Hello Mobile Programmatic, Goodbye Sales Teams

The writing had been on the wall for such a long time that I have to confess I had half forgotten about Apple's iAd network -- you know, the one Steve Jobs claimed would carve a 50:50 share with Google for the mobile advertising market. Sure, it was always there, but nobody really talked about it excitedly much after its launch. Over the past couple of days, news that its sales team is being disbanded was met with little surprise, and the figure of a 5% mobile advertising market shares being widely banded around underscored the sense in the move.

However, there is something more to this. A lot of commentators are talking as if Apple has given up on mobile advertising. It has not. It has simply given in to the inevitable truth that digital display, particularly in mobile, will be about machines talking to machines -- automation and programmatic are the way forward, while sales teams are not. There has been a lot of talk about Apple not fitting into the brash, loud advertising world -- but let's face it, if personnel was the problem, the tech giant has deep enough pockets to hire the right people. The issue has not been the right people, but the people themselves. When billions of impressions are created each year through mobile sites and apps, the amount of potential inventory being made available is mind-boggling. In such a market, you have to question the wisdom of sales teams.

Now, I'm the first to point out that personally, I put a huge question mark next to mobile display. If it's done reasonably well and responsibly with a very limited number of spots, it might succeed, but I have a sinking feeling that too many publishers will not play the long game and fill their pages with tiny flashing icons that will encourage ad-blocking rates to increase. 

Nevertheless, there will still be a lot of mobile inventory out there to fill, and you would have to ask yourself the question that forms the basis of any successful startup -- if we were starting from scratch would we do what's already being done or is there a smarter, more efficient way forward? Print and television are finite opportunities that are well suited to selling in advance during conversations between sales and buying teams. Digital display threw the spanner in the works and gave rise to automated buying and so as media consumption goes up and switches to mobile, there is not much that can be said for a tech giant who thought the market would be dominated by a sales team.

The move to mobile programmatic is inevitable. There's no need for handshakes and meetings when inventory is so vast and un-contained and while brands can program into machines that they want to reach under which data-driven circumstances.

So the disbanding of a sales team at iAd is not particularly surprising. Human beings taking a high-quality message to an increasingly mechanised marketplace was unlikely to work. If you need any proof that the future of display -- both mobile and desktop -- is programmatic, ask yourself this: if Steve Jobs and Apple couldn't keep a human, quality element in display, what chance does anyone else have?

3 comments about "Hello Mobile Programmatic, Goodbye Sales Teams".
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  1. Rick waghorn from addiply, January 19, 2016 at 9:12 a.m.

    Because they never got local? 

  2. David Mountain from Marketing and Advertising Direction, January 19, 2016 at 11:58 a.m.

    Digital display opportunities *are* finite, because real human customers are finite. So are the number of sites they patronize, and the number of ads they'll tolerate. If publishers want to join the race to the bottom, rather than sell on a quality content and rarefied demographic, they deserve rock-bottom CPMs.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 19, 2016 at 1:09 p.m.

    But weren't the people promoting programmatic TV buying promising us only in the recent past that "legacy media" ad sellers and time buyers need not fear the advent of computerized buying systems? Somehow, their jobs would not only be saved---but enhanced? Hmmm?

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