Programmatic Premium: Can We Settle On One Definition?

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

Today’s column is written by Anthony Katsur, CEO of Maxifier.

What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to “programmatic premium,” quite a lot. Interpretations of this term differ widely, as evidenced by the proliferation of remnant technologies that have been rebadged as programmatic premium solutions. In an attempt to differentiate their products, companies keep hatching new names and tags  – including Automated Direct, Premium Direct and Programmatic Guaranteed – which only add to the confusion. All of this overlap and obscurity have created a dangerous situation, mandating an industry-wide definition for programmatic premium that all players can agree upon.

To me, programmatic premium has become the industry equivalent of the classic “young girl vs. old woman” optical illusion, which appears to be a single image but can be perceived quite differently. While some see an old lady, others see a young girl, and it can often be very difficult to switch from one perspective to another.

While some (including me) think of “programmatic premium” simply as technologies that increase the efficiency of buying and selling premium advertising, others think programmatic premium suggests a focus on exchange, trading desk or marketplace executions.

Recently, a friend of mine tried to invite a contact to a programmatic premium event, knowing that the contact’s company would make a valuable contribution. However, the invitee was reluctant to participate or even attend, suggesting he may not be the right person to approach. Eventually, the real issue came to light: While my friend thought the term still meant “premium,” his contact was viewing it mainly as “programmatic.” Same term, different interpretations and one outcome – confusion.

This is just one example of why the industry should worry. Today, everyone claims a portion of the premium pie, resulting in an undifferentiated mass of technologies that label themselves the same. What service are we providing for our customers if everything in the premium market looks identical? In an environment that demands simplicity and transparency, our industry seems to be delivering opaque services and complexity. We need to find a way to clearly communicate how different products fill different gaps along the service chain.

Consensus is the key, and as an industry we need to agree upon standard definitions for the lexicon of different terms. While drawing out the distinctions between different terms, we should discard those that foster confusion, such as the oxymoron “premium remnant.”

Perhaps I’m being simplistic, but when it comes to programmatic premium, should we simply call it what it is – premium? Putting “programmatic” in front of it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still premium. Rather, the term “programmatic” connotes real-time bidding and commoditization, two words that most leading publishers don’t want associated with their inventory. Or perhaps it’s all just “inventory,” and publishers need to ensure they have the appropriate transparent tools to support their needs and make the most of their inventory, regardless of how it’s being monetized.

Whatever terms and definitions we ultimately select, the industry must resolve these issues and adopt clear and understandable language. Otherwise, we risk alienating our customers and losing business as a result.

Follow Anthony Katsur (@sleepwhendead) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Wayne Blodwell

    Absolutely agree, Anthony. I’ve seen a number of panels in the past year where the question has been posed “what do you think programmatic premium is?”. I think we need to say “programmatic premium is this…” then people can feel free to do what they like with that definition.

  2. Tony, it depends on what you are referring to. If you are referring to the electronic automation of the direct buying process in the futures market, then “programmatic direct” is the recommended term. If real-time bidding in the spot market, then “programmatic RTB” is the recommended term.

    Both of these terms describe how you are buying, but not what you are buying. When you say “premium” that refers to what you are buying. As discussed in other forums here on AdExchanger and elsewhere, premium is very hard to define and is in the eye of the beholder. The lines are blurry between premium and non-premium. However, the lines are clear between buying a batch of impressions in the future via a direct buy contract and buying one impression right now via RTB on an exchange.

    Looking a few years out, I can see the word “programmatic” going away because most buys will be propgrammatic. However, paper-based transactions still dominate direct buys today and the distinction of “programmatic direct” is currently useful in distinguising between paper and electronic.

  3. Jeremy Randol

    Premium programmatic is an environment that major brand advertisers are proud to be associated with – accessed through programmatic pipes. It is inventory that is owned and sold by a reputable publisher. The buyer knows the publisher directly. Third parties like dsps facillitate the purchase of premium programmatic through pipes that a publisher chooses to enable – under business terms that a buyer and seller mutually agree upon (bid floor, flat price, deal id for pockets of inventory or data, guaranteed spend or a combination of a few). Ad networks procuring media on open exchanges and lumping premium and non-premium inventory together do not represent premium programmatic. Neither do inventory farms like alphabird. If a buyer doesn’t know the source of the inventory, the quality of the inventory and where it lives, I would be wary of any company claiming to represent premium programmatic.

  4. It seems that the word “premium” – used in any instance within our industry – is the problem. Premium is in the eye of the beholder. [site name here] may be premium to a company launching a new game, but objectionable to a CPG marketer. Additionally, because the term has been overused it’s now diluted in its meaning. I’d vote to retire the word altogether.

  5. A Buyside ATD Guy

    I echo Jeremy Randol here. ATDs continue to get better on this and it will be better for everyone in the marketplace as we clean up the bad stuff and leverage the NBCs and the like for premium scale. Publishers who have been early adopters of programmatic sales will benefit long-term for their consultative nature and understanding of how to talk about this stuff rather than fight it at every step because they don’t understand it or don’t like the current CPMs as demand continues to grow.

  6. Alejandro Correa

    I like Jeremy’s description of premium, and I think it would be helpful if publishers went a step further and provided empirical data on the content that is adjacent to the ad impression.

    For example, buyers may want to know whether the content was written by a staff writer or came in through a wire… whether the user viewing it came in from a random link on the internet, or whether the user is a subscriber to the site. Even stats like the depth of session and the time spent on the site so far might be helpful.

    I think that buyers would pay even more for truly premium impressions if they had access to this data.

    Every publisher has premium, and less premium content on their site; instead of talking about it in vague, qualitative terms, let’s try to put some real definition around it.