Commentary

Brands Breaking Programmatic Taboo

From major ad buyers shunning open ad exchanges to the subsequent rise of programmatic direct technologies and private marketplaces, a lot has happened in the programmatic space in 2014. Among the most significant of trends, however, is the simple fact that “major ad buyers” are now often included in today’s conversations about programmatic.

A major question about programmatic tech has been whether it will expand beyond direct-response campaigns to be useful for major brands. I even moderated a panel about this topic in February at an OMMA RTB conference. The general consensus then was that, yes, brands can use it in a significant way. At the time, however, not too many were (at least publicly).

Since then, some major brands have spelled out their programmatic plans -- including P&G, American Express, Mondelez and more -- and a recent study from AOL found that 60% of brands’ online video ad spend is now programmatic.

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It appears that a corner has been turned, and today, some of the largest ad tech providers in the world are speaking directly to brands.

Google this week released “A Brands Marketer’s Guide” to programmatic, writing that “soon, all brands will be confident in their ability to use programmatic buying to engage and move audiences when it matters most.”

Programmatic buying may have achieved its early success with direct response campaigns, but enormous progress has been made towards advancing programmatic technology to meet the needs of brand campaigns,” wrote Sean Downey, managing director, Americas platform solutions at innovation, DoubleClick, in a blog post introducing Google’s guide. “In all my years with DoubleClick and Google, we've never been closer to the ultimate promise of brand advertising in the digital age: to efficiently and effectively run highly relevant, creative, responsive and measurable brand campaigns, at scale.”

There wasn’t much of a market for a guide like this two years ago, or even one year ago. Brands were using programmatic 12 and 24 months ago, yes --  but it was a more taboo subject then. Brands entering the space in a more visible manner has impacted the programmatic marketplace, and their entrance (and intrigue) has been reflected in some of 2014's other trends, the most talkedabout of which was the “in-house trend.” 

There are some key phrases and terms used in the guide -- including “soon” and “never been closer” and “progress has been made” -- to discreetly point out that the programmatic’s infrastructure is not fully tuned for brands, but the fact Google even wrote a programatic guide for brand marketers speaks volumes.

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