Study Forecasts Robust Programmatic Growth This Year With Further Transparency Push

Major multinational marketers have continued to increase ad spend via programmatic channels, despite widely publicized concerns about brand safety and transparency, finds a new study from the World Federation of Advertisers.

Per the study, budgets are expected to be up by 11 percentage points from 17% of total digital media investment from November 2016 to November 2017 to 28% for the same period in 2017/18.

There will also be additional focus on new programmatic channels, such as ‘Advanced TV’ and Digital OOH. (Some 77% will increase spend in these areas.)

North America is the region where programmatic is most established with spend expected to hit 31% of digital budgets in 2017/18. Latin America and China are the least established at 20%.

The study, which was conducted in conjunction with the WFA’s marketing software partner dataxu, is based on responses from 28 companies spending in excess of $50 billion globally on marketing communications. The research was carried out in November and December of 2017. 



Alongside the rise in programmatic spend, marketers have also been pushing for changes to address their concerns around transparency. The study found that it’s now not uncommon for clients to have so-called “disclosed” contracts and 45% believe they have a fully transparent relationship with their programmatic partners.

And 41% of respondents said that increasing transparency with programmatic partners is a major priority for 2018.

Achieving data transparency is also moving higher up the to-do list this year, with 62% reporting that addressing segment mark-ups and data arbitrage is a major priority for 2018. That’s up from 14% last year.

“In terms of its public relations with the wider marketing community, it’s fair to say that 2017 hasn’t been a great year for programmatic,” stated Matt Green, global lead, media and digital marketing at the WFA. “But there is too much momentum now, and in spite of the issues, clients do generally see the benefits.”

Added Green: “That doesn’t mean they can’t take action to improve the ecosystem in which they operate. There will be continued pressure on contracts, greater in-house understanding and on-going efforts to make better use of data in attribution models in 2018. The major priority for the short-term is preparing for the arrival of GDPR (European consumer data protection regulation), for which the clock is ticking.”

Other findings include: 

  • With GDPR set for May, no surprise that 83% of respondents see compliance as a priority for 2018. Only 10% say they have already ensured their programmatic activity is GSPR compliant.
  • Just 7% of respondents have a robust multi-touch attribution model at the moment, but this is a key priority for 2018. A strong 69% saying they are focusing on this issue.
  • Although “walled gardens” (like Google, Facebook) have been a big focus in 2017, two-thirds of advertisers are looking for further changes in the sector this year. Gardens remain an issue and concern. Only 10% believe they have already addressed walled garden and data access issues and 66% see it as a priority.
  • Marketers have been working hard to deliver internal ‘media transformation’, with 24% of respondents believing they have already brought their internal staff up to speed on programmatic. Some 45% are prioritizing internal capability this year, and nearly 28% of respondents are looking to recruit programmatic specialists.
  • Advanced data usage is becoming commonplace in programmatic. Nearly nine in 10 (87%) of respondents model data for best customer ‘lookalikes' and target these segments (up from 38% in 2015). Meanwhile, 74% of respondents use programmatic approaches to target specific customers and segments (with relevant in-context messages).


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