Programmatic Premium: It's Already Here (Kind Of)

It’s the year of premium mobile, social, video cross-platform RTB! Oh, also: big data. With all the predictions for 2013 flying around, it can be easy to forget what we’ve already accomplished as an industry to date and what we still have to build. Each of the above pillars have some amazing companies tackling their respective challenges in innovative ways, and a lot of goals that were considered ambitious just a year ago have already been accomplished.

One area also getting a lot of buzz is programmatic premium, where I think we’re further along than a lot of folks believe.

I’ll start off with a caveat: there is no set definition of programmatic premium. To some folks it’s a world in which there are no salespeople and Watson is designing creatives, executing custom buys, and optimizing media. To others, it’s simply the ability to programmatically buy inventory that would have gone to a network without having to pick up the phone. For the sake of this article, let’s define programmatic premium as somewhere in the middle: the automated buying and selling of standardized ad units on brand-safe sites, in viewable placements, in a way that competes directly with the publisher’s directly sold campaigns.



If we can agree that my definition is in the range of being acceptable, then I’ve got news: This is already happening. Select advertisers, agencies, trading desks, DSPs, and retargeters are already buying this way. While it requires a topnotch ad ops team on both sides to implement, it’s been possible for a good while.

So the real question is: If this has already been possible from a technological perspective, why are we just now seeing a deluge of trade coverage over this strategy, along with startups trying to implement it?

I believe there are two straightforward reasons and they’re related. First, there’s a much greater demand for programmatic premium from a buyer’s perspective than there ever was before. That’s because performance buyers designed their organizations to buy programmatically, and they’re realizing there’s value in premium inventory for their campaigns. Long story short, it’s a new integration to tackle in an absurdly complicated industry and it just takes time for everyone to understand all the ins and outs and commit resources to it.

The second reason is that, from a publisher’s perspective, this is a pain to set up right now. There’s a reason that startups and established ad tech players alike are tackling this issue right now, and it’s not because of any “ad tech bubble.” It’s that the old systems that technically made this possible were not designed for this. Just like copper phone lines weren’t designed for Internet traffic and along came fiber optics, the ad servers of yesterday weren’t designed to handle dynamic competition for an ad opportunity from so many buyers.

Programmatic premium has room to grow in terms of ease of use and implementation. But if you’re waiting for some special announcement to start buying this way, don’t. You already can.

2 comments about "Programmatic Premium: It's Already Here (Kind Of)".
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  1. Bill Guild from ChoiceStream, February 12, 2013 at 5:04 p.m.

    As I interpret your definition of programmatic premium, it is buying inventory that is considered premium when sold through non-programmatic channels but doing it programmatically. Certainly a definition that works and will probably take hold. However, there is a lot of inventory that meets the safety and viewability requirements and is very effective for brands, but can only be identified through the individual impression analysis of programmatic buying. I predict that our definition of premium will expand to include premium audiences and subsets of what is now tier 2 and 3 inventory.

  2. Francine Hardaway from Undertone, February 12, 2013 at 9:51 p.m.

    We are big fans of programmatic premium. We have clients who sell our high impact formats for higher CPMs through programmed buying, but we also urge our publisher partners to sell these units direct for even higher CPMs.

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