It seems like, lately, the only thing I hear about is programmatic—always said with a sort of reverence and regard I don’t think I’ve ever heard in digital marketing. It’s what every single person seems to want right this second. There’s so much palpable buzz in the marketplace that, sometimes, it feels like it’s tough to cut through the clutter with anything else. If you aren’t ready to talk programmatic tactics, then you aren’t, seemingly, top-of-mind with the big media agencies, brands, and marketers.
But here’s the thing—programmatic isn’t some new, shiny technology, poised to take over the world. As Jimmy Kimmel said, it’s really “the gluten of advertising.” Everyone talks about it, everyone knows it’s important, but, at the end of the day, no one knows what it means, exactly. Programmatic isn’t going to reinvent how we do business, who succeeds and who fails, or which brands forge ahead in the months to come. Granted, it’s important and, when executed well, can have meaningful impact on your organization—but, at the end of the day, “programmatic” is something we’ve all been doing for a very long time, now under a slightly different guise. We just called it something else back in the day (or, really, just a few months ago)—like “paid search,” the original version of programmatic or “automated buying.” Sound familiar? The thing that’s different is access to more data and the ability to harness and define how we activate that data for the purpose of greater targeting, efficiency and content relevance.
Think of programmatic as the automatic pilot in a plane with systems and rules. The pilot is still there to tell it what to do, or adjust it, but the autopilot is actually flying the plane. It’s, at its most basic, machine buying in the digital advertising space—think tapping into software and other systems to buy ads. It’s more efficient, it’s more reliable, it’s easier to track, and, even, there’s greater potential for increased personalization, real-time relevance delivery, and, ultimately, less audience waste. But make no mistake, the actual act itself—buying digital ads—hasn’t changed. With programmatic buying you, now, just have a machine to contend with instead of a digital salesperson—advertisers can “buy ads the way they pick up something on Amazon or bid on eBay.”
That’s not to say I’m antiprogrammatic—far from it. But I think it’s important to separate the sizzle from the steak sometimes so we, as marketers, can get the most out of industry shifts. Understanding the benefits of programmatic—and understanding once and for all what it actually is—ensures that you and your organization can best leverage its vast benefits to build your business … just like you did with paid search many moons ago. So what’s the benefit? There are plenty.
Programmatic is, Typically, a Better Value for Advertisers
Look at something like cost per click. In the past, advertisers would develop creative, place their ad, and set a budgetary framework to, hopefully, drive more views. But if the creative didn’t perform, often brands would simply drive up their bids, hoping to get more engagement. Not so with programmatic. Now advertisers can pivot, adjust, and increase bids based on the actual person or audience engaging with their creative, not some mythical person who could be in the digital ether.
Programmatic Fits well Within Today’s Omnichannel Framework
And that’s something that, truly, will reshape the way we all do business. As agencies get more and more comfortable with buying programmatically and, as a result, build out greater resources to accommodate these campaigns, spend will boom and, no doubt, traditional media will make the leap, too. Some experts put programmatic spending at near $10 billion by year’s end, or approximately 20 percent of the digital ad market, with 72 percent of publishers already on board. So, if you want a piece and are sitting in outlets like broadcast, radio, out of home, or mobile, you’ve got to jump on the bandwagon or risk losing brand dollars. And that, for brands, could mean greater cohesion and consistency across all platforms in terms of creative messaging, audience targeting, and more.
Programmatic is the Next Step in True Hyper-Personalization
As publishers invest more and more in their own in-house teams, resources, and general infrastructures to support increased programmatic buying, they’ll wind up with greater control, insights, and understanding of how their site content performs. That means they can deliver better insights, alignments, and opportunities for advertisers and, even, greater value for site users. What’s more, because programmatic can be targeted to a specific, anonymous user, rather than a specific demographic, there’s a real opportunity to present that constant, continuous experience from acquisition through conversion and retention. If you’ve got a data management platform and interconnected marketing system in place, the possibilities are endless when it comes to delivering hyper-relevant moments, even at scale.
Programmatic is Entirely Real Time
Digital, mobile, and social are, of course, rooted in the real-time nature of it all—but programmatic is, often, instant. Look at something like real-time bidding, which falls under the programmatic umbrella. Those brands are bidding on inventory in real time and poof! There’s your ad. The implications for brands is massive. Short-term deals or promotions can get their moment in the sun, as can content that hinges on breaking new, for example. Then a few minutes, hours, or days later, that same brand moves on to the next campaign.
There’s plenty more on this topic, including programmatic video advertising and other niche applications for it. But, before we roll up our collective sleeves and get down to it, I thought it was important to dispel the myths and demystify what seems to be on the tips of everyone’s tongues lately. Like so many things in our universe, a trend bubbles to the top and we all gasp and demand publishers and outlets deliver on it right this second—but I can’t tell you the number of times I take a step back and realize that the opportunity existed all along. Sure, maybe it’s kicked up a few notches or delivers some bigger, better benefit, but chances are I’ve seen some iteration of this shiny new offering—think “native advertising” and “viewability,” for starters. Now is the time to harness the power of all we have in our digital marketing arsenals, programmatic included—but the first step is knowing, you know, what it actually means.