Buyers Share How Much They Are Spending In Programmatic - Whatever 'Programmatic' Means

Kicking off the OMMA Programmatic Display conference at Internet Week New York, Wednesday morning, Brian Zaben, VP and director of programmatic strategy and analysis at DigitasLBi, told the audience that the agency is buying roughly 40% of its media via programmatic.

Other panelists also weighed in to share how much they are spending via programmatic.

Chris Taylor, SVP of online marketing at 1800-Flowers.com, was initially mum on the company's programmatic investments, but he ultimately said they are somewhere in the 40% to 60% range. Taylor said that has not grown too much over the past few years, noting that 1800-Flowers was an early adopter of programmatic.

Saqib Mausoof, SVP of programmatic insights at IPG's media unit Magna Global, told the audience that the percentage of programmatic spend he currently sees is 15% to 25%, depending on the client. This is an interesting figure, as it seems to suggest that Magna may miss on their pledge to automate 50% of all its North American media transactions by the end of 2016. (Mausoof later clarified that Magna's goal is to automate 50% of media by the end of 2016, not 2015.)

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However, Mausoof's 15% to 25% estimate related to biddable media only. When asked by Real-Time Daily at the end of the panel whether Magna was still on track for 50% automation by the end of the year, he said they are. Many direct buys are being tagged programmatic (i.e. "programmatic direct"), he said, reiterating that he was speaking only of biddable media when giving his estimate.

Programmatic, in Mausoof's personal opinion, is biddable. Methods such as "programmatic direct" are considered "automated" but not "programmatic," in his opinion. With that in mind, Mausoof clarified that Magna's goal is 50% automation -- not "programmatic."

So there are three definitions at play -- biddable, programmatic and automation -- and the takeaway is clear: Definitions matter. Zaben's estimate of 40%, Taylor's estimate of 40% to 60%, and Mausoof's estimate of 15% to 25% all revolved around slightly different definitions.

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