Commentary

Programmatic's Presence In Print

The programmatic ad market took the oddest of steps this week when Time Inc. and MediaMath teamed to offer print ads via a programmatic platform that initially only facilitated digital ad trades.

Programmatic ad tech is viewed as new, fast, efficient and the future. Print has been left for dead by some and is viewed as old and forever one step behind digital.

While it seems like a mix of oil and water, it’s not all that surprising. “Programmatic ad tech” is, ultimately, just a way for marketers to trade media, and there’s media to be traded in print. Print, by virtue of being the oldest, was simply programmatic’s final frontier.

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What should be surprising is that it took this long to see print ads sold via a programmatic platform. Heck, the Apple Watch received programmatic ad support months before it even launched, and programmatic has already made its way to Super Bowl ads (albeit locally).

Whether print programmatic latches on remains to be seen, but Time Inc., MediaMath and Target -- the first named buyer of print via programmatic -- are all large, respected companies in their respective industries. If they are doing it, it’s logical to assume others will follow suit.

The amusing thing is that the use of programmatic in print may take off with fewer hitches than in digital. That’s because the methods of measuring print are well-established. Here on the Internet, advertisers can’t even get half of their ads seen, and few can agree on what should constitute a “viewable” ad.

In addition, the use of programmatic for print makes clear the distinction between “programmatic” and “RTB” (real-time bidding). About one year ago, many considered “programmatic” and “RTB” to be one and the same. As the market evolved, “programmatic” became an umbrella terms for all things automated and data-driven, with “RTB” falling under that description.

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