Fri 25 Sep, 2015

Programmatic Marketing: Four Key Trends

Digital marketing evolves at head-spinning speed. When the pace is fast, things become unclear and murky. So it’s no wonder there’s so much confusion around Programmatic. Clutters of acronyms, a plethora of companies offering multiple products and services – they both contributed to a good deal of head-scratching.

The waters are clearing, thankfully. Companies have begun making their offerings more distinct and Programmatic’s becoming less mysterious to the lay practitioner. It also recently dawned on the industry that a complete focus on driving sales was not helping the confusion and, hence, client education was the way forward.

In the spirit of this new focus on education, here are four trends that we think are a vital part of the Programmatic landscape right now. If you like this, check out the four key principles of programmatic if you haven’t already.


An industry-wide issue, which has come under a lot of fire from the press, is that of viewability. We now have industry standards for the viewability of display and video, but there is no consensus regarding the tech that we should be using for measurement. Different tech vendors will produce different results, which is a massive problem when trying to create industry standards.

How do we attempt to measure viewability in the first place? Simply put, it is the percentage of the ad that was in view and the length of time. For example, the IAB standard requires 50% of the ad in view for at least one second but others use different metrics to define success. How can we optimise campaigns for success when we can’t even agree on what “success” is?

Hopefully, as discussions continue best practices and the accreditation of measurement vendors, to raise standards, will be adopted by all. In the meantime advertisers need to be educated to know that if their visibility is “low” it might need a more lenient view due to the uncertain measuring tools available at present.

Bot traffic must be stamped out. Software that enables some publishers to profit through inflated impression counts is bad news to an industry that prides itself on accuracy.


Yet another hot topic of conversation in the press. Fraudulent bot traffic occurs when a user visits a site and a piece of software is downloaded onto their computer. This then creates bot traffic to the site, which the site owner is subsequently able to monetise by showing advertisers artificial impression numbers.

A site may have 10k impressions but when a third of those impressions consists of made up of bot traffic, that is a huge problem.

The good news is that marketers have started to talk about the problem and various organisations and trade bodies are making progress on more sophisticated tech solutions to contain and remove bot traffic. Once again, when the industry can unify and reach a common ground it this makes problem solving a much easier proposition.

A ‘tailored takeover’ of The Radio Times by John Lewis enabled them to gain targeted reach for their Christmas campaign by programmatically versioning the ad based on what they’d browsed on their site.


Thanks to Programmatic we can now target the right customer at the right time, but that’s actually only half of the job. The actual creative content needs to finish the job by being compelling and relevant on its own. Only then is an ad truly capitalising on the opportunity that Programmatic presents.

To address this we are seeing the introduction of new ad formats in Programmatic, which will allow us to address the creativity deficit. For instance, there are standard IAB creative formats, e.g. the 300 x 600 (“double MPU”/”billboard”) that you couldn’t previously buy through Programmatic, but for which bidding is now possible.

We’re also seeing Homepage Takeovers being bought through Programmatic, although it requires the right publishing partner. A recent example came in the form of The Radio Times selling a Programmatic Homepage Takeover to John Lewis for their penguin-starring Christmas ad. Through a ‘tailored takeover’, John Lewis’ ads automatically served to different people based on their browsing habits on the site. Pretty smart stuff.


Historically speaking, media that was bought in a network environment was not transparent. There was limited visibility regarding the types of sites that advertisers were appearing on, no transparency on the margins, no clarity on the breakdown of costs and not even a proper understanding of what made up the final CPM.

Programmatic offers a great deal more insight and advertisers realise that. Subsequently, the latter are pushing for more transparency, the result of which will find more open and honest relationships with partners, agencies, etc. Great transparency, less confusion and question-asking.

It will also lead to an opportunity for more efficient media buying. That doesn’t mean buying as many impressions as possible for the cheapest CPM but, rather, it’s about making better decisions that are driven by information on what impressions are being bought and at what cost.

When there’s a lack of agreement on important topics and we aren’t collaborating on soluions, that’s when confusion creeps in and the future’s unclear. Thankfully, in the case of the Programmatic landscape, we’re making good progress on all fronts. I personally feel that in a few years many of these challenges will have been sufficiently addressed if not completely solved. Now bookmark this article and hold me to it.

About me — author & course leader: I’ve spent 5 years in client services, media planning/buying and client-side roles at industry-leading advertisers, digital agencies and trading desks, including iProspect, AMNET, MoneySuperMarket and TUI. I’ve witnessed first-hand the evolution of programmatic from the very early days and has worked across a number of verticals including finance, travel, entertainment and ecommerce.