Programmatic digital advertising suffers from a perception problem. Marketers often see it as a box that needs to be checked or as a separate efficiency portion of a marketing plan. Fear surrounding brand safety, ad fraud, and overall transparency issues are grabbing headlines, not only in the trades but also in mainstream media. These conversations are distracting, and make it easy for marketers to under-invest in this important ecosystem.
The industry should be investing in programmatic partners the same way that we’ve invested in stock exchanges. It wasn’t that long ago that stock brokers were also manually trading. The tech platform of the largest stock exchange in the world, The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)’s Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), would not even be old enough to drink if it were a person. ICE was only founded in 2000, and has faced, and continues to face, similar challenges as programmatic digital advertising, including fraud, transparency, and optimization. It invested in fraud protection, automation, and optimization — and the programmatic ecosystem must do the same.
Today, we would never consider trading a premium stock like Tesla (TSLA) on paper. So, why do we trade digital advertising, an internet-based business, on paper? Programmatic should no longer be exclusively used for efficiency buys. It should be considered as part of an overall marketing plan, alongside other premium traditional channels like television, print, direct mail. Why? Because it’s evolved beyond just providing automation and efficiencies – it now offers greater insights and tools to help you make smarter buys. It’s easier than ever to track campaign performance and optimize towards success. And, the tools are available for both the buy side and sell side, which streamlines overall workflow.
However, major brands have started to shift marketing dollars away from digital advertising and back into traditional advertising channels like TV, due to perceived brand safety issues – particularly in programmatic digital. This shift has come despite the fact that key consumer demographics are not watching live TV programming on traditional devices.
Rather than caving to fear, marketers should be investing in digital advertising solutions and partners that address their concerns and increase transparency, performance, and operational efficiency.
Increasing trust and investment into the programmatic landscape is not simply a marketer problem. Content owners and publishers must make their premium inventory more readily available in an automated fashion. This does not necessarily mean arbitrage or resale; it can mean a direct sale that simply streamlines the workflow process and enables cookie matching and attribution. This will also increase revenue for publishers not due to higher CPMs, but because impression waste is more easily prevented. New publisher optimization tools automate the process of directing the right impressions for a specific campaign.
The reality is that although programmatic digital advertising is not perfect, we are not as far away as we might think.
Look at the history of the stock market, and start investing in programmatic now. It took the stock market 398 years to figure it out, but we can do it in a small fraction of that time. Brands, publishers, and tech companies must increase their investment and education in these evolving marketplaces and the partners that support them. Quality advertising partners and platforms provide insight into the value of what you’re buying and selling, and help optimize campaigns toward the results that you want. In turn, this will enable mutually beneficial relationships between consumers, brands, and publishers by decreasing the number of ads and increasing their relevancy and effectiveness.