Is Programmatic The Future Or The Now?

If you look through old articles and posts about programmatic media-buying, I'm willing to bet one of the most common phrases in each of those pieces is "the future." Just a quick search on MediaPost for articles containing the phrase "the future" and the word "programmatic" spits out seven pages of results, five and a half of which are from 2013.

Programmatic trading has been destined for the future, but at some point the future becomes the now. Are we at that point?

I took to the tweets to find out what people thought:

Jay Sears is senior vice president of market development at Rubicon. I asked him if "yes" meant it's both the now and the future, but he didn't respond. I would assume that's what he meant, because wouldn't being the now almost guarantee it would also be the future?

Not so, said Tara Vetro, director of communications at Vibrant Media (that's per her LinkedIn; her Twitter says she is director of communications at Havas Media North America, while her LinkedIn says she left Havas for Vibrant earlier this year). She argued that programmatic is the now, but not the future, because "it does not lend itself to the ever-important creativity and innovation."

I see where she's coming from. It's hard to dish out the creative in real-time at the type of scale programmatic media-buyers look to achieve. But at the same time, we know that even creatives are using real-time data.

Essentially, tech does exist that allows marketers to change the creative in ads based on real-time data. Of course, the creative needs to be created, which takes time, but it just goes to show that even the most non-programmatic things about advertising are finding ways to fit.

AOL Networks believes programmatic is the now, while Jonathan Gardner, director of communications at Turn, responded with a tweet that read "now." He followed it up just seconds later with one that said "and future." It's worth noting that those who responded saying "the now" or "the now and the future" all have a stake in the adoption of programmatic.

Jonathan Mendez, founder and CEO of Yieldbot, had a different take.

He backed it up by tweeting: "Show me one major pub that has stated on the record a % of rev or dollar amount they are running of 'programmatic direct.'"

It's a fair question. Late last month Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL put their collective stamp of approval on programmatic direct — which is the use of technology to automate the manual processes of direct deals, typically for non-remnant inventory.

At the time, I spoke with Microsoft's Daniel Schinberg, senior director of display marketplaces, and he wasn't willing to share actual numbers. I asked: "How much inventory will you sell via programmatic direct? Or will you simply meet the demand?"

He responded by saying he didn't want to speculate on numbers but the second part of the question — simply meeting demand — was "probably right." Even though he didn't give an actual amount, the fact that those three pubs (and others) are using programmatic tech to sell more than just remnant inventory is more than could be said at this time last year.

Of course, doubts remain — will real-time bidding (RTB) break away from remnant inventory in any significant way? Will premium publishers really trade that much valuable inventory programmatically? Will it work, at scale, across all channels? — but as I previously wrote, it appears that most things advertising are finding a way to fit programmatic into the picture.

That, coupled with recent estimates saying that programmatic media-buying will account for more than half (53%) of all online display transactions this year, has me leaning toward calling programmatic the now.

What do you think? Is programmatic the now, the future, the both, or the never?

"Signboard past, present and future" photo from Shutterstock

1 comment about "Is Programmatic The Future Or The Now?".
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  1. Keith Eadie from TubeMogul, October 24, 2013 at 5:12 p.m.

    Count me as one of those people that have a stake in the adoption of programmatic, but when it comes to video, both. One thing is clear: software-driven buying is taking an increasing share of video ad budgets. Forrester predicts that one in four video ads will be programmatically bought by the end of 2014. But in many ways, we are just beginning to see what is possible as we enter a data-driven age where brand advertising intersects with technology. Given the inherent advantages in workflow and campaign effectiveness, it is likely that the majority of TV ads will be bought by software within 10 years, but the transition will be gradual at first.

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