Programmatic’s Crisis In Confidence: More Rumor Than Reality

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Erik Requidan, vice president of programmatic strategy at Intermarkets.

Since the early days of programmatic, the tire kickers have loudly voiced concerns over its safety and effectiveness. They bemoaned the lack of transparency and the quality, among other complaints.

Several years later, programmatic is going strong, yet it still seems to suffer from a similar – though less existential – crisis in confidence. But do we really want to go back to the antiquated or older forms of direct-like sales? The old way is broken in so many ways, including terrible optimization and small panel-based planning, to name a few.

While it may appear that confidence in programmatic is wavering, programmatic is growing fast. It’s not just display, it’s digital radio, TV, mobile, video and more. Mobile display is gigantic. EMarketer predicts that by next year, more than 80% of US digital display dollars will flow through automated platforms.

On the publishing side, programmatic is leading sales to such an extent that publishers are merging their direct and programmatic teams. The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Pandora and others have pulled these teams together because programmatic has become such an integral part of their revenue growth. In many cases, a single rep offers buyers both direct and programmatic inventory. Many companies that never offered programmatic have crumbled.

Surely there will be standouts and outliers that won’t need it – and good for them. But, for most publishers out there, it makes good business sense.

At agencies, programmatic is being fully integrated into many traditional teams. Automated buying used to be outsourced to trading desks, demand-side platforms or another agency altogether, but it’s now at the heart of the agency. Programmatic specialists work alongside strategy and planning teams.

Even brands are building in-house programmatic capabilities. More than a third of companies have expanded programmatic in-house, according to an ANA study, and reduced their partnerships with outside agencies. That number grew 14% compared to 2016, and I expect it will continue to grow.

Publishers have listened carefully to the market’s concerns and taken more responsibility for the inventory they’re selling programmatically. Few, if any, publishers can say today that they don’t know where their inventory is featured. That wasn’t the case just a few years ago.

Publishers are also leading efforts to clean up the marketplace and reduce the number of partners that come between their ad inventory and customers. Many have limited their partners, which has, in turn, helped reduce the bloat in the middle of the display advertising Lumascape.

Even ad tech is changing, thanks to calls for transparency and marketplace cleanup from the likes of new customer data platforms, supply-path optimization, Ads.txt, Digitrust and other players and developments helping things to improve quickly. It’s sometimes hard to see all the good things happening in the marketplace when the headlines seem to suggest otherwise, but we need the positivity to come through because it’s true.

Actions speak louder than words, and the market’s actions show that programmatic is not only here to stay, it’s quickly becoming the underpinning of the digital advertising industry.

Follow Erik Requidan (@Requidan), Intermarkets (@intermarkets) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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