Programmatic Can Be Problematic – But It Works

Eric Warburton, SVP of technical account management and platform partnership success at Horizon Media

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

The integrity of the programmatic media buying ecosystem has been a topic of industry debate and scrutiny since its inception. Advertisers fear programmatic causes waste and can damage their brands when ads appear in inappropriate editorial environments. As a result, trade groups such as the 4A’s and the IAB have weighed in on the issue, exploring whether marketers are getting the most for their ad dollars with programmatic media buys. 

Most recently, the ANA said it is investigating programmatic media buying, which it described as “lacking transparency and hobbled by mind-numbing complexity.” The ANA said the inquiry’s goal is “to find ways for advertisers to drive business and brand growth through the elimination of wasteful and unproductive spending.”

The probe is being conducted by three industry organizations – PwC, Kroll and TAG TrustNet – and should the study be conducted as planned, results are expected to be announced later this year.  

While programmatic advertising has its faults, it is still evolving. And as it has matured it has become a powerful, efficient and effective tool for brands to surgically disseminate their commercial messages to highly targeted consumers. But that doesn’t mean there’s no work to be done.

Why programmatic works

Proof that programmatic is on the right track can be found in how much advertisers are spending on it. According to eMarketer, US advertisers spent 41.2% more on programmatic display ads in 2021 than in the previous year – the biggest annual increase since 2016. And spending is expected to rise more than 15% to nearly $142 billion next year, per eMarketer.

So, something is working. Here’s why:

  • Sophisticated and accountable programmatic activation has become more accessible as the result of brand/agency adoption.
  • Programmatic ad buying is more efficient and cost-effective than traditional ad buying, which still requires process automation.
  • The amount of available high value media supply has increased as demand and media dollars have increased.
  • The ability to efficiently identify key audiences and insights via identity frameworks  and activate campaigns directly through programmatic desks reduces waste.
  • The  technology layers/requirements for monitoring campaigns have increased.

Protecting privacy and proper behavior via programmatic 

To restore and maintain credibility in the marketplace, today’s programmatic landscape needs to continue to evolve. It’s especially urgent in light of upcoming privacy regulations and the growing issue of editorial integrity. These pressing challenges require practitioners to use advanced auditing and activation solutions that do the following:

  • Analyze which domains, apps and devices are high-risk to make informed prebid decisions. According to Sourcepoint research, 9% of websites did not have a link to a privacy policy, and 30% of websites did not have an opt-out link on the main page.
  • Prevent ad misplacement on piracy and fraudulent sites and block ads served to nonhuman users.
  • Use global or country-specific IP risk data from multiple sources to deploy for prebid avoidance.
  • Scan for publisher compliance with state and international privacy regulations and assess risk scoring for potential exclusions.

To ensure marketers’ ad dollars are being invested appropriately within the programmatic space, all you need is a curious team working with industry leaders and savvy vendors who value the consumer experience. Together, they can create and apply the best products and solutions available.

Follow Horizon Media (@HorizonMedia) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. steve pelletier

    Well said Eric. From my point of view, I would add to the list of ‘to dos’. Buyers should shorten the supply path and use programmatic deals (e.g., programmatic guaranteed) directly with brand publishers. This greatly reduces the risks around fraud and increases the ability to target users in a privacy centric way that leverages the publisher’s strong relationship with their readers.