Where > Who: Why Content (and Its Data) Is Programmatic's Future

As an industry, we spend every day opining on the value of Deal ID, the nomenclature of programmatic direct versus premium programmatic, the power of “Big Data” and the march towards all things that can be programmatic actually being programmatic.  We pass inventory back and forth, applying our own secret sauce to make impressions more valuable. Along the way, we learn a little bit more about our counter-party in each transaction.

At the end of the day, what really matters is delivering users an engaging and relevant ad experience that affects them in a positive, meaningful way. For all of the work we put into making this happen, the most important part of the “right ad, right user, right time” formula is often overlooked. If we start with content, it’s much easier to clarify and cut through the noise of where we are today and where we need to go tomorrow.

Ultimately all users want compelling content that’s delivered in clean site and app experiences. This is where users flock, where online communities engage with each other, and where agencies and trading desks need to go to reach audiences in brand-safe environments and understand the data of that environment beyond the cookie. Audiences (which in this context we can refer to as cookies) without content are unknown, dispensable files on a browser. Content gives cookies meaning; it brings them to life. Within content exists invaluable data – content engagement, ad engagement, ad serving and pricing data – data that underpins and highlights the true market value of the users engaging with it in real-time.



Content data isn’t just about the “where.”  It’s about the types of users that congregate around content, the engagements they make with the content and with each other, and the environment in which ads do and don’t work. Retargeting has its limitations, as does behavioral, contextual, and all other types of targeting. Knowing environmental attributes like ad sizes, page placements, clutter data, scroll data, rich media engagement data and serving capabilities in conjunction with cookie data improves performance immensely. Content data allows buyers to buy beyond the cookie – giving them access to more inventory to optimize against, and improve campaign performance even further.

As an industry, we need to begin packaging programmatic solutions that combine content data in addition to audience and auction-based attributes. These solutions are what the next wave of RTB buyers will need to extend reach beyond just basic retargeting. These solutions will be centered on brand-safe, data enriched, transparent content at scale and leverage both first and third party data – and they will be available on every impression.

Publishers and marketers alike need more of this “environmental” data to understand the inherent value of their inventory as their audience is engaged with it. They need to reorient their sales teams toward selling custom programmatic solutions against content, not simply against cookies.The better publishers are at doing this, and the better exchanges/platforms are at enabling this, the more brands and agencies will be able to shift non-RTB dollars into programmatic channels and accelerate the eventual shift towards all things being truly programmatic.

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