Fewer Silos & Better Adaptation: A Recipe to Realise the Programmatic Promise?

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Fewer Silos & Better Adaptation: A Recipe to Realise the Programmatic Promise?

Following another successful ATS London event, Victoria Usher (pictured below), managing director, GingerMay PR, reflects on one of the many engaging panel discussions during the event: ‘The Future of Marketing’. Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Usher explains how the promise of programmatic is yet to be fully realised.

While programmatic now dominates digital display, already accounting for 70% of UK ad spend and set to tip three-quarters by 2017, it hasn’t reached maturity yet.

According to speakers in ‘The Future of Marketing’ debate at this year’s ATS London, the technology itself may be advanced, but navigating the intricate web of disparate systems and data sets is a complicated challenge that requires fine-tuning.

The consensus amongst representatives from a range of tech providers, including Adform, LiveIntent, VE Interactive, and Infectious Media, is that programmatic has not fulfilled its promise – a feeling echoed by over half (55%) of attendees via a live survey.

In a discussion led by Ciaran O’Kane, founder & CEO of ExchangeWire, the panelists shared their views on the key issues holding automated trading back, and why slicker processes and integration are vital to move programmatic forwards. 

Keeping pace with tech evolution

Although speakers recognised the benefits of programmatic – with Dave Hendricks, managing director UK at LiveIntent, calling it an “evolution of technology and marketing” that has vastly improved efficiency and yield – they were also keen to highlight the difficulties of adjusting to rapid change. As Martin Kelly, co-founder and CEO at Infectious Media stated: “There has been a ton of change, everyone’s trying to evolve and the problem is we try and do everything we used to. […] The fundamental technology is sound, but it’s a people problem that sits on top.

Kelly went on to share his view that, despite the scale programmatic has introduced to campaigns, fashioning them together is still a complex process that requires substantial manpower – and, therefore, the journey towards automation is only half finished.

For those fearing the rise of the bots, there was some assurance that realising the potential of programmatic doesn’t mean a machine-only industry. Cyrille Vincey, chief data officer at VE Interactive, argued that while programmatic is great for trading, it doesn’t fix bad creative or the difficulty of building appropriate ads for multiple screens. Vincey stated his belief that the best results come from a blend of tech and expertise, when science is used “to optimise models defined by humans”.

The restrictions of siloed data

It’s undisputed that the biggest players in the digital advertising space are Facebook and Google; but, according to the panelists, this is a result of their possession of high-quality data, rather than their size. Hendricks observed that Facebook’s advertising success truly began when it enabled brands to leverage first-party data as a means to increase targeting accuracy. It was also noted, however, that although this set a positive trend for personalised campaigns, the rise of walled gardens has created a siloed approach to data gathering that is impeding advertising innovation.

For Jay Stevens, chief revenue officer at Adform, there was only one clear solution: if the industry wants to take automation up a notch, it must share data and create a stronger foundation for data-based ad trading and measurement. Describing his ideal vision of an integrated future, Stevens said: “Imagine if all the publishers were to come together and marry their data, as the Germans have done with eMetric […]; whether it’s used by publishers to increase yield or advertisers to sell highly targeted and deterministic data sets and audiences, that’s incredibly valuable.”

But there is hope that the playing field will be levelled in future. Kelly was optimistic about the movement of marketing giants, like Oracle and SalesForce, towards cross-channel media buying – a shift powered by Oracle’s purchase of BlueKai and Datalogix. Although this was tempered by his warning that more work is required: “Ad tech’s dirty little secret is that none of it clubs together properly. It’s early days for that type of tech and it’s nowhere near any sort of maturity.”

Summing up & the road ahead

When it came to predictions of what will be the next big thing in digital marketing, data was once more at the top of the agenda. For both buyers and sellers, verifiable identity is set to become a significant priority as publishers seek to boost demand for their inventory and brands request greater certainty to reach the right users. On a similar tack, comprehensive profiles are crucial to grease the wheels of automated trading, with speakers such as Vincey expecting the industry to focus on creating a “360-degree view based on audience sharing” over the next 12 months.

But, for Kelly, the most significant change will be attitudes towards programmatic. In the wake of this year’s programmatic disappointments, Kelly anticipates that the brands, publishers, and agencies using automated platforms will realise, “it’s actually them that need to change the way they work and are structured” if they are to fulfil the promise of programmatic. Great expectations indeed, we can only wait and see.

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