Once in a while something will come along in the advertising industry with real potential to turn things on their head. In the 50s it was television. In the 90s the internet really took hold. In the last decade digital has become the cornerstone of advertising. But there’s one more thing set to really shake things up: the automation of ad buying through programmatic buying.
What is programmatic?
Whereas traditionally media buyers were the only intermediary between advertisers and publishers, now there are a host of technologies available which automate ad buying, placement and reporting. Quite simply, programmatic buying is the automated process of buying and selling media.
There are a number of forms of programmatic, with real time bidding (RTB) – where ad space is auctioned between multiple advertisers for the highest price – probably the most popular. Other options include platforms which buy across multiple exchanges or programmatic site retargeting.
What are the benefits?
Programmatic is impressively data rich. These systems capture as well as access reams of data from third parties, to help inform advertiser decisions on where and how to invest their ad dollars. With the capability to drill down and target by location (geo targeting), device, time of day and behaviour, the odds of getting your ad in front of the right person at the right time have never been greater.
Publishers love it because they can unload ad space with maximum return, and advertisers love it because they get greater transparency, better reporting and better targeting options.
How is it a game changer?
Programmatic unlocks advertising opportunities previously closed off to smaller advertisers who may have previously found the cost of engaging a large media agency prohibitive. Smaller and boutique agencies can now offer their clients the same advertising opportunities as those agencies higher up the food chain.
This is a huge game changer for smaller agencies who gain a piece of the action, previously the purview of only a few. Smaller agencies can now become full services agencies, gaining a bigger piece of the client pie.
Have smaller agencies taken up the challenge?
While many agencies have taken advantage of the opportunity, some are yet to explore it completely. This comes down to a few reasons – a lack of knowledge or experience in programmatic, lack of resources to invest in training or concerns about contextual placement (which are now being addressed across some platforms).
Those smaller agencies which have adopted programmatic have a real edge on their competition by expanding their client offering.
There’ll be increasing pressure on agencies to add programmatic to the menu, and the danger will be that some agencies will do so before fully investing the time and energy into understanding how to best leverage it.
So, what does the future hold?
With the growth of programmatic we’re likely to see more agencies adopt the full service model, but not all will do it well. It will be the agencies with a deep understanding of how to create content which resonates who will have the most to gain when riding the programmatic wave.