Commentary

Programmatic's Tricks And Treats

In the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to do a quick rundown of some of the current trends and hot topics in the programmatic ad industry and decide whether they are tricks or treats.

Viewability: Trick.

This would be like going trick-or-treating and only getting candy half the time -- if you’re lucky. The other half of the time people would only pretend to put candy in your bag.

It’s a trick because this was the same problem the industry had last year, and viewability rates have not improved. This continues to thwart marketers.

Ways around viewability issues: Treat.

Most people I’ve heard from or spoken with think the accepted standard of “viewability” as given by the Media Rating Council (MRC) -- 50% of an ad being in-view for at least one continuous second -- is little more than the punch line of a bad joke. 

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As a result, we’ve seen a number of tech companies attempt to improve viewability, to make it a more reliable currency.

Some, such as Clearstream, now have tech that forces consumers to watch pre-roll ads by pausing the video if the consumer tabs away or puts the video out of view. The ads become 100% viewable or bust.

Others are launching viewable-only ad exchanges, which only charge advertisers if their ad was viewable, while others are adding a second or two to the MRC’s standards on their own platforms.

Perhaps the most interesting workaround, however, is the increasing interest in using time as a currency. 

Mobile programmatic:Treat.

I have devoted entire RTBlog columns to the topic of mobile programmatic, including one just last week. But perhaps nothing indicates the growing strength of mobile programmatic more than one of the world’s largest holding companies -- Publicis Groupe -- spending the month of October investing in the space, including its acquisition of Run, a mobile-focused demand-side platform (DSP) and data management platform (DMP).

TV programmatic:Trick(going on treat).

This one was tricky to diagnose -- pun intended -- because “programmatic” has begun to take hold in the TV space. It gets the “trick” designation here because the adoption has not been widespread -- at least not yet.

Industry arms race:Treat.

The amount of significant M&A activity in the programmatic space in 2014 far outstripped that of previous years. And it’s not just the Googles and Facebooks of the industry doing the buying -- holding companies and other tech companies have been in on the action as well.

Branding via programmatic. Treat.

Kellogg’s, AT&T, Verizon and the auto industries were already using programmatic, but 2014 has seen Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies rapidly adopt the tech. Major companies such as Mondelez are planning to invest nearly half of their marketing budget in programmatic, while others such as P&G and American Express are aiming even higher.

A recent report from AOL’s Adap.tv noted that 60% of brands’ online video ad spend is now programmatic, which helps tip the scale in favor of “treat.”

"Trick or treat" image via Shutterstock.

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