In the Winterberry Group white paper titled “Programmatic Everywhere?” they asked panelists what “programmatic” meant to them. The majority associated programmatic with the terms “automation” and “real-time bidding [RTB].” However, the rest responded with words ranging from “premium” to “cheap” to “native advertising” — clearly misunderstood and carelessly tossed around. To sharpen this point, the term “programmatic” comes through at least four times a day in my own emails from various trade publications. Programmatic. We’re inundated with it, and yet vendors and publishers use it differently. No, it’s not a bad word, but right now it’s hard to differentiate. It’s time we all got on the same page, so here are a few questions to ask:
- What do you mean by “programmatic”?
Starting out, I give vendors a chance to explain their interpretation of this ambivalent term — or, ideally, their competitive advantage. If RTB is the answer, then this is part of the process. But I also follow up to find out what makes RTB different enough to refer to it as “programmatic” versus just RTB? According to eMarketer, vendors purchase 20 percent of all display inventory through RTB. This is a growing area, but it’s not differentiating.
- What is your methodology for “programmatic”?
It is important to understand what data vendors can support and which algorithms they use within their platform. The traditional sense of equating programmatic to RTB may be the current reality. But, we need to consider a future with the ability to support a more comprehensive platform — one that can execute complex logic across CRM, CMS, email, mobile, and more. Plus, we need to understand if this technology includes this type of holistic ecosystem.
- How can I buy the inventory?
While a lot of holding companies have trading desks, many smaller, independent companies don’t. From a RTB standpoint, some direct publishers, networks, DSPs, and exchanges offer this type of inventory. Buying through various channels lets you try different partners and see what works best. Just make sure you protect your data. And find a partner with whom you can work, grow, and leverage as programmatic continues to evolve. Also, examine how it is executed and optimized. While much of the process is done “on the back-end,” it’s important to have transparency. This will help you find what works best for you client and brand.
Right now, efficiency and targeting capabilities drive programmatic buying, but this will evolve. It’s not about the data you have, but how you use it. With audience fragmentation, it’s getting more difficult to reach the right person at the right time with the right message. By diversifying the media and targeting capabilities, you can be not only more efficient with how and when you reach people, but also can incorporate first- and third-party data into a more holistic view to engage potential customers.