Commentary

Transparency On Data Will Show Brands What Automated Buying Can Do For Them

Is programmatic being driven by a focus on the needs of advertisers? It's a very simple question posed today by Bob Wootton, Director of Media and Advertising at ISBA, the London-based body that is, in its own terms, "the voice of the advertiser."

Bob's a very interesting guy to chat with, particularly if there are agency people around. As you can tell from reading his blog, he takes no prisoners and is very forthright in his views, which are not always in line with agencies, publishers or tech vendors. The reason he gives for publishers embracing programmatic and automated buying is that everyone else is, and that the technology allows sites to sell their long tail -- or the "crap back" as he jokingly refers to it. For media agencies there's even more to love. Technology allows greater margins on buying deals, and because ads are placed automatically, head count can be reduced. So margins are hiked up, but are these always passed on entirely to the advertiser?

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Come to think of it, what does the advertiser get out of programmatic? Now, I know what the answer generally is here. Brands get to act on real-time data to locate their audiences and serve them the holy grail of right message at the right time to the right person. Trouble is -- just think about it for a moment. With nine in ten U.S. marketers now reporting they use programmatic for branding, it's pretty hard to prove what has been achieved. With direct response, there are the measures of click-through and conversions, but with branding the metrics can be a little less definitive. 

Thus it comes as little surprise to see yesterday that eMarketer showed that direct programmatic is on the rise. Brands and their agencies are looking to deal direct with publishers who can demonstrate far lower than average bot net traffic, meaning the branding messages are seen by a human rather than a piece of software run by a criminal gang. If branding is the goal, the results are all about viewability and brand safety. It's also about the data that programmatic creates.

It's on this thorny issue that we will see some changes with the current glut of huge media agency renewals going through simultaneously. Talking with media executives in London, both on the brand and agency side, reveals a widespread acceptance that media agencies need to do better with advertiser data. Namely, they must ensure that brands have access to all the data they create -- and that the lessons learned from campaigns are not shared with rivals using the same media agency's trading desk.

So that's what automation has to offer advertisers -- data that can be learned from in real-time by smart computers rather than through smart people looking in the rear-view mirror of an Excel spreadsheet. 

Once more of the data benefits of real-time buying and programmatic are fed through to advertisers, the unlocking of exclusive insights will hopefully see brands feeling they get more from automation than a suspicion their agency could be making higher margins than in the past.

This is almost certainly the type of conversation being had by the planet's large advertisers currently undergoing simultaneous global media reviews.

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