Commentary

In Programmatic Advertising, Technology Is A Tool, Not A Strategy

As the proliferation of multiscreen consumers and the ways to reach them continues, the role technology plays in digital advertising will only increase, fueled by the efficiencies brought about by programmatic. It’s important for both publishers and brand marketers to connect with audiences based on context and interest. There is a symbiotic value chain that benefits publishers, brands and consumers if done correctly.

Advertising technology at its core is designed to foster this environment. But in order to prevent consumer disfavor and more ad blocking, players must move away from the idea that technologies like programmatic are a strategy.

Much of the industry criticism of ad blocking seems to pin the blame squarely on the shoulders of ad tech. While some of that could be justified, it's important to remember the symbiotic nature of the ecosystem: In order for the tools to work as intended, the correct strategies must be employed.  

Allow technology to take a back seat, and let strategy take the wheel. Programmatic is a framework that allows technology to help buyers access audiences, and for publishers to easily and efficiently monetize these audiences. It’s a tactic, not a strategy. The strategy should illustrate how that framework can be used to deliver advertising experiences where consumers actually see value. Marketers should be emphasizing better creative and the infusion of audience data to deliver more personalized ad experiences that drive engagement, and ultimately drive performance. Technology makes that possible at scale.

Video is an example of a channel where advertisers consistently confuse strategy with tactics. Many simply buy YouTube TrueView or Hulu for audience extension and look at GRP comparisons to their TV buys. But the most successful campaigns begin with strategies that take into account variables such as the length of the video, the location of the user or the device that content is being viewed on. The IAB’s L.E.A.N. Ads program was launched late last year to foster this type of strategic approach.

If a user is watching video on a mobile device during commuting hours, it’s likely she's watching a short-form clip.  If a 30-second video ad is served, it could be considered disruptive, and provide the impetus for employing an ad blocker. However, if that same format were used for a mid-roll ad for a desktop user, with the brand taking context and audience viewing habits into account, it should be well received.

And if you layer in interactive, rich-media capabilities, the video ad becomes even more powerful, with improved engagement and brand recall. With all the data at our disposal in programmatic, the right strategies will enable advertisers to reach segmented users with messages relevant to them. This would not be possible without technology.

Ad blocking is a symptom, not the disease. While ad tech has been a scapegoat for the rise in ad blocking, publishers are the ones paying the price. Audiences, especially in mobile, are fed up with ads that load slowly eating away at their data plan, or are intrusive on such a small screen.

Now is the time -- while ad blocking still represents a reasonably small pool of users around the globe -- for publishers, agencies and brands to strategically address what’s driving this populist sentiment that is suddenly anti-advertising.

Cleaning up the page formatting, incorporating less intrusive ad formats, and delivering relevant advertising through the use of both first- and third-party data, will help stem the tide. With the right technology, strategies can be implemented to address the issues that often lead a consumer to use an ad blocker.

The more that trading desks, agencies, brands and publishers create focused audience advertising strategies that can be implemented by the best of technology, the more audiences will be averted from blocking ads, the lifeblood of the Internet.

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