Will 2020 be the year when programmatic grows up?

The success of automated media buying is spearheaded by a necessary move towards a better marketing future.

The programmatic industry has already witnessed a major shift, as mobile has come to dominate browsing habits and the lines between brand information and consumer continue to blur. In its infancy, programmatic was used for monetising long-tail display inventory. Having turned 10 in 2017, the technology is now in its adolescence, changing the face of marketing and making huge strides as one of the key tools to reach consumers in a more meaningful way.

The success of automated media buying is spearheaded by a necessary move towards a better marketing future – fuelled by data, technology and math. This technology, however, is playing out in varying levels across Asia Pacific.

We see Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, for example, leading the industry with higher levels of programmatic sophistication. While South Korea is another healthy market, two publishers (Daum and Naver) currently control majority of the local inventory, which is yet to be made available programmatically, somewhat slowing down the adoption of the technology in this part of the world. Elsewhere in APAC, countries such as Vietnam and Philippines still remain a challenge, although the total market size and growth projection are hugely exciting.

While the region faces different challenges, the growth of programmatic continues. A report by BCG Focus estimates that the total digital display and video ad market in APAC will increase from $14.5 billion in 2017 to $19.0 billion in 2020 and programmatic budgets will rise from 19% to 36% over this period.

As programmatic matures, it is set to become the future framework for digital marketing. What should marketers expect from programmatic growth leading up to 2020? Here are the top trends to expect.

The agency – the trusted business consultant

The convergence of adtech and martech, rise of automated systems and access to deeper insights on consumer behaviour have accelerated a change in the function of marketing, for good.

Powered by consumer demands for more personalised communication, marketing leaders are now looking for an increasingly deeper command of data, insights and technology in their media agencies. With this development, agencies are poised to become key consultants, responsible for delivering holistic business and marketing strategies to their clients – they will be expected to have a bird’s-eye view of businesses and the best technologies that will enable the highest returns.

Over the next few years, we will see programmatic forge closer collaboration between technology vendors, media agencies and brand marketers, working together to activate the best tools for marketing campaigns that drive business outcomes.

Silos no more

APAC is a mobile-first market, with mobile phones driving the highest web traffic at 65.7%, followed by laptops and desktops at 31.9%. Smart speaker adoption in APAC is also expected to ramp up quickly, especially with the addition of local entrants from Alibaba and JD.com. These are steps towards a future with an ambient computing environment. This means that we will be increasingly surrounded by an ecosystem that is highly inter-connected and brands will need to be present in conversations with customers across all channels.

New channels like connected television (TV), audio and digital out of home are all also becoming part of the programmatic ecosystem. The recent acquisition of AppNexus by AT&T is the ultimate market validation that the TV advertising industry will soon be powered programmatically.

Newer technologies such as virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) will also become part of the strategy. As VR and AR develop and grow in popularity, they will become just another medium for advertising in future, continuing to shape brand and consumer conversations and shift marketers towards predictive media placements. It is no longer sufficient to predict consumer needs – marketers need to reach customers wherever they are.

These advancements necessitate an audience-first methodology that moves us towards a single, omnichannel platform approach, allowing brands to reach their customers across multiple touchpoints in real time.

Programmatic? A synonym for digital marketing

As an increasing number of ads and media are digitally traded (regardless of form) by 2020, marketing is going to assume programmatic. This means that marketers need to move away from looking at programmatic as part of the media plan – it will be the plan. ‘Programmatic Marketing’ will disappear and just become ‘Marketing,’ much in the same way digital did.

By equipping themselves with programmatic knowledge and gradually testing the move of budgets to intelligent, automated media placements, marketers can leverage the wider suite of offerings that programmatic offers (such as new channels, more data, more geographies, more adoption and increased users). Marketers should also plan to integrate their paid and owned systems for more consistent, cohesive campaigns as programmatic rises to be the primary tool that connects all touchpoints and successfully reaches customers.

Zachary King is the vice president of commercial in Asia at MediaMath. He is also co-chair of the Asia programmatic committee at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Singapore.

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