3. “Those who don't learn from (programmatic) history are doomed to repeat it.”

By taking the time to study programmatic's past mistakes, we can make sure we're able to correct them as we push forward into new platforms and buying technologies.

As an example, the digital display ecosystem has always had a major problem when it comes to making sure people actually see the ads marketers have paid for. In 2016, we are just now really starting to tackle the twin problems of viewability and bot fraud. As the industry begins to adapt to new screens like connected television and new formats like virtual reality, it's crucial that we learn from our earlier missteps and nip these problems in the bud.

The programmatic ecosystem of the future needs to be a fair marketplace all of us can have confidence in. The only way we can get there and continue to nimbly adapt is to educate ourselves on the basics and build from there. With a strong knowledge foundation, there is ample opportunity.

The Trade Desk are Headline Sponsor of The Drum Digital Trading Awards UK and more details can be found here and here

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