Has Programmatic Gone Too Far? How Buyers Shifted Focus From Quantity To Quality

Programmatic ad buying has been growing for years. In fact Business Insider Intelligence predicts that programmatic ad spend will top nearly $15 billion this year alone in the U.S.

Advertisers seem to love the cost & time effectiveness that programmatic offers. In addition, it has opened the door to much more sophisticated targeting capabilities than anyone thought possible.

Still, it hasn’t been all been smooth sailing. Back in the early programmatic days, buyers wanted scale -- and quickly. And exchanges were more than happy to provide it, albeit by turning a blind eye to traffic quality. They were sourcing inventory from networks who worked with other networks and before they knew it, they had lost control of what was entering their marketplace.

But the revenue was flowing, so they let it slide.  



In that time however, companies like Moat and Integral Ad Science popped up to shine a spotlight on the fact that this practice was leading to a plethora of bad traffic factors, from non-human traffic, ad fraud and non-viewable ads. In fact, back in 2013 the Wall Street Journal shocked the industry by printing comScore’s findings that 54% of all digital ads are never seen, caused by fraud and viewability issues.   

Not surprisingly, over the years this has made for pickier buyers when purchasing ads programmatically. In fact, our study of 1,000 marketing decision-makers cited quality of inventory and low levels of viewability as the top two concerns when buying programmatically.

Focusing on traffic quality is a must today.

As a result, many exchanges that had previously received a poor bill of health were forced to clean up their act and kick out the bad actors and networks.

Programmatic is moving fast and, as a buyer, it can be easy to be feel you were over-promised, only to see the results under-delivered. So what questions do you need to ask to ensure you are working with partners who can deliver at scale?

1. Do you work directly with publishers? This one is big. All too frequently, supply-side platforms (SSPs) will be buying inventory from other SSPs. That is incredibly inefficient. If your exchange partner doesn’t have direct relationships with brands, there’s a higher chance that you’re either overpaying for that inventory, or buying ads that aren’t placed in premium environments.

2. How do you monitor non-human traffic? Ask every partner about this. There’s too much to lose if you don’t. A report published this month by Videology shows that bot traffic has amounted to $554.56 million worth of ad spend. Partners that are looking out for you should be happy and willing to be 100% forthright with how they are monitoring non-human traffic. Do they have a team in place dedicated to keeping up to date on the latest brand safety requirements? Are they regularly tracking their inventory to ensure your ads are running on premium Web sites?   

3. What kind of ad formats do you offer? We’ve seen in the industry that pre-roll is dominant in a programmatic world. While pre-roll can help to deliver scale, it doesn’t provide the user experiences that people are looking for. A diversified platform can help ensure that your ads are delivered in user-friendly formats that encourage people to lean in and watch your ads.  

And here’s one you need to be willing to asking yourself: Are you willing to pay more for quality?

If you had to pause, you have a problem. No matter what your buying mechanism is, you need to be willing to fight for better-quality advertising. While you need to ask the right questions to ensure you protect your brand, it is necessary for you to be like Michael Jackson, and look at the man in the mirror before you begin to choose your partners.

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