Study: 41% Of All Ad Trading Now Done Programmatically, But APAC Region Still Lags On Adoption

Study: 41% Of All Ad Trading Now Done Programmatically, But APAC Region Still Lags On Adoption

New research has found that programmatic ad trading now accounts for more than two fifths (41 per cent) of global digital media investment, up from 16 per cent in 2016. Regional splits show the current figure has hit 50 per cent in the US, 31 per cent in Europe and in the APAC – where Australia plays – it’s as low as 20 per cent.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) Programmatic, Data & Technology Global Survey 2020 highlights the uneven pace of adoption of programmatic around the globe and the mix of models being used, even in the same company. However, the global trend – this is the fourth time the WFA undertaken this research – is for on-going increases in the use of programmatic channels.

Conducted in partnership with real-time advertising technology and infrastructure company IPONWEB, the results are based on responses from 37 companies, representing approximately $US76 billion in annual global marketing investment.

The 2020 report also takes a specific look at APAC, which has lagged the global trend, highlighting the greater use of technology licensing, slower uptake of first-party data and reduced supply chain transparency in the region.

Other significant insights include:

  • Rise in independent trading desks and hybrid trading models

The use of agency trading desks to buy media programmatically has been relatively consistent over the last four years; 74 per cent of respondents currently trade this way compared to 72 per cent in 2016.  But as brands have sought to take greater control and ownership of their buying and data strategies, the use of independent trading desks has risen to 71 per cent, up from 46 per cent in 2016.  Meanwhile 84 per cent use an in-house brand trading desk or hybrid (managed service) model (up from 21 per cent in 2016), although this drops to half for APAC-based respondents, where members were more likely to license their technology from agencies. Many respondents use a combination of approaches across their global footprint.

  • Focus on first-party data strategies

There is a rapid adoption of first-party data strategies as the digital advertising world pivots to being privacy-centric. Seventy-nine per cent of respondents said first-party data was business critical for audience targeting, while audience creation / segmentation and campaign optimisation were both business critical for 63 per cent of respondents.  Despite its importance, first-party data is not yet fully leveraged; while 54 per cent of respondents in APAC said theirs was fully or significantly utilised, globally this dropped to 28 per cent.

  • Supply chain transparency required – but inconsistent

Concern about pricing and data ownership is driving the move to more transparent working as clients reject the concept of agency as principal or inventory reseller; globally, 57 per cent of respondents say they have a ‘disclosed’ operating model with their trading desk, with the APAC figure being 32 per cent.  In 2016, a third of advertisers had a non-disclosed arrangement, but this figure is zero in the current wave of research.

Ranji David, Director, Asia Pacific, Marketing Services at WFA commented: “Advertisers have been on a steep learning curve with the arrival of programmatic but many are now taking greater control of the process through an expanding mix of in-house, hybrid and agency models. Whichever model they choose, transparency of the supply chain is critical so that they can assess which elements are contributing to their business growth and marketing ROI as outlined in the WFA’s Global Media Charter.”

Silas Lewis-Meilus, Senior Director, APAC Head of Media at GSK and APAC Chair for the Media Forum said: “It’s brilliant to see that with APAC’s ever-increasing use of programmatic buying approaches, the conversation amongst brands is shifting from ‘should I use programmatic to how do I use programmatic more effectively?’. Brands pushing for greater transparency and ownership over their supply chain, tech stack and buying models will quickly translate to a stronger industry and better client/agency relationships. While this might sound counterintuitive, what this report communicates to me is that the greater interest around in-housing/hybrid models isn’t at the expense of agency models such as the Agency Trading Desks. Instead, ATDs are evolving with client needs and delivering a service experience that improves how programmatic delivers for our businesses. The WFA Media Forum in APAC has long been committed to improving how brands leverage data-backed media approaches and I look forward to continuing to support the APAC members in this space.”

Joe Meehan, General Manager of Global Solutions at IPONWEB added: “The key findings of this research resonate with our own experience, as the programmatic ecosystem evolves and continually recalibrates. In particular, there will be increasing pressure within the industry to deliver transparent supply chains, while data ownership and the relationships between the buy and sell sides will become key to activating brand data strategies. As programmatic continues its global expansion to become the dominant distribution channel for marketing messages, these factors will play an ever-greater role in an advertiser’s ability to deliver superior results, create brand advantage and drive ROI.”

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