Commentary

Does Swapping 'Programmatic' For 'Automated' Get To The Heart Of The Matter?

Last week the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) advanced what it called an "evolving framework"  to clarify what is referred to as "programmatic" media. In doing so, the IAB wants to promote the idea that "programmatic" is really just "automated" media, and that "automated" is a more concrete way of defining what heretofore has been referred to as "programmatic."

The problem with "programmatic" is that everyone seems to have a different definition for it or understanding of what it is. 

This isn't merely a discussion of semantics, but a different way of thinking about the business, supply chain, processes, etc.

RTBlogchecked in with some industry stakeholders about the IAB's move:

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"It’s still a huge and growing industry but you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. This is about fixing issues in programmatic," said Jeremy Hlavacek, VP of global automated monetization at The Weather Company, an IBM Business. For starters, "everyone should read their contracts a lot more closely. If you’re an advertiser or a publisher, do the math on your yield. These things aren’t difficult to test. Pick the ad-tech partners that  work best for you. One benefit of having so many companies is there’s lots of choices in DSPs [demand-side platforms], SSPs [supply-side platforms], and data companies. If you’re not happy, switch. I would encourage less complaining and more action," he said.

"It's great to see the IAB working to improve clarity in digital advertising. I hope that this is a first step toward helping marketers get what they want from video advertising, which is genuine engagement with consumers that moves them measurably toward purchase,” said Tod Loofbourrow, CEO, ViralGains. He added that the amount of money  spent on "useless impressions could feed whole continents.”

Stephanie Snow, VP of ad operations, Intermarkets, disagreed with the shift to "automated": “Programmatic is the technology mechanism, just like a car is the mechanism to transport people. While programmatic is more efficient, just like driving is more efficient than walking, in most situations you still need someone to drive the car.

"The word 'automated' indicates no one is driving and minimizes the importance of people in programmatic. The word 'automated’ isn’t entirely accurate -- yet.”

"We support the IAB and are happy to see them focus on automation across the buying and selling lifecycle," said Richard Bush, chief product and technology officer, NYIAX. "It’s great to see more focus directed at streamlining the entire workflow from proposal through reconciliation.”

Patrick Hopf, SourceKnowledge president and co-founder, took a broader view: “Online advertising, in its many shapes and forms, represents a very complex ecosystem. However, a broader redefinition of ‘programmatic’ for 'automation' seems like an oversimplification. The term 'programmatic' isn't the problem. It's doubtful that the use of the term 'programmatic' will be easily supplanted.

"In reading the IAB's release, I like the use of 'Evolving Framework' as the title of the treatise, but that's where it ends for me. In trading 'Viewability' for 'Transparency', 'Botnets' for 'Inventory Quality', 'Ad blocking' for 'User Experience', I'm not sure this solves the main problem. How do we help marketers, stepping into the programmatic milieu, understand what's going on?

"Further, none of this touches on subjects like header bidding and blockchain buying that are now in the forefront of conversation."

Hopf went on to say: "I know people from a very traditional marketing paradigm, who feel completely untethered when it comes to digital advertising. They know they need to advance in their knowledge if they want to remain relevant, but find it far too confusing. Traditional educational channels offer little support. The IAB should be encouraged to help the industry become more accessible, but it needs to be more pronounced than redefining terminology."

Victor Wong, CEO of Thunder, said: “The key focus here is shifting people to higher-value tasks (less setup and more strategy and optimization).

"In the IAB framework, the focus is now on retrieving and delivering the best ad for specific users/media at the delivery stage. Because of automation, data can be tied to the user and media to achieve personalization. This wouldn't be possible without some automation. As the IAB says, while there are efficiencies, it doesn't make advertising less time-intensive; rather, it shifts where time is spent."

Wong continued: “Now, there will be more attention around personalization and tracking tasks to deliver on the user experience. As the IAB notes, application of key capabilities to make more relevant and acceptable consumer experiences has lagged behind automation technology.

"For example, automating compressing ad files and removing intrusive components will be key to delivering ads that load fast and don't annoy the user, but it will require some automation to do this at scale so each user also gets unique messaging. Controlling the tracking and decisioning between systems through automation and streamlining, will further reduce page load times.

"While advertisers may expect a shift in where time is spent on ads, rather than overall reduction in time, consumers should be seeing less time wasted by ads, not more," Wong said.

2 comments about "Does Swapping 'Programmatic' For 'Automated' Get To The Heart Of The Matter?".
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  1. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, May 23, 2017 at 11:08 a.m.

    With all due respect to Ms. Snow, I think Richard Bush of NYIAX provides the more accurate definition of "automation." While Ms. Snow thinks the term implies the absence of people, it does not, any more than it does in other industries. Automation delivers efficiency by enabling people to reduce or eliminate repetitious, often time consuming steps in tasks. As Mr. Bush explains, automation is about overall business processes, not people.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 23, 2017 at 12:58 p.m.

    Tobi, obviously not. Since the term "programmatic" has gotten a well deserved and very poor reputation in digital media, the IAB is merely trying to give the "emporer" a new set of clothes.

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