Despite being the word on everyone’s lips in the advertising world for the last decade, 'programmatic' is still considered by many as the exception rather than the rule when it comes to advertising beyond display.
But industry experts predict that everything from TV to outdoor will be traded programmatically in the not so distant future, and huge progress is being made in this space. With programmatic on the brink of becoming mainstream, have we reached a tipping point for the industry?
In partnership with The Trade Desk, The Drum set to find out as we had our breakfast and sat down with a number of experts to explore current trends in the industry – from how agencies are dealing with issues of transparency to the impact of GDPR and what the future looks like for this fast-growing form of media buying.
But before that an even more important question… how do you prepare eight marketers for a spicy debate about the future of their industry? With pancakes and smoothies (of course), thanks to experts of a different field at L’Atelier des Chefs on Wigmore Street in London. We wanted to help get their minds off the slightly intense topic of what the future looks like, and onto whisking and beating for the morning, before coming back to the topics in hand rejuvenated, refreshed, and full of pancakes.
Plates scraped clean, our associate editor Sonoo Singh asked the million-dollar question of the morning. Is there a 'perfect recipe' for programmatic? Is calling it 'addressable' the answer? And how can agencies break down silos to better optimize campaigns and spend for clients?
The success in programmatic comes from a better understanding of what is impacting success for brands today, according to Kristen Kelly, EVP at Precision EMEA, Publicis Media. "A lot of our clients are going through their own digital transformation - operationally from bringing in more talent in-house, but also from the rise in e-commerce and digital retailing, so internally there's a lot more collaboration between the CTO, CIO and CMO, which by nature results in access to more data and different ways of buying media. As much as I'd love to say it’s just us, as the industry driving this change, a lot of it is being driven by change within our clients."
Programmatic in the post GDPR world
But programmatic campaigns are only as good as the data they use. And far from creating an obstacle, GDPR may just have been the gentle nudge clients needed to open their eyes to what might be possible in this field - and open their boardrooms to more open conversations around the technology and tools their agency partners have access to.
"When it comes to GDPR, we can only educate our clients on what it is and how it affects the ecosystem," said Seun Odeneye, digital integrations and operations director at Mindshare. "Part of that process means talking about programmatic, and how it can help tie everything together. A big part of this is communication between teams. The data our clients want is potentially already available in another department already - they just don't know it's there because they aren't talking to each other."
Breaking down barriers
The topic of silos - both within clients’ businesses and in agencies, was a hotly debated issue around the table.
"On the client side you will have 'digital experts', who will focus on digital, or people that are e-commerce only, who won't think how that will fit in with the rest of [a campaign] and to an extent, agencies mirror that, because that's how we are talking to our clients, or that's how they are talking to us” said Heather Williams, an account director at Mindshare. "It's understanding how we can move it forward to bring it all together, which is going to take a rethink on both sides."
Breaking down the barriers between teams and partners will be crucial to success – but how can agencies find a common ground between specialists currently talking different languages?
Kelly explained: "We've collapsed the silos internally, which has accelerated the conversations, and we have a lot more integrated teams to help drive dynamic creative. There's a lot of operational issues within that, as the budgets come from different places… but it is accelerating."
There are clearly steps to be made on all sides to move forward collectively; from giving creative agencies or partners access to media data, bringing in programmatic specialists to the creative briefing stage to help teams better understand audiences, to clients giving access beyond the CMO to talk strategically about topics like programmatic or e-commerce.
Less programmatic, more addressable
But beyond organisational structure changes, does the narrative of 'programmatic media' need to change in order to create more excitement, engagement and understanding from clients? Is the very word 'programmatic' in fact, problematic?
For Anna Forbes, UK general manager at The Trade Desk, the switch to 'addressable' is key. "The term addressable seems more relevant, because it applies to all channels and is something that is familiar from a TV point of view. We have jargoned people's brains into scrambled eggs with all the language around programmatic. Addressable is something very tangible, clients understand it. Clients see it as TV, as big budgets - as something that's important to them that they've been doing for decades. They get it."
This is one thing the group agrees on - much more than a rebranding exercise, talking about programmatic in terms of 'addressable' activations is important to shift the perception of the industry.
"Addressable is a word that people understand, and can transcend so many other things" said Luke Millican, director of display at Amplifi.
Creating a new language and breaking down silos may well help the industry understand how an 'addressable' approach can create more transparency, better creative execution and cross-device activation for brands looking to embrace new technology and enhance their marketing spend.
For Houssaini, there is no perfect recipe. It's all about 'perspective'. "A good agency or consultant says 'you can use this, but consider this as well'. The client will say 'I want this' but it's now your job to question that decision because you are spending their money and have to find the best solution."