Ten things you need to know about programmatic

Graham Wylie, EMEA marketing director at AppNexus, outlines his ten key things brands and agencies need to know about 'programmatic' advertising.

Ten things you need to know about programmatic

1. Why do I need to be thinking about programmatic?

In a single word: speed. Marketers rely on reaching their customers at a relevant moment in time. As media fragments and attention spans dwindle, brands need to identify and engage their audience in the most advantageous context – quickly. Programmatic brings speed and agility to paid digital media, making it effective for targeting in real time.

2. Are there dangers of not embracing programmatic?

Digital marketing has never stood still and there is constant pressure to experiment with the 'next big thing'. Making the right choices is what keeps the leading agencies and brands ahead of the game. Over the past three years the 'early adopters' have driven exponential growth in programmatic and eMarketer predicts it will account for more than 20% of digital advertising spend by 2017. This is no longer an experiment, it IS the next big thing and those coming late to the party will have some significant catching up to do.

3. What do brands / agencies need to do about this?

The most important thing is to change the mindset – from buying media to buying audiences. Much discussion around programmatic centres on the automation of the actual transaction through real-time auctions. What many lose sight of is the incredible impact of being able to analyse context, understand audience behaviour, value the opportunity and serve the best creative in under 200 milliseconds! So while agencies and brands need to build a level of programmatic understanding, the most far-reaching change is to start thinking about audience engagement rather than the media purchase.

4. Should we be worried about programmatic and the lack of a human touch?

Only an old-school media sales team with their heads in the sand would be worried. For brands, programmatic creates a richer opportunity for audience engagement, ironically allowing a more 'human touch' through personally targeted creative. For publishers and agencies, the technology replaces the inefficient insertion order media-buying process with a new set of tools that allow both parties to enrich the conversation between brand and audience with relevant data.

5. What about rogue sites? How can we be sure adverting won't end up in the wrong places? How will my brand be protected?

Any real-time initiative requires careful planing because it is buying the audience where they are, not the pages they may visit. If your audience uses parts of the web where your brand would rather not go, then this needs to be built into your thinking from the start.

It is also important that the campaign is managed dynamically and optimised over time so that brand safety can be monitored and managed. Because programmatic can have a far broader reach than conventional media buying, it can be vulnerable to abuse through automated traffic or misrepresentation.

When planning programmatic activity, it is important to work with partners that are committed to the highest standards and are actively working with bodies such as the IAB and on programmes such as 'Traffic of Good Intent'.

6. Does progammatic really improve results / efficiencies? And by how much?

Programmatic advertising enables brands to pinpoint audiences and deliver the right message, at the right time, in the right place. As a result, media wastage is significantly reduced, buying efficiency improved and overall campaign effectiveness boosted. A recent mobile programmatic campaign designed to boost sales of Vodafone roaming packages during the summer, integrated inventory scale, Vodafone IP data and GPS targeting to achieve great results with conversation rates improving by 198%.

7. Does 'programmatic' matter in an increasingly mobile world?

Mobile brings more information (device, location, context) into a digital landscape already struggling with 'big data'. Programmatic gives publishers and advertisers the ability to use that rich data to improve audience targeting and drive one-to-one brand engagement at scale. It also allows mobile to be seamlessly integrated into digital campaigns, while retaining relevance to the immediate context.

8. How do you integrate programmatic with the rest of the marketing mix to boost effectiveness?

Programmatic started out as a performance marketing tool. As it has evolved, the agility and accountability it delivers to display media across screens makes it increasingly attractive for brand building. Its flexibility makes it easier to align with real-time initiatives in the rest of the marketing mix.

The biggest current obstacle is siloed media planning that often still separates display from mobile, while managing social media and social advertising in two different teams. The technology creates the opportunity, but it is in planning and operations where the integration needs to happen.

9. How long does it take to get set up / start buying media programmatically?

Most agencies have a team focused on programmatic and the level of expertise in the major groups is increasing rapidly. There are also a significant number of specialist technology and service providers.

However, running standalone programmatic projects or elements of a campaign programmatically will only take you so far. Those getting the best from it have embedded it in their entire campaign planning process, thinking about the possibilities for audience and real-time engagement before breaking down the media plan into different purchase models.

10. Getting ahead of the game: what will we be needing to think about this time next year?

Programmatic is maturing, but is by no means fully realised. The speed of change has been phenomenal, and this in itself is still the major deterrent for some. However, it also means that many of the early challenges have already been addressed.

Mobile programmatic was virtually non-existent 18 months ago, yet today it is the driving force behind mobile growth in many markets. 

The brightest minds in advertising and technology are working on tomorrow's problems and we will continue to see major advances in brand safety, transparency and accountability, and even greater efficiency.Brands not in the programmatic space by the end of this year will be seriously risking being left behind.

Graham Wylie is EMEA marketing director at AppNexus