The Drum Awards for Marketing - Entry Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Rockabox Programmatic Adtech

How to separate the 'value from the noise' - Rockabox's James Booth on programmatic trading


By The Drum Team | Editorial

February 26, 2015 | 6 min read

As The Drum's 2015 Digital Trading Awards (DTA) approach, Rockabox founder and chief executive and DTA judge James Booth talks about the importance of separating the value from the noise when it comes to programmatic trading.

What are the main challenges in programmatic trading marketing currently and why?

I see the current challenges as being separating the value from the noise. Brands have a tough time trying to unpick what’s what in programmatic and there’s a way to go before the dynamic shifts in their favour. Whether it’s transparency driving better trust that’s then complicated by third party auditing solutions that misinform, to advances in technology limiting reach, the challenges remain, but that’s to be expected as we run at it at 90mph.

To what extent has transparency improved in the value chain over the past year?

Considerably. The market has had to suffer high levels of fraud in recent years; transparency is opening up a premium audience and driving better quality metrics. It’s surprising that the industry has been able to get away with hiding so much for so long.

What could marketers be doing better to maximise on their programmatic investments?

Develop a better understanding of programmatic and its capabilities. Demanding transparency but understanding how supply side platforms (SSPs) and premium publishers sometimes exploit the option on whether to reveal their URLs. Beware of third party analytics packages that claim to be able to track programmatic properly but equally aren’t built with full understanding in tow. Find individuals in the market who care enough to share without pitching; find good people to talk to.

What’s the next big thing in programmatic trading?

I have to say this having spent years evolving a scalable solution, but I do believe that rich media is the next big area for programmatic. Branding is an established area of digital marketing, it warrants the same efficiencies as direct response (DR). However, delivering complex rich media to scale across open real-time bidding (RTB) is extremely complex so it will take time for a collection of players to emerge.

With DR budgets becoming tapped out, to what extent can the progress in (linear) TV programmatic trading help shift brand budget into programmatic?

With each emerging area, we should recognise that often it’s programmatic entering the arena where budgets exist as much as budget shifting to programmatic. Obviously if budget shifts to linear TV bought programmatically, it helps the vertical of programmatic, but the main consideration should be on the performance and return; get those elements right and the spend will follow.

To what extend should publishers pool their programmatic platforms to achieve greater scale for premium private marketplaces? What opportunities could be created?

Publishers are experimenting with programmatic in a number of ways. There are opportunities and there are threats. Audience extension is now a reality for publishers; whether this is kept within the walled garden of their titles or extended out into a wider remit, programmatic technologies allow publishers to rethink the value of their audiences and offer brands greater reach and targeting.

How much progress has programmatic trading made in shedding its image of ‘remnant, cheap’ inventory? How much further must it go?

We’re currently caught in a phraseology whirl. The market has gone bonkers for programmatic yet in reality, the majority of activity is performance based. As such, remnant is still very much in the mix and as an industry we’ll need a further period of maturity before we lose our fixation with the terminology and focus on progressing the application. At that point the image of programmatic will change.

What are the remaining barriers to marketers adopting programmatic trading?

There are many and most of them relate to understanding. Brands are struggling to understand how to exploit programmatic with confidence - quality inventory, creative formats, transparency, better reporting. It’s advantageous for us on the supply side and for agencies in the driving seat, for brands not to have a full grasp. My message to brands would be to seek independent input from individuals who can help educate them and to resist the rhetoric of some of the large consulting firms who’s remit is to exploit a lack of knowledge as well.

What are the next wave of opportunities programmatic trading can provide in the overall marketing landscape?

It’s clear that programmatic is on a roll and it’s certainly the case that all areas of marketing will be explored as a possible area of growth. TV, in-gaming, print, OOH – we should expect and embrace the application to any area where efficiency can be introduced. The challenge will be in moving those who do well from antiquated models into this new world.

What will you be looking for from entries during the judging stages?

It’s difficult to say ahead of reviewing the entries. Performance is a strong area for programmatic but I’m looking forward to understanding the more creative uses.

How did you get into digital trading/advertising industry?

My journey into advertising wasn’t deliberate. In 1996 I came up with an approach for putting audio onto the Internet via narrow bandwidth; this solution evolved into a multimedia sequencing tool and from that a focus on multimedia advertising (rich media) emerged in 1998. That was the start of Tangozebra which became Europe’s leading supplier of rich media.

The deadline for The Drum DTAs, in association with AppNexus, are sponsored by Millennial Media, StrikeAd, Integral Adscience, Adform, Audience2 media Tremor Video, Tubemogul, Sphere, LiveRail, and Quantcast, has been extended. For details on how to get an extension email events director

Rockabox Programmatic Adtech

More from Rockabox

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +