Programmatic Advertising: Fact vs Myth

Dina Amin / October 2016

We live in a remarkable time for digital marketing. Not too long ago, if you wanted to serve a display ad you had to call a website (aka publisher), negotiate terms for your ad placements and sign an insertion order (IO). You also had to hope that your target audience would be visiting the publisher site during your campaign and that they would be interested in the creative and product / service you were advertising. Today, the process of buying and selling digital advertising inventory has changed.

With programmatic advertising, brands and agencies can buy inventory in an automated way and by using data can target audiences with ads that are relevant to their needs and interests. This practice of automating and optimizing the ad buying and selling process in real time is known as programmatic advertising and plays a huge and increasing role in the future of online advertising.

Ultimately, our industry’s goal is to enable publishers to help brands get closer to consumers in more meaningful ways. We want to make consumers lives better and programmatic is a means to that end. As consumers habits continue to change, the digital advertising automation and programmatic buying conversation must be about the realm of possibility. However while some brands have embraced the technology with open arms, others are reticent to accept programmatic as a viable tactic due to misconceptions about the practise. In this article, I seek to dispel some of the most common myths most often raised by Publisher in MENA.

Myth: Programmatic inventory is low quality “remnant” inventory

Fact: Historically programmatic meant remnant inventory but now programmatic is synonymous with increased efficiency, greater effectiveness, access to the spectrum of digital advertising formats and an ability to bring data into buys. With the rise of programmatic direct and private exchanges, all kinds of inventory can now be sold programmatically including coveted “premium” placements that had previously been held exclusively for high bidders. The majority of publishers now sell their inventory through programmatic which includes display, mobile, video, native, rich media and now even TV.

Myth:Using a Supply Side Platform (SSP) such as Google Ad Exchange means that I can cut down on my training and development budgets or sales staff as the technology will do the heavy lifting

Fact: Managing a programmatic campaign takes time and effort. Many ad ops and marketing professionals believe that programmatic media-buying platforms will optimise their ad campaigns whereas they are the ones that need to optimise the campaign in order to achieve the advertisers goal. The main benefit of the platforms for media buying and selling is the ease of executing digital ad program where performance benefits are often tied to the cost of media or the capabilities of the marketer. Training and developing employees to understand and use programmatic tools is an investment in the business.

Myth: Real Time Bidding means that publishers have no control over the price their inventory is sold for on an exchange

Fact: Programmatic is often thought of as solely real time-bidding but it is actually only one part of it. An exchange is a platform through which multiple bidders may compete dynamically and RTB uses algorithms to decide whether to buy an ad impression (or not) in a real-time auction. Whereas programmatic is a catch-all term relating to a connected ecosystem that enables automation in the overall planning and buying phase.

Myth: Using an SSP means that I no longer need to foster relationships with buyers as automation will replace media management

Fact: Cultivating good business relationships remains at the heart of advertising. Programmatic buying / selling and technology driven execution are becoming mainstream but while technology (the algorithm) automates the process of buying, the human element is crucial to proper execution and there will always be a need for experts who can educate, consult and help advertisers reach their goals. In a programmatic world, prices and other terms can and often should still be negotiated in advance. At its core, programmatic depends on strong human relationships.


Myth: Programmatic will never reach TV where the largest advertising budgets sit

Fact: Television advertising is big business. The traditional buying and selling model for TV has worked for decades but is not without its inefficiencies and there is a lot of chatter in the industry about whether a digital approach might be more efficient. Programmatic TV has the potential to be a win for audiences, advertisers and the television industry itself potentially transforming the way TV is bought and sold. Brand advertisers will be able to get even more specific with their targeting and viewers won’t be inundated with repetitive, irrelevant ads. Programmers and distributors will be able to monetize TV ad inventories properly regardless of screen size, including niche programming and content on connected devices. We anticipate big moves in this area in the near future.

Removing the 'black box' in programmatic