Delivering ads via automated technology is not as daunting as it first appears, and the programmatic industry is now proving its worth to clients. There is no one-size fits all solution but advertisers can find the right tech partners and systems exist to meet their needs.
Brand marketers have been paralysed by programmatic. Advertisers know they should make a move but are often frozen to the spot by fear of the unknown.
However, beneath the overly-complicated eco-system and tortuous acronyms there are simple truths about programmatic and what it can help marketers achieve.
For starters, marketers need a credible and basic definition of programmatic — the consensus reached by industry experts at Adweek Europe seems to fit the bill: "Programmatic is the use of technology to drive cross-channel marketing effectiveness — it's using data and technology to drive the performance of advertisers."
Andy Mihalop, Head of Network Agencies, DoubleClick, explains further: "To me, the core of programmatic is relevance and immediacy. It is having a real impact on revenue and profitability."
Advertisers have been wary about the number of suppliers and agencies in a fragmented programmatic market offering a plethora of services. However, the dust is settling and ways of working with technology partners are emerging that are producing great results. Andy stresses that the aim of DoubleClick is to support all the different operating models ranging from client in-house capabilities to agencies working with client-owned technology.
He points out that DoubleClick's mission is to develop an integrated, unified platform so brands can develop the long sought 'holy grail' of a single customer view. "This will allow clients to buy across platforms and deliver at scale."
Of course, the proof is in the returns, and smart brands are beginning to realise the opportunities in being able to create and deliver highly personalised messages without wastage. The technology exists to gather signals that reveal real time consumer behaviour and tight targeting is built from leveraging this data.
Andy sees pleasing progress:
"We are starting to see big brands investing more heavily in programmatic. It is really encouraging."
He praises BT as one company that can leverage insights at speed from data to inform relevant messages served to tightly targeted audiences.
Rebecca Muir, Head of Research at ExchangeWire, points to British Airways as a company that is targeting points along the customer journey really well. "They recognise that consumers are browsing online with different devices that have different strength and weaknesses."
British Airways offers a very different experiences on its desktop website and its mobile website. The desktop site is packed with radio buttons and text while the mobile site is very visual. On the mobile version, users click on an icon such as a deserted beach or a glass of wine that represents the kind of destination they are seeking. These personalised images are then used in retargeting to maintain the engagement.
Another factor that has made advertisers wary of programmatic is the worry about who owns or has access to their valuable customer data. Forward-thinking technology companies keen to be seen as trusted partners now make a clear point of stating that the client owns the data and can move it out of a supplier whenever they want.
Experts forecast that the sectors likely to start pushing the boundaries with data analytics and programmatically-served ads will be FMCG and Retail. Andy says that the major retailers are starting to realise what they own in terms of data assets and how they can leverage insights for monetisation opportunities beyond just driving store footfall.
Ultimately the very word 'programmatic' may become redundant, much as has been forecast about the word 'digital' becoming obsolete, as marketers embrace this new world of automated ad serving and it becomes the norm. As advertisers grow in confidence expect to see the lion's share of media budgets allocated in this way.