Marketers still don’t know their SSPs from their DSPs

A new report from The Drum, in association with Oracle Data Cloud, has highlighted marketers’ attitudes to programmatic spend, finding that an education gap still persists in the space.

Lack of education continues to be an inherent problem in programmatic advertising, according to research conducted by The Drum, in association with Oracle Data Cloud.

Almost a fifth of respondents said that understanding of data application is an issue. Marketers also continue to be confused by terms such as ‘demand-side platform’ and ‘supply-side platform’, according to the report.

The report surveyed over 200 marketing professionals to get their views on their preferences when it comes to programmatic spend. It uncovered concerns surrounding media budget constraints following Brexit and the growing expectation to optimise delivery and avoid media spend wastage.

The findings of the survey were debated by a panel of experts at Oracle’s Data Cloud Summit in London.

One concern raised by the report was the impact of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union earlier in the year. The survey found that on average, around 37% of marketers have been asked to reduce or review their media spend after Brexit.

Panellists share the concerns raised by the findings and the feelings of uncertainty around Brexit but believe that while this is problematic, time will eventually bring greater clarity.

Jamie Toward, managing partner, content at Karmarma, says: “In terms of being able to utilise data, the new EU privacy rules (GDPR) are a big issue. The guidance at the minute varies from ‘everybody is in breach on everything’ to ‘it's so vague we don't know if anyone will be in breach at all’. I think we have to work on the basis that if we are going to trade inside Europe, in any way whatsoever, we will have to be compliant with whatever GDPR ends up being.”

Raluca Efford, head of digital and social engagement at Direct Line Group, does not feel “threatened” by the GDPR and remains optimistic that the autumn budget statement in November will be “tremendously important” in helping marketers understand how Brexit will affect them in the European market.

“It will lead us to greater certainty on whether the budgets will increase or remain stable. It will also help define the shape of those budgets and how they are spent. It wouldn't be surprising to see a lot of these budgets move into more trackable channels, which programmatic could potentially benefit.”

Sam Holding, director of digital partnerships, EMEA at Oracle Data Cloud agrees there is a spotlight on where marketers are spending their money. But he sees this as an “opportunity to learn how to apply data more effectively”.

But what about the finding that marketers believe 34% of media budgets are being wasted? In an age of data accountability, this seems to be a surprising figure.

Holding thinks part of the challenge lies in “understanding what tools to use” and how best to apply them. He also believes the UK is lagging behind the US in terms of technology sophistication.

For Ruth Zohrer, head of programmatic marketing at Mindshare, part of the problem lies in there being no definition of what ‘wastage’ actually means.

“Is it because we are not targeting the right people? Or because we are not actually generating any sales off the advertising?” Zohrer asks. “The shades of grey in terms of what wastage could mean to those respondents on the survey could be massive.”

She adds: “Part of the challenge that we have in this environment is that we are trying to apply a single solution to multiple needs. We need to create a solution that is much more specific to a client’s business objectives and also range of limitations.”

The barrier between the ‘geeks’ and the ‘creatives’ is part of the problem and needs to be broken down in order to look at the effectiveness of the entire marketing journey, according to Toward.

“It surprises me that there is a huge number of advertisers who haven't begun to put the effort into trying to understand how to count effectiveness properly. It is demonstrating to us that a lot of people in the world are using last-click attribution modelling, which is a tyranny that should be eradicated as soon as possible,” he says.

The panel discussion then shifts to the significant education gap around programmatic and data-driven campaigns. Despite programmatic being in the mainstream, marketers are still confused about what it means, which could be stunting its uptake. So what is causing this education gap and what can be done to address it?

“There are a lot of acronyms and abbreviations, and we don't make it that accessible to a lot of people. I think that's a challenge,” says Holding. “The easiest thing to try and do is dumb it down to a base level and not try to shroud it in mystery and make it sound like rocket science.”

Efford agrees but adds that much of the mystery surrounds not knowing who the decision-makers are around data in business: “As marketers, you occasionally can be at a bit of a loss to know who to ask for guidance or advice or how to make yourself data literate.” But she adds that a little bit of “curiosity” and interest helps.

For Zohrer, it all comes down to a focus on the core end goal.

“At the end of the day, we are all working for a single objective which is to make sure that our clients are successful with their audiences. It's about working to deliver a single outcome for our client.”

Toward agrees to some extent that the idea needs to be made “simple”. But he says being able to explain in detail and in plain English is “where we need to go, because otherwise this rush of success and the effectiveness that we have seen is going to be reversed slightly because our clients just won't understand where their ad dollars are going.”

In the end, most of the panellists agree that more needs to be done to bridge the gap between the ‘geeks’ with the calculators and the ‘creatives’ to really help marketers understand how to utilise data. As Zohrer says: “That huge chasm between the big idea where the creative thinking happens and then the execution where programmatic has been sitting mostly for companies is probably what's hurting us the most. We need to create some form of connective tissue across that journey so that some of those learnings that are coming out of the programmatic space can then help inform those strategic visions and creative conception.”

The topics discussed in the panel can be found in The Drum Market Insight Report: Programmatic Spend Edition, which examines marketers’ concerns around media budget restraints and the potential for programmatic advertising.

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