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The Holy Grail of Programmatic

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If programmatic advertising is to work for brands, the industry – including advertisers, publishers and agencies – need to buy into a data currency that is transparent, credible and available to everybody, writes Eimear Faughnan

The growth of programmatic advertising presents something of a challenge for publishers. In particular, cookie-led RTB (real time bidding) campaigns, which follow a target audience around the internet, hitting them with ads where they can. When a campaign is audience-led rather than placement-led it is harder for the publisher to control what advertising appears on their inventory and make a case for the value of their inventory.

The importance of brand safety in online campaigns

However, the publisher has an ally in the form of the advertiser. For the advertiser, the automated nature of programmatic advertising brings real benefits, but not knowing where their ad is appearing (where the campaign is cookie-led) and whether damage is therefore being done to their brand positioning and reputation is a very real anxiety. Thus, they can represent a sympathetic ear for the case that online advertising should be assessed on the relevance of where it is appearing and that there should be real transparency about such campaigns. Such a state of affairs would suit many publishers as it would give them more of a platform to show the value of their inventory and bring impetus back to placement-led advertising.

Publishers must be more creative in showing the value of their inventory as programmatic grows

Whether a campaign is RTB-led or not, it is clearly particularly crucial today that the publisher is able to effectively showcase the value of their inventory. When there is always the option to chase a particular audience around online, the case for reaching them on a specific piece of inventory worth a premium price is more important than ever. Publishers are thus seeking ever more creative ways to stand out from the crowd and looking to use audience insights in new ways to achieve this.

Everyone using different datasets is a very inefficient way of trading

One of the main issues that the programmatic advertising media chain wrestles with at present is that everyone is speaking a different ‘language’. Publishers will naturally point to their own metrics to highlight the value of their audience, whilst advertisers, agencies and trading desks will look to their own insights sources and particular cookies in an effort to find the right target. This dissonance makes the whole buying and selling process opaque, inefficient and with neither side quite sure how good a deal they are getting.

Instead we need a common data currency to enable automated digital advertising to thrive

In the same way that money is used as a common system of exchange to get around the problems of trying to work out in a marketplace if (for example) a bag of tomatoes is worth more or less than a set of towels, we need a common data currency for the purposes of effective automated online trading. That way both the buy and sell side can be sure they are reaching the right target in the right place at the right price.

For it to be credible, this data currency needs to meet three key criteria. First of all it needs to be transparent – so, its provenance, methodology and sample size must be of high quality and clear to all who would use it. It must also have genuine granularity of insight, enabling all players in the media value chain to generate insights right down to the most micro level. That way, detailed target audiences can be both built (by agencies) and promoted (by publishers). Finally, the data source must be available to all in the industry, equally. Only if this is the case can all media players evaluate the value of reaching an identified target on a particular piece of inventory and price in a way beneficial to all.

Eimear Faughnan is senior associate director of Kantar Media

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (December 2015)© to order back issues please call 016611660