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Programmatic audio the next frontier, but conversion tracking and ROI pose big challenge


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

October 15, 2019 | 6 min read

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Programmatic is starting to move beyond online advertising into new sectors, from gaming to audio and even in-car advertising.

Ahead of The Drum’s Programmatic Punch UK this December, we spoke to panelist and partner, Cristina Constandache, chief revenue officer at Viber about underlying concerns for transparency, why ad fraud and brand safety continue to be a key concern, the remaining big challenges and programmatic out of home/TV.

Huge amounts of innovation are taking place in programmatic, and expansions into new channels and strategies. Yet when you speak to advertisers, there are still some underlying concerns around transparency in the industry that aren't being addressed that well. What is the current state of play in regards to programmatic?

Programmatic is going through a transformation right now. In the past, the industry was very much focused on technology for the sake of the technology—and as much as we all love the technology, it never delivered exactly what it was promised it could do. So now people are shifting to private marketplaces (PMPs) and guaranteed deals to optimize their spending. Brands like P&G are creating their own tracking for customers and asking for 100% transparency across the media supply chain so they can ensure they’re getting the most bang for their buck in terms of reaching customers.

Brands are also moving away from open exchanges to ensure they’re working with trusted partners. If you are spending on exchanges and you are not 100% sure of the full context in which your audience is experiencing your ad, that simply is not enough visibility.

Programmatic has also been slower to adapt to the mobile environment. Tracking the customer journey online has become an art form for many marketers; however, mobile is still treated as a second screen instead of a primary one and programmatic tracking can get lost between platforms and between sources.

Privacy is another issue. As marketers, we want to know everything about our customers so we can help them buy and use our products as much as possible. As GDPR took effect and consumer concern shifted due to many data breaches and news that their data is being openly shared without their consent, brands are turning to publishers and marketers who could be trusted, who have first-party data, and can show that they’re privacy-compliant. At the same time, publishers and browsers are cracking down on third-party cookies, data collection, and access.

Have we found a solution to the issue of brand safety?

Ad fraud and brand safety will continue to be a key concern for programmatic especially when we when haven’t found a failproof way to ensure proper flagging of unsafe vs. safe content. For instance, there was a recent report in Fast Company that said that nearly 3 in 4 stories on LGBTQ+ sites get flagged as unsafe for brands—when in fact these stories and audiences can be of high value for brands. Instead, Viber ensures brand safety by using non-intrusive, native ad formats and placements. ]

You won’t see an ad within a private conversation on Viber, but you will see an ad after you hang up from a phone call. And we 100% understand “banner blindness,” which means consumers have been trained to overlook standard banner ads and placements, so our solution offers more prominence by placing an ad within the main chat screen where you see your contacts instead. We work hard to ensure that brands have a safe environment.

For those already primed on programmatic, audio is a natural next frontier for extending one's holistic audience view. What are the big challenges that remain?

Audio is definitely the next natural frontier for programmatic ads especially with the increases in podcast listening and subscriptions to Spotify and Apple and smart speakers. From an advertising perspective, it makes tons of sense to do it programmatically. Yet the challenges will still be tied to fraud and brand safety but also with conversion tracking and ROI. But on audio channels (and TV), you see more of a backlash from consumers about ads than on other channels. Consumers are much more willing to pay a premium for an ad-free environment here than they are to listen to ads.

What about programmatic and OOH advertising - where does that stand?

There are big advantages to digital out of home (DOOH advertising being programmatic including the types of targeting they can do and the fact that they reach a captive audience. The biggest advantage will be using DOOH in tandem with mobile targeting to ensure that you’re completing and following the customer journey. Of course, privacy and the creepy factor could also be a huge problem if DOOH geo-targets consumers and then sends them a highly personalized ad on their phones. There would need to be a balance here between being smart and being seen as a stalker.

How excited are you getting by programmatic tv? Or do you think we need to proceed with caution because broadcast media is a really highly regulated space, so it's not going to happen overnight?

It will definitely happen: broadcast media will shift to programmatic even though it’s a highly monitored space. It’s just going to take a lot more time to work through the kinks and challenges of creating a working system that is also extremely regulated. Connected TVs will make at least one part of that hurdle easier.

How soon will all media be available as programmatic?

Programmatic is the solution that exists today. However, once the industry is ready to go all programmatic, the industry will shift and evolve before all media is available programmatically. The one thing we can guarantee is that this industry will continuously evolve.

Constandache is a panelist for the 'Programmatic’s New Frontiers' panel at Programmatic Punch UK on December 2 2019. Tickets are available to purchase now for the one-day event that serves as a wake-up call about the revolution this industry is going through.

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