Digital Advertising

AppNexus CEO Brian O'Kelley on the rise of 'programmable marketing'

By Brian O'Kelley | CEO

June 8, 2016 | 4 min read

The Internet (capital I) is now the internet (small i). It’s more than a question of semantics or grammar. The programmatic Internet of 2006 was largely static and one-dimensional; it was built for the world of standardised web pages and early email tools.



Today’s internet is fundamentally different. It’s dynamic, personalised and customisable; it’s comprised of billions of interconnected devices, cloud-based software applications, and consumers. Just open a Bing search, the landing page, Netflix, Pandora, or your Twitter and Facebook feeds. My internet is different from your internet – which is different from everyone else’s internet.

In the age of the programmatic internet, one person transmitted information to another person in a single-channel monologue. I sent you an email, and you responded. The New York Times posted a story online, and you read it. Today, your iPhone, is in conversation with your watch; both are in conversation with your home automation system, as well as with your favourite newspaper, music and video streaming devices, government weather satellites, and GSP systems. All of that, together, is the internet, and it learns about you in real time, based on an infinite number of inputs.

By definition, there can’t be one Internet anymore. The convergence of data and customisation has vastly changed the economics of the internet. Amazon uses it to create 300 million distinct commercial emporiums, each designed to drive maximum value from a single consumer. Streaming services use it to create hundreds of millions of distinct radio stations and television channels, each designed to maximise an individual consumer’s willingness to watch and listen, and to pay for content in the form of subscriptions or advertising.

In short, today’s personalised internet has turned the old adage on its head: the whole is actually less than the sum of its parts.

This highly personal, data-driven, programmable internet requires a monetisation engine that can match both its intelligence and its capacity to customise user experience. It requires technology that can unlock the full value of each consumer. It requires a programmable marketing platform.

Programmable marketing is the next evolution of programmatic – it’s the ability to bring your own data and algorithms to bear in digital advertising or marketing.

It has three essential components:

  1. A real-time data loop that enables marketers to leverage their own data, activate their own data with a proprietary algorithm, attain real-time reporting on audience and performance metrics, and learn and adjust in real time.
  2. An open, partner ecosystem that invites data providers, algorithm builders, dynamic creative vendors, and analytics providers to add value to digital marketers.
  3. The ability to accommodate proprietary and portable algorithms that are the IP of individual marketers and which can be plugged into different platforms.

In conclusion, the programmable internet is disrupting the world as we knew it. In this new world, marketers can’t just break consumers into broad segments and hope that a few static messages will penetrate their consciousness. You need to cast a wide net – engage consumers on a one-to-one level in a dynamic conversation. To do that, you need a programmable marketing platform.

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