Ahead of The Drum's Digital Trading Awards, judge Adam Parker - Gumtree's head of programmatic and audience - dissects the major concerns in the sector and what he expects to see in 2017.
It's been a rocky start to the year for the programmatic sector with numerous companies making layoffs and more recently one the world's biggest advertisers laying down a new set of rules if it's going to keep putting money into the "murky" media supply chain.
The theme of the awards this year is “Living the Dream - Programmatic everywhere” what do you see as the immediate and long term effect for the adtech industry?
Programmatic is indeed everywhere now, and it’s great to see. I think immediate effects is an ever growing demand for full transparency on both the buy and sell side. This approach is key for traders to be satisfied in the long run. We have seen market consolidation create larger walled gardens, more than the industry has been used to in recent years.
There needs to be a focus on creating more transparency from these vendors if we want to empower buyers and sellers to work and deliver the best results. There was a cracking speech recently by Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard. His sentiment was forthright, laying into Google and Facebook’s ‘walled gardens’ and demanded transparency from the digital supply chain. Better measurement with walled gardens is also important to focus on, ideally this requires independent third parties for measurement. Sir Martin Sorrell recently was quoted saying ‘you can’t be the player and the referee’, which I believe sums it up nicely.
The long term affects are obvious to me. Programmatic won’t just be an execution channel, it will be how all media is executed whether that is via video, display, audio, outdoor, native etc (the list goes on). I think we are a little way off from this, but I’m excited on what’s to come.
Finally, Artificial Intelligence will surely become one of the next buzz words over the next a couple of years, AI will begin to form an integral part in how tech vendors function and generally operate within its environment. This emergence inevitability will make marketers lives a whole lot easier, but I believe the ad operation function will never be totally AI dependent. There will always be the need for human input, who said T2 Judgement Day isn’t coming?!
In the 12 months ahead what medium, in your opinion, will be the next to go programmatic?
The medium that I believe will drive the biggest buzz this year will be Programmatic In-stream video. I expect this channel to continue to grow, as more branding budgets continue to jumping over into programmatic. The majority of the buying has traditionally been executed via PMP access due to the immaturity of the channel.
This year we should see more of a shift over to Open Marketplace access as tech vendors build out their capabilities and supply increases from new publisher facilitation. As we see this rise of in-stream supply, publisher need to have a focus on delivering against IAB LEAN principles so not to impact the user experience.
If I was a betting man I’d like to think Programmatic TV will have an impressive year (for a channel that is very much in it’s infancy). Prog TV provides an exciting opportunities for marketers to deliver high-quality, long-form content across a medium that has huge scalability potential.
I would love to think 2017 would be the year of programmatic TV, but in all honesty we are more likely to see the emergence of the classic ‘year of mobile’ phrase morphed into to the ‘year of Programmatic TV’. We’ll want to believe this is the year. But maybe next year we’ll have more luck.
That said, Programmatic TV will likely reflect a comparable route to how mobile initially grew before becoming as abundant as it is today. A slow and arduous voyage but will eventually will just part of any normal media buy.
I expect tech vendors to continue to develop robust methods on the collection, consolidation and transfer of data from other devices to the television. The data piece is only part of the programmatic TV pie, there will also need to be a reliance on strong analytic insights to make this channel successful.
How can an adtech company differentiate themselves in this time of disruption and agency consolidation?
Mergers and acquisitions are set to be a strong trend in digital for 2017. I am sure adtech vendors will use this strategy of consolidation to strengthen their position as we see martech turn up to the party like an uninvited guest. It really come back to the basics, what can adtech vendors offer to the market which others can’t? They will have to show more than ever what value they can offer in across inventory, data, and primarily tech.
Essentially, adtech vendors need to align themselves to clients overarching business needs and a new shiny smoke and mirrors sales decks always help get the sale over the line. Additionally, adtech clients need to think about the why and how rather than the what when implementing new ad tech.
Personally, I believe there needs to be focus on adtech tool capabilities that place the enrichment of the user experience first, with the ad dollar second. This for me, will win the day. A tall order I know, but as we move into an era of users having more say, more knowledge and more awareness than ever before on digital marketing methods, I believe this approach will gain the biggest results.
What do you think is causing companies to re position from adtech to martech?
Last year was strong for mergers and acquisitions in digital, and I don’t see this momentum slowing in 2017. The convergence of adtech vs martech is causing a multitude of vendors to adapt fast, or open their wallets.
This momentum is largely spearheaded by marketing cloud and/or SaaS companies pursuing to build out their execution function, primarily in media buying to form a more complete proposition to the market (most recent example being Adobe acquiring TubeMogul in Q4.2016).
Martech moving into programmatic is the logical next step, there emphasis is clearly on grabbing the largest part of the digital ecosystem pie, advertising. The majority have data and scale capabilities, and with that comes most marketers attention. There, people based marketing offering will also be of interest to digital marketers, with advertisers having the ability to use programmatic as a means to target known individuals from CRM/PII data sets. This will force traditional adtech players to take a look at their medium to long term strategies.
There has been a lot of unfortunate headlines about the programmatic sector in recent months. What would you describe as the top 2 things for the sector to be positive about?
The headlines have definitely shone a light on ‘not so positive’ stories over the past 6-12 months. Google and Facebook continuing to dominate their respective categories not to the amusement of most from the buy and sell side players in the industry. The rise of ad blocking increasing to over 22% of UK users and new data privacy regulations set for 2018, there is a lot for the industry to ponder and debate over.
That said, I’ve been really impressed with brand empowerment over the past 12 months. Increasingly they are beginning to direct or rather influence the tactics of their agencies, finding new innovative ways to engage with their customers and in some cases even launch their own in-house trading desk. Brands are now building relationships with tech vendors, which is a definite change in the tide. The rise of the brand trading desk is something set to ramp up in 2017.
Second, a positive story has to be native beginning to mature in the digital space. Native is helping to address the multiple challenges around users moving to the smaller screen, with the publishers trying to maintain a balance between advertising and content. Native has the potential to create a future of more engaging, better performing advertising for all stakeholders involved. Native can also help addressing issues such as ad tech infrastructure effecting user experience, i.e. implementing IAB Lean Principles and server side header tags reducing page latency. With the rise of companies like TripleLift and Sharethorgh in the UK market, we should see some strong competition for publisher supply against full stack players who have the clout to dominate.
What do you think the major implications of 'Methbot' will be? Do you think we'll start to see the needle shift when it comes to ad fraud?
If last year it was all about fake news, this year the focus will turn to rise of fake web pages. By focusing on the programmatic video space, Methbots have been able to scale up quickly whilst taking a decent take paycheque. According to WhiteOps, Methbot ad fraud costs the industry up to £809m a year. The good news is, this bot operation now has strong awareness within the industry.
As a result of this awareness, big brands owners like P&G are demanding more supply side transparency, with all vendors to be a member of TAG/JICWEBs in UK before they work with them. With this awareness there comes opportunity for tech vendors to find a solution to meet the needs of the market. I believe this shift in finding a better solutions will require opt-in from exchanges, agencies and publishers coming together to solve this with a holistic, ‘all in it together’ approach.
To you, as a judge, what will make an award-winning entry?
I want to see entries that tickle my programmatic taste buds! Strong user engagement meets innovative execution.
The Awards are held in association with The Trade Desk and sponsored by Integral Ad Science, Nielsen Marketing Cloud, Rubicon Project and Sphere Digital Recruitment. Entries are open until 24 February at www.digitaltradingawards.co.uk