Experimentation and Maturity Leads to Wider Programmatic Adoption

Independent media trading desk Accordant Media has released its Q1 analysis of the share of programmatically-served RTB impressions the different ad formats online are seeing, and the research has unveiled some interesting movement.

The ‘Big 3’ ad units - 300x250, 728x90 and 160x600 - are all down quarter-on-quarter to Q1 2014, while the 468x60 format is up 176.3% and a grouping of other mobile and social formats are similarly buoyant with an average increase of 47.7%.

Accordant Media Q1 research

Accordant puts this down to increasing amounts of mobile and social inventory being targeted by programmatic media buyers, combined with a willingness on the publisher side to make more inventory available for sale through programmatic RTB platforms across a number of formats.

Data informing programmatic

The increased share of mobile and social ad units certainly makes sense. Both mobile and social channels provide a number of data points that are perfectly suited to the more granular, effective targeting that typifies the appeal of programmatic to buyers trying to reach audiences at scale.

On the publisher side increased inventory being made available in less common formats is likely to be caused by experimentation with new ad units being offered by ad tech vendors. These solutions, which are typically focused on helping publishers monetize their mobile channels, often utilise existing creative formats such as standard IAB or MMA banner sizes, and create new, more engaging applications for them on mobile and social channels.

Moving beyond RTB - embracing premium

It’s interesting to see share of format change as the industry moves forward in its adoption of programmatic, but arguably one of the biggest barriers to widespread implementation has been the publisher perception that programmatic solely means real-time bidding.  

However, there’s a growing recognition now that programmatic is a delivery channel that offers efficiencies and increased yield at scale without compromising publisher control. The more traditional ‘direct’, ‘premium’ or ‘guaranteed’ deals are the ones that earn the highest CPMs, and it’s encouraging to see that increasingly frequently these deals are being transacted through a programmatic platform.

“Programmatic direct will grab spending from the old way of buying premium direct, which is inefficient. Both the buy and the sell side are starting to see that it’s easier to execute these deals programmatically, so it’s that style of budget that will continue to grow the entire share of programmatic.” Andrew Casale, Casale Media

Casale’s view is reinforced by a recent report by the IAB and the Winterberry group, which shows that while respondents most often used programmatic for auction-based media trading (79%), automating "premium" digital media trades was looking healthy at 59%.

So is everything peachy?

There’s increased budget flowing into programmatic (across both RTB and premium/direct), experimentation with innovative new ad units and a willingness to transact premium inventory through programmatic channels. This all suggests we’re at a point where this method of buying and selling has moved out of the shadows and been acknowledged, if not wholly embraced, by the community that warms itself on the digital advertising fire.

It’s not time to break out the champagne yet though, as there are still issues of viewability and transparency to address, and hurdles in internal organization on both the sell and buy side to overcome. The good thing is that with increased adoption comes increased education, awareness and support for industry initiatives to solve these problems.

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