Programmatic as a protocol, not a channel: is Twitter's move to programmatic a box-ticking facade?
Programmatic as a protocol, not a channel: is Twitter's move to programmatic a box-ticking facade?
A view from James Bourner

Programmatic as a protocol, not a channel: how to avoid the box-ticking facade

With all media now being digital in one way or another, and all media heading towards programmatic, how can we ensure it's not a box-ticking...

It’s crawled out from an "extreme-long tail solution full of bad inventory" rock and become an established method of executing campaigns, at least in part and increasingly in full

We hear, read and are exposed to so much talk about programmatic. The digital element of advertising is, and always has been, especially prone to hype and excitability. Sometimes this can be tiring, exasperating even – almost like an intelligent toddler – full of wonderment and fascination but unable to filter out the hype.

Extreme-long tail solution

The reality, of course, is that programmatic buying is as important as the hype suggests. Now we’re five years-or-so into programmatic hitting the mainstream and in that time it’s crawled out from an "extreme-long tail solution full of bad inventory" rock and become an established method of executing campaigns, at least in part and increasingly in full. As it has been more widely understood it’s been recognised for what it can do. It’s true that some more unscrupulous suppliers are testing the limits of the definition – a case of the emperor’s new clothes perhaps?

The full funnel sitting in a single place has always been a dream

Yes, I’m one of those who gets starry eyed about the idea of not only being able to look at but actually control delivery and targeting across an entire campaign. Changing delivery, targeting or creative to account for nuances in placement or who the consumer is, excites me. The full funnel sitting in a single place has always been a dream. Someone very wise once said that programmatic is a protocol, not a channel. My slightly simplified version of that is that if it can be ad-served in any way, then it can become programmatic.

Differing degrees of goodness

So after that lengthy scene setting, here is the nub of the issue... Google’s DoubleClick recently announced a partnership with Twitter that will allow advertisers and their agencies to buy sponsored tweets through the programmatic buying platform, DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM). Programmatic box ticking façade or true benefit? For me there are differing degrees of goodness in the union.

Initially promoted tweets will be available for purchase through DoubleClick’s Bid Manager platform but I predict them becoming available to most other DSPs (demand-side platforms) sometime after that. As I understand it this will give us the ability to purchase tweets as part of our wider programmatic activity and benefit from being able to measure and understand their place in a campaign more easily (without pesky click trackers). That can only be good.

If you subscribe to the idea that programmatic is a protocol, then the more integrations/formats involved the better, even if the targeting options are slimmed down

What’s to be confirmed is what data-sets will be available to target with. Consider Facebook’s exchange – while there’s targeting that is exclusive to the Facebook interface, the ability to buy Facebook inventory with the same targeting as the rest of your campaign is a boon. It would be better if the native data was available, but we are all patient and understand that platforms will always try to use unique data or inventory to force a point of difference, no matter how frustrating to the person executing a campaign. Will Twitter make available targeting options (such as hashtags) that are unique to their platform or will that stay reserved for buying directly (or via their API partners).

The 'full programmatic'

More importantly, will Twitter allow the unification of cookies with DoubleClick, so users will be identifiable by an advertiser’s first and third party data, as well as the targeting tools inherent to most DSPs, thus allowing tweets to be targeted in parity with the wider display campaign? Not to mention the ability to suppress and/or change messaging to known groups of users – basically bringing the dexterity of programmatic to Twitter and allowing a more joined up (and therefore efficient) way to target and promote tweets? The full programmatic, you might say. If the latter, then this will allow Tweets to form an integrated component of display awareness, acquisition, retention and CRM communications campaigns.

So, box ticking facade? No. Categorically not. Exactly how integrated, with what targeting and reporting options, is yet to be seen. But if you subscribe to the idea that programmatic is a protocol, then the more integrations/formats involved the better, even if the targeting options are slimmed down. At the very least this is a step in the right direction for everyone.