Programmatic started out as a process that allowed publishers to unload remnant inventory to buyers who were more focused on cheap pricing and less concerned about quality. Or as Brian Danzis -- chief revenue officer, Virool -- put it, programmatic in the early days “was a place where impressions went to die.”
That has changed, according to Danzis, who was among a group sitting on an Advertising Week panel exploring the evolution of programmatic and where it’s headed. Advertisers are now focused more on using data for pinpoint precision targeting of audiences, and delivering the right messages to those audiences when they’re most receptive.
Also key is delivering messages in the right environment. As Shenan Reed -- president digital NA at MEC -- put it, luxury brands don’t want their ads sitting around content that’s about “toilet tissue or fake handbags.” Like her grandmother used to say, added Reed, “you are the company that you keep.”
And while trusted environments are desirable, so-called “walled gardens” are not. Advertisers need open systems that can track and measure across all programmatic platforms. That’s where the industry is headed, said Danzis. Those tracking and reporting capabilities exist although they are not yet adequately embedded across all platforms industrywide. “There are still some holes,” he said.
The panel agreed that as programmatic expands -- a just-issued Magna Global report pegs annual growth over the next four years at more than 30% -- the business won’t be all automatic all the time. People with big brains and a keen understanding of data will be needed, said Reed. Those experts will need to interpret data and turn those interpretations into stories that resonate with consumers and persuade them to action. “There won’t be reduction in workforce” on the programmatic front, said Reed. That’s especially true given the ongoing need for people “making art and science decisions” on behalf of clients in the space.
Jeremy Randol, vice president of programmatic sales at Pandora, agreed. “We’ve given programmatic a big bear hug,” said Randol, who was hired by Pandora last year to oversee sales in the sector. The reams of data, he added “help customers get smarter.” His job is to sell ads but also help clients develop insights and “put them into play.” And if agencies get the data part right, he added, they too can “play a more strategic role.”
Mark Zagorski, CEO of Nielsen’s Exelate, said the measurement company’s data focus is about “reach, resonance and reaction.” The idea is to “close the loop,” he said. “Did they see and ad and buy the product?” For advertisers that’s the big ROI question. “We can connect the two,” he said, but stressed that there’s more work to make it happen across platforms industrywide. “It’s early,” he said.