On Terminology: “Programmatic” Haters Gonna Hate

programmaticbrandimgWhile “programmatic technology” has come a long way, many longtime players in the space are now reckoning with the term.

AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley penned op eds about the “death of programmatic.” Rubicon Project SVP of market development Jay Sears also has acknowledged the limitations of the terminology.

AdExchanger reached out to ad tech executives, some of whom have publicly questioned the definition of programmatic technology. Click below for their responses.

Has the value and/or understanding of the term “programmatic” changed?

Korenfeld: Yes, programmatic is no longer just a long-tail RTB cheap reach option. It’s an automated and, when done right, efficient way to activate all precision media – guaranteed and bidded – using audience data to limit media waste.

O’Kelley: Most people equate “programmatic” with automation, and that’s a fairly limiting technology. Today’s internet is comprised of billions of interconnected devices and applications and delivers a highly customizable experience for each individual consumer. It requires much more intelligent ad tech than what’s traditionally known as “programmatic.”

Sears: What exactly to call data-driven advertising has certainly become a bit of a parlor game. At Rubicon Project we prefer to use the term “advertising automation” as we believe it more accurately reflects the holistic approach media companies and advertisers continue to drive toward. On a tactical level, both the benefits of automated workflow and data-driven advertising can be applied across the auction process and orders market, desktop and mobile environments, all formats of advertising (e.g., display, video, native, etc.), and new media markets outside of digital, including television, out-of-home, cinema, audio and others.

Do you think there’s an issue with the term’s association with online ad tech? Does that definition or association need to change as automation technology expands?

Knoll: Programmatic is no longer about RTB/exchange-traded media only, though historically, people conflate programmatic with RTB/exchange. It has broadened into premium high-quality media. But no, I don’t think (the definition needs to change). I think like any other industry ad tech and programmatic will mature and the tech, tools and people using it will become more sophisticated. It is relatively early, but over time these systems will become the foundation for all media buying and selling based on different business models.

Korenfeld: Not necessarily. Expected programmatic media-buying efficacies are only as good as the ad tech stack we put together to activate in the most deduplicated, open and measurable ways possible. I would call it “precision-based automated media buying.” It’s possible that we will come up with a new term or just agree as an industry to make the programmatic definition more standardized and more encompassing of different media activation types. It’s more of a communications and marketing issue, because some more forward-thinking platforms are already evolving into this now.

O’Kelley: We’re seeing two things. First, digital is converging with most forms of media, including film, radio and TV. Second, the line that used to demarcate ad tech and mar tech is blurring. In either use case, automation alone is no longer sufficient to drive consumer and customer engagement or to monetize content. The focus on automation is misplaced. Automation has become commoditized and undifferentiated. Technology that can’t leverage data and machine learning simply isn’t intelligent enough to power the programmable internet. What you name the technology matters less than what it does.


Enjoying this content?

Sign up to be an AdExchanger Member today and get unlimited access to articles like this, plus proprietary data and research, conference discounts, on-demand access to event content, and more!

Join Today!