2016: The programmatic year in review at Programmatic Punch NY

Here's a look at how programmatic has changed in 2016.

In digital marketing, the only constant is change. So what has that meant for programmatic this year? Three panelists sat down with Andy Oakes, head of content and managing director at The Drum, to discuss this very issue in the boxing ring at The Drum’s Programmatic Punch event at Ad:Tech in New York.

Per Eve Goldman, head of programmatic video and global brand solutions at Google, user behavior has changed and we’re seeing enormous shifts in the last few years with users consuming video content on many different screens. That, in turn, creates an interesting opportunity in terms of how to reach the right user on the right screen.

“The one to focus on is how to deliver that great ad experience for the user that is relevant to the context,” Goldman said. “One example is consuming video on a mobile device – how many [people] typically hold their phone horizontal when reading email? But that’s how video content comes up. If you want to watch, you have to change the direction of the screen, [so it’s about] how to create a solution to make [the video] automatically go into portrait.”

For his part, Barry Adams, vice president of commercial development at BidSwitch, said transparency is the “big, big issue” in programmatic, which includes pricing and fraud removal in the bid stream.

Perhaps not surprisingly, David Hahn, executive vice president of strategy at Integral Ad Science, said high-quality media that is designed, produced and contextually relevant generally tends to perform better, so he agreed the market must figure out ways to increase quality and transparency.

“When we talk to advertisers, there is definitely an inclination to pay more for media that is high quality,” he added.

Or, as Goldman put it: “Publishers are facing the same problem advertisers are facing – audiences are on different screens and there is a ton of complexity. [As] viewership increases, consumers are reading more content [and] watching more, but [it’s] complex in how to deliver the content and ad seamlessly in any environment.”

Key moments in the last year

Per Hahn, there is a ton of consolidation and renewed interest in the digital media and ad tech sector from a macro perspective, which has resulted in increased spend among advertisers working to identify people no matter what device they are using.

“Overall, the thing I’m most excited about is everything we would consider digital two or three years ago is part of the broader marketing conversation now,” Hahn added.

Adams agreed the “big stuff” is M&A activity as telco and traditional media players come into this space.

“[It] is frankly in need of more big players to provide a buffer against Facebook and Google,” he added.

Goldman cited an increase in video, calling last year a “breakout” year for programmatic with adoption up from broadcasters.

Adams agreed video has been a story, along with native advertising and header bidding, which both Adams and Hahn said offers pros and cons.

A few disappointments…

Goldman noted that the last year has included pretty tremendous success overall with the growth of programmatic, but mobile is one area where the industry could do more.

“The industry was built around the desktop world,” she added.

Adams agreed.

“It’s been the 'Year of Mobile' for 30 years now,” he said with a hint of hyperbole. “What we’re seeing is a huge volume of traffic from mobile. Monetization is still not there, but mobile would be top in my view.”

And Hahn added that the industry still needs to figure out the primary triggers and metrics to increase the value of what a campaign is designed to do.

Per Adams, the biggest threats to the industry are tied to transparency, fraud and privacy, but ad blocking isn’t as big of a deal.

Goldman said she’s seen success with programmatic overall and expects to continue to see the market keep up with viewership changes.

2017

And, looking forward, Goldman said 2017 will see an acceleration of how TV and digital converge, while Hahn said to expect to see the shift from ad tech/digital marketing to holistic marketing and Adams said we’ll see open machine learning.

For additional insight from The Drum’s Programmatic Punch event, see here.

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