We Need To Talk About Programmatic

You would have done well to get through the last two weeks without seeing one of the many articles covering one of the many (supposed) risks associated to online ads, more specifically programmatic.

What matters here is not hype, opinions or propaganda but brand protection, integrity and trust.

For those who don’t know what programmatic is – it’s an automated way of buying advertising. It focuses on targeting individuals rather than channel, platform or device.

It allows you to target cross-platform (including display, content, email, radio, TV, social and ambient), at the right time of day, based on a wealth of information about specific users.

It follows individuals’ journeys across the internet, identifying them through unique markers, building up a picture of who they are. It is sometimes called a ‘media agnostic’ approach – because programmatic doesn’t pick a site, it picks an audience.

Richard Badley has created this post describing the opinion SMRS have on the articles that have recently caused a buzz, but we will come on to that. For now, let’s focus on the facts and the solutions.

Key points to note:

  1. Programmatic does work

Advertisers are almost universally understanding that programmatic can deliver excellent results for their businesses. For some it’s transforming their entire campaign outcomes.

  1. There are still questions (and some risks)

It is naive to think that programmatic is completely risk free. There are issues we need to address and questions we need to answer:

-Where might our ads appear (on damaging sites and next to risqué content)

-How well they perform (viewability, site placement, bots)

-The accuracy of information (ad fraud, transparency, reporting levels)

-The value chain (agency commercials, mark-ups, rebates, zero cost strategies)

  1. It’s still relatively new

There is no avoiding the fact that programmatic is in it’s infancy. That said, there are very well developed, intelligent and advanced systems in use and constantly in play. These are supported by incredibly talented people. But it requires vigilance, care and attention. We are also learning constantly and can expect to see continuous and fast paced advancements in technology, uptake and adoption.

  1. We should not tar all with the same brush

Most programmatic practitioners (or at least the vigilant ones) are putting in place very rigorous tools and processes to ensure brand safety, robust ad verification, viewability measures and comprehensive domain and keyword white and blacklists. Admittedly, without these layered measures of protection, brands are at risk. But we must not discount the efforts being made by the careful businesses in our industry, or the positive effects of compliance policies and controls.

  1. Be careful what you wish for

We can ourselves fuel the problem. For example, if we obsess about volume metrics or last event goals, we potentially encourage traders or media planners to seek high volume, low cost inventory to ensure KPIs are hit. It can also encourage ‘cookie bombing’, with a hope that these convert and benefit short term measurement goals. The result of planning and trading in this way is that it can impact the type of inventory being purchased, and increase the likelihood that is the type to be influenced by bots and fraudulent clicks.

  1. It helps to know what you want

Using Programmatic well is more than simply setting an objective or target and allocating a budget. When used correctly, the technology allows us to reach high value audiences, who have a propensity to deliver value to our businesses. Therefore, the more we know about the audiences, the better. All of the insight we have needs to feed into our programmatic strategies (whether it be cookie data, demographics, geographical distribution, CRM/ATS data, white or blacklists, other media scheduling, segmentation etc). The more specific and strategic we can be, the better, as we reduce the likelihood of wide and loose targeting.

To hear more about how SMRS are protecting their clients’ brands click here to view the full blog post.

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