Half of ad industry believes programmatic ad trading boosts creativity while 28% say it 'inhibits' it, says AOL study

Almost half (48 per cent) of advertisers believe the use of programmatic trading is helping open up new forms of creativity and storytelling, while 28 per cent instead believe the automated form of ad buying “inhibits” creativity, according to an AOL study.

The ‘Programmatic Futures: Where Culture meets Code’ report, which surveyed the views of 136 businesses including media owners, agencies and trading desks, highlighted that there is a major skills gap in the area which needs urgent addressing, with 35 per cent of respondents citing this as the biggest barrier to progress.

The growth of automated ad trading has led to some tension in the advertising sector, with concerns arising over machines taking over from human job roles.

However, the study revealed that well over half (57 per cent) of respondents disagreed that programmatic is replacing the role of the human in advertising.

Instead, 29 per cent said they have more time to focus on higher-value formats and campaigns such as native advertising due to the use of programmatic trading, while 26 per cent of the heavy users of programmatic said they now have more time to spend with clients as a direct result.

Over two thirds (65 per cent) of respondents said they either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they now have more time to devise strategy and audience targeting as a direct result of deploying programmatic trading.

Speaking to The Drum, AOL’s head of international, Graham Moysey, said the fact that 65 per cent of respondents stated that programmatic trading has freed up their time to focus on other tasks such as strategy is “remarkable”, and will continue to grow.

“When you think about the currency of time and how pressed the agency channels are -as are the media owners - it’s a remarkable amount, and we are just at the beginning. As the ecosystem gets cleaned up, that time factor will only grow and time can be redeployed into other things,” he said.

He conceded there that there is “work to do” when it comes to addressing advertisers' concerns regarding trust, transparency and brand safety.

“There is still a bit of trepidation about programmatic in general, a misunderstanding still perhaps for those who haven’t engaged with it much or have engaged with the wrong partner. But we’re in a constant state of improvement.

“We are on a journey that is related to transparency, but there is room for improvement. I strongly believe that closed systems will lose and open ones will win. Our strategy at AOL One is to be incredibly open with our data.”

Moysey believes the future of programmatic trading will centre on publishers pooling their private exchanges to programmatic powerhouses, which are operated with strict control, therefore leaving brand safety more tightly policed.

Meanwhile, he also pointed to linear TV as a “white space” ripe for evolving, and said that AOL’s strategy there is “starting to take shape”.

Last week it revealed a major extension deal with Publicis Groupe, which will involve moving its programmatic technology over to linear TV deals.

Much of its capability in the linear TV space has been bolstered by its acquisition of Adap.tv. “What is becoming obvious is there is a bit of a white space in linear TV and so we are entering into it off the back of Adapt.tv’s technology, but all our engineers are also developing in that space for rollout of AOL One,” he added.

For the study, AOL conducted 17 in-depth interviews with media owners, trading desks, agency heads and industry bodies, including Starcom Mediavest, VivaKi, Channel 4, Zoopla, MediaCom, Mindshare, Carat, Archant, Johnston Press, Global Radio, the IPA, eBay and Time Out.

It also surveyed 97 specialists in digital marketing, 66 of which came from media agencies and trading desks (buy-side) and 31 from media owners (sell-side).

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