What Programmatic Advertising Could Learn From Tinder

johnsnyderddtData-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 John Snyder, CEO at Grapeshot.

At the risk of sounding arch or flippant, I declare that the programmatic media community should start copying Tinder.

Yes, that Tinder. The online dating community has captured the imagination of lovelorn smartphone users everywhere. People love its simplicity and appreciate how the technology behind it presents potential new romantic partners based on an algorithm of mutual interests gathered primarily from Facebook profiles.

This form of automated discovery has been lacking in programmatic digital advertising. Traders from both buy and sell sides need better deal-discovery mechanisms than currently exist so they can get beyond the limited circle of traders they already know and with whom they already trade.

As we pivot toward 2015, in order for the programmatic media community to unlock the full potential of the market, we need to collectively and individually prioritize the rollout of enhanced deal discovery products that will transform the digital advertising world into a more streamlined and fruitful marketplace.

2014 was the year that many brands, agencies and publishers acknowledged that programmatic is the new engine of digital ads. In a practical sense, the pipes were laid and the plumbing was done during the past year. However, in order for the space to really explode, the ecosystem must provide buyers and sellers with a compelling deal-discovery approach to help the players trade with greater confidence and convenience.

Display advertising is still stuck in the year 2000 when it comes to the amount of time wasted between buyers and sellers. In the context of programmatic-direct and private-exchange markets, the interfaces that should act as simple, clean and hyper-relevant conduits between buyers and sellers aren’t living up to the standard that both sides require. This area needs to improve in order to scale the programmatic opportunity for all marketers.

This opportunity to bring people together is no different in its logic and no more challenging in its execution than what the Tinder founders accomplished. Their brilliant yet obvious insight is that dating is socially awkward but it’s much easier if you know the other person is attracted to you and you share similar interests.

Private marketplace packages (PMPs) are mired in 1998 Internet practices, such as when Yahoo used human-curated summaries of websites to help people navigate useful information. PMPs currently have metadata descriptions that can be gamed with additional descriptors or copied by a competitor seller to be more visible in the package “search” system. In no way do PMP packages necessarily describe what inventory or audiences are actually served. So new discovery mechanisms that automatically help buyers find relevant sellers to start a new relationship using Tinder-style simplicity should usurp the nonscalable human-driven discovery methods of the past.

I scratch my head when I hear recurring tales of publisher sales teams that are still relying on cold calling. Or when I catch wind of all those still-unopened emails and hear buyers complain that when they need inventory, they’re not sure whom to call. When we finally find a way to make deal discovery smoother and more intuitive, the sparks could really fly.

Follow Grapeshot (@GrapeshotRTB) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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