Commentary

Programmatic Backlash - The 5 Questions Brands Want Agencies To Answer

As brands such as P&G, Coca-Cola and American Express are paraded in stories that extol the virtues of programmatic, it would be easy to think that automation in digital display is a proverbial slam-dunk.

Talk with advertisers, or at least the bodies that represent them, and a very different story is beginning to emerge. Today's news from the World Federation of Advertisers -- that nearly three in four are unhappy with programmatic and prefer traditional media buying -- is not a major surprise. When I speak to bodies such as ISBA in the UK, it's a very similar story.

At the heart of the issue is that some pioneering brands have seen that programmatic is a great way to buy pre-determined audiences and then building a virtuous circle where data is improved upon as campaign results come in and the next campaign is planned.

At the same time, advertiser bodies have largely been going along with industry developments, such as the IAB's viewability metrics, because -- as one senior executive put it -- it's better to be inside the tent where you can change things than outside where you can't. They aren't happy, but they're effectively playing along.

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Make no mistake, however, advertisers -- as expressed through the bodies that represent them -- are highly concerned about digital display and, in particular, programmatic. It raises and heightens the fears that they're not getting what they paid for and in terms of click fraud, may not be getting anything at all. Automation, in the guise of programmatic and real-time buying (RTB), is a step too far for some who are already concerned and don't want more technology clouding the transparency they seek between their internal marketing team and their digital marketing agency.

Transparency is the key here and will be a central part of MediaPost's OMMA RTB and programmatic event taking place in London on October 14th. 

Brands are keen to have 5 questions answered by agencies to restore trust and make sure that the advantages of programmatic are enjoyed without a lingering suspicion that the benefits are either not clear or not being passed on to advertisers.

The five key questions are:

1.  Money

What am I paying for my space and where am I getting it from? Who or what are the intermediaries? What's the difference between what I'm paying and what you're paying - who's getting a slice of the action, and how much?

2.  Brand

Where is my brand going? Can I be sure it won't end up where I really don't want it seen?

3.  Value

If automation is so much more efficient, why am I paying more for my media? Shouldn't efficiencies be matched with lower media costs? If I'm paying more for better qualified traffic, can you show me the ROI?

4.  Data

Is it being stored and processed with full legal compliance and can I have it, is anyone else learning from it?

5.  Trust

Can I trust you and the people you work with to ensure my campaigns are being seen by real people and not 'bots'. Can I trust the results you're showing me?

We're still accepting speaker applications for the London show, particularly for brand marketers who are keen to see how these five crucial questions are answered by agencies and technology vendors.

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