Programmatic is Problematic

At a roundtable event hosted by Coull at the Parcel Yard, Kings Cross last week, a stellar panel of industry experts got to grips with the topic of programmatic advertising, with a particular focus on video. The general theme that ran throughout was shaped by Coull CEO Irfon Watkins’ opening line: “Programmatic is problematic.”

This thought was echoed by the rest of the panel, which also included: Adam Hopkinson, Commercial Director, Ziff Davis; Paul Hood, Director of Digital, Archant; Toby Dawson, Head of Publisher Partnerships, Google DoubleClick for Publishers; Steve Chester, Head of Data and Programmatic, IAB; Andy Oakes, Publisher, The Drum; Ben Humphry, Head of Demand EMEA, Coull; Ronan Shields, Reporter, ExchangeWire; Andy McCormick, Editorial Director, 12Ahead; Mindi Chahal, Reporter, Marketing Week.

The panel recognised the challenges that programmatic advertising, a technology still in its infancy, gives the different players in the ad tech economy. However, there was also optimism about how those challenges can be overcome, and the potential to start realizing the increased efficiencies and ROI the technology promises.

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A few of the key takeaways

Adam Hopkinson on the challenges of integrating a programmatic solution:

“For us the value is in time saving. If we have things that are done genuinely programmatic – by that I mean automatic buying, that will save an awful lot of time. When we get there that’s great, but we’re nowhere near there at the minute. It’s not a value add for us. It’s a cost, if anything. We’ll get there eventually but we’re not there yet.“

Irfon Watkins on using content-level data to make advertising more effective:

“Programmatic/RTB without relevant, valuable data is like closing your eyes and throwing things at a dart board… but a bit faster. Data is the key. Our job as ad tech companies is to do a better job of exposing and indexing that. Unless we can separate out quality video content everyone is going to be buying blind and the price is going to go down. How long was the video watched for? What was it about? Did they engage? That’s the data that’s needed, in order to inform the ad buyer and to be able to drive the prices up for a publisher.“

Paul Hood on understanding the value of audiences:

“We’re working hard to understand the value of our audience. I don’t think programmatic, in isolation, can really work that context out. I think it’s going to be a case of programmatic platforms meeting with publishers and this human bit in the middle trying to figure out how you attribute proper value to those audiences.“

Steve Chester on the importance placed on programmatic by agencies:

“According to the IPA, 90% of all display is controlled by agencies and agencies have an inherent investment in programmatic. If you’re not investing in programmatic to respond to that, are you losing out on up to 90% of potential spend and therefore writing yourself out of plans? There is no doubt that native and branded content offers a massive opportunity, particularly to publishers that have a loyal audience and really understand content. Agencies don’t have that heritage. But if you’re selling display ads and you don’t have a programmatic solution, are you then cutting yourself out? It’s a possibility.”

The discussion clearly highlighted the fact that regardless of the part we play in the digital ad industry, there’s work to be done to make integrations simpler, to establish common guidelines and to work together to use data to expose the true value of publisher inventory and ensure the cream rises to the top so that premium eCPMs can be realized by digital publishers and campaigns are executed effectively for advertisers.

We followed up the roundtable with a beer and cider tasting session with the irrepressible Jane Peyton of the School of Booze. If either the great discussion or the free booze and cheese tickle your fancy and you’d like to be involved at our next Coull roundtable event, get in touch here!

Thank you to all who participated. We’re excited about the next one.

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