As The Drum gears up for its Digital Trading Awards (DTA), created to reward the best programmatically-executed campaigns in the market, Graham Wylie, senior director, EMEA & APAC Marketing, AppNexus Europe, and DTA judge, has outlined his views on how the market can progress further and what he will be looking for from entries.
What are the main challenges in programmatic trading currently and why?
The rapid development of programmatic technology has made it hard for publishers and advertisers to make informed decisions. In European research with IAB Europe and WARC earlier this year we found that less than half of the industry has a strategy for programmatic and are still in a 'test & learn' phase.
They report challenges bringing the right skills into their organisations and allocating budget to programmatic activity. In the UK, 29 per cent of marketers and publishers said that they did not know what programmatic was. In the year ahead, the industry needs to ensure that the progress made on the technology is matched by progress in understanding and skills.
This is why ApNexus is working closely with IAB UK and IAB Europe on education initiatives; has partnered with The Drum for the DTA's and supports many of our customers and partners in their own education initiatives. As an example of what can be done, AppNexus has helped one of our customers build a programmatic curriculum for their entire team and will deliver training this year to more than 2,000 people through their university program.
To what extent has transparency improved in the value chain over the past year?
Transparency can mean different things to different people, depending on where they sit in the industry. However, as programmatic evolves there is an increased understanding across the industry of good and bad behaviours, and initiatives like AppNexus Certified Supply where we are working with partners to guarantee inventory quality, will continue to drive improvements in the supply chain.
What could marketers be doing better to maximise on their programmatic investments?
All digital advertising work's best when it is aligned and integrated to the wider marketing mix; so while programmatic is often siloed in the 'test & learn' phase it should be reintegrated as soon as possible as part of the wider marketing strategy. There is tremendous potential for programmatic to help brands adapt more quickly and flexibly in a real-time, multi-screen world when this is done.
What’s the next big thing in programmatic trading?
Ironically the next big thing is likely to be something as old as the media industry itself. Trusted relationships and premium inventory were the initial foundation of the advertising industry, but have not been part of the initial move to programmatic. Now as the technology matures, these traditional relationships will be programmatically enabled to the benefit of both buyer and seller.
The arrival of Programmatic Direct and Deals, means that the efficiency and effectiveness of programmatic technology can now be applied across the full spectrum of digital advertising. As an example of the potential for programmatic beyond real-time bidding, earlier this year we saw Accuen and Gourmet Ads do a deal on AppNexus in less than six minutes. Without programmatic, the buyer and seller may never have found each other and when they did, such a deal would have taken days or weeks to go live.
To what extent should publishers pool their programmatic platforms to achieve greater scale for premium private marketplaces? What opportunities could be created?
There are some good examples of what publishers can achieve when working together to deliver premium content at scale. Audience Square has done this well in France and just last week two of Australia's largest premium content producers announced that they are working together on the APEX premium mobile exchange, to give advertisers a brand-safe, programatic mobile offering at scale. The right model for today's publishers is driven by their own programmatic strategy and the dynamics of their individual markets.
How much progress has programmatic trading made in shedding its image of ‘remnant, cheap’ inventory? How much further must it go?
As programmatic evolves beyond RTB, its probably fair to say that perception lags the reality. We recently saw ReactX deliver a $27.50 CPM campaign through AppNexus, using programmatic technology to dynamically check 275 different variables and deliver 100 per cent viewable high-impact custom ad-units in real-tim. As the Deals and Programmatic Direct marketplaces mature, we will see perception catch up with reality in 2015.
What are the remaining barriers to marketers adopting programmatic trading?
We talked earlier about the lack of skills and understanding around programmatic and the desperate need for market education. However, as the industry rushes to solve this problem it is creating another one. The flood of 'content marketing' initiatives around programmatic – whitepapers, reports, conferences – has the potential to raise the awareness of 'this thing called programmatic' without making any meaningful contribution to understanding what it means for the publisher, advertiser or trader. The team at Gartner talks about all new technology in terms of hype-cycles, and as 2014 draws to a close the programmatic hype machine is in full flow. I think the DTA's are an excellent way to showcase the best of the industry and really drive understanding of what can be achieved.
What are the next wave of opportunities programmatic trading can provide in the overall marketing landscape?
I think the real time aspect of programmatic has yet to be fully exploited. To date, marketers have thought about real time marketing as a social media thing. But as they begin to pay for social media reach programmatically, there are interesting opportunities emerging to amplify social messages with smart media buying and real time advertising across the web.
What will you be looking for from entries during the judging stages?
As a marketer, I am going to be looking at how well the entries define and meet their objectives, with good clear measurement of a meaningful outcome. There are a lot of 'easy' metrics in digital marketing, so a stand-out entry will go beyond the obvious and show how the activity really connected with the target audience to drive real revenue or brand metrics.
How did you get into digital trading/advertising industry?
I've been a client-side marketer for most of my career, helping a pretty diverse group of companies navigate through change. On the surface, the media/advertising industry doesn't have much in common with the chemicals industry, shipping or car parking but when you step back and see a mature industry struggling with disruptive forces, they share many of the same challenges. AppNexus is the largest independent technology provider, so there is a massive opportunity for us to help the industry capitalise on this disruption and build stronger, more effective businesses.