Programmatic’s move from innovative to mainstream is borne out by the latest figures: Globally 67% of digital advertising investments are placed through programmatic marketplaces. However, this positive change has a downside: the technological services available to marketing professionals have become significantly more complex, with the proliferation of intermediaries whose functions, methods and jargon are often incomprehensible. This extremely technical ecosystem has become inherently impenetrable, and some service providers make little effort to provide support and guidance. In this context, are we to conclude that advertisers have truly understood all of the particularities and potential of programmatic media buying? Not likely.
With great power comes great complexity
Let’s not forget that before the programmatic boom, agencies and companies were living a much more complex reality. Rolling out a campaign required meticulous management and could involve tens or even hundreds of insertion orders. This labour-intensive work prevented professionals from concentrating on tasks with greater added value, like the more strategic or creative aspects of the business. Additionally, the campaign’s messaging had diminished impact because of fragmented contextual targeting. Worse still, target audiences were essentially guesstimates—people we might expect to visit certain sites based on old-school and vague criteria.
Programmatic turned all of that on its head by allowing campaigns to reach thousands of grouped sites and put the data collected from each connected device to use, liberating the human capital previously dedicated to time-consuming tasks. Never before had advertisers had such a vast array of inventories at their fingertips as they now do with ad exchanges. Targeting capabilities that are as precise as they are wide-ranging are more easily implemented than ever before via programmatic buying platforms.
Nevertheless, despite all of these changes and contrary to appearances, the promise of simplification remains unfulfilled. Today, media buying is more intense than ever and for different reasons media trading teams have had a ton of new tasks added to their plates, including buying, advising and support, technological development, technical updates, keeping up with a rapidly evolving industry, etc. Just seven years after their advent, online advertising technologies have proliferated to such a degree that it would be almost impossible to list them all, especially in a sector as dynamic and rapidly evolving as digital. Sadly, targeting the right person, at the right moment, in the right place, with the right message and at the right price is as simple as we might have hoped.
Become an expert and challenge your service providers
Between demand side platforms (DSPs), ad servers, supply side platforms (SSPs), public and private marketplaces, advertising networks and alliances but also digital creative optimisation (DCO) methods and all the different measuring tools to estimate the quality of impressions, of retargeting and attribution, the complexity of the programmatic ecosystem is dozens of layers deep. There are so many intermediaries and services that marketing professionals now need specialists to help clarify the roles and specificities of each actor.
Indeed, advertisers should take a critical approach when considering the tools that service providers offer them (or even impose upon them) and should be sceptical of their flashy promises. Generic terms like DSP, DCO, 3rd party data and ad verification but also concepts like CPvM, ads.txt and supply path optimisation cover myriad realities, practices, features and technologies. Any advertiser who master these, will be able to make the right choice for the specific needs of each campaign. In this field as in others, the abilities of service providers vary greatly and should be appraised. In this context, experience and specialised professionals have become such a rare commodity that companies are willing to pay hand over fist to recruit them!
Given these market changes and particularly considering the damage done by “good” ideas and opaque practices, Gamned! has decided to create its own Programmatic Academy and to offer advertisers the most thorough programmatic-media-buying training. Our goal is to help marketers to build the skills they need to give the industry a run for its money. Now that programmatic is more rule than exception, it is more important than ever that advertisers have access to the tools and knowledge they require to choose the service providers and technologies best suited to their needs, and to be in a position to judge the relative pertinence of strategies implemented on their behalf.