5 Key Takeaways from Programmatic IO SF

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Programmatic IO conference in San Francisco along with my colleague Priya Kapoor, as we heard from the industry’s luminaries and brightest minds on the latest trends and challenges facing programmatic media buyers.  We mingled and collaborated with brands, agencies, and vendors alike to gain their perspective, and although there were a variety of topics and viewpoints, there were a few key takeaways that stood out to me.

#1: Programmatic is going to be just fine

Although there are high-level concerns about brand safety which get a lot of press and cause a lot of hand-wringing – and understandably so, nobody wants to fund terrorism or hate speech – the general consensus was that these issues are not insurmountable, and that they represent an opportunity for tech (and the people who use it) to rise to the occasion.  The Trade Desk’s CEO Jeff Green, in his optimistic keynote address, referred to brand safety and other challenges as “speed bumps” on the road to a very bright future for programmatic.

Depending entirely on tech to keep you safe is not the solution, as many brands discovered when they learned their ads were running alongside offensive content on YouTube.  Without good old-fashioned human monitoring, wily content creators will continue to slip past the machines.

Nor is the solution to abandon the tech and move entirely to a manual whitelisting strategy, as it was revealed in the NY Times last week that JPMorgan Chase had shifted to.  The human manpower needed to maintain this would be better spent on responsible buying in the first place, as my teammate Al Lepow pointed out.

Brand safety will be effectively addressed via a mix of strong tech and active human oversight.  Brands concerned about where their messages are showing should ask their agency partners what safeguards are in place and how they are supported by their account team.

#2: B2B Programmatic is growing and maturing, but has a unique set of challenges

Focus on B2B programmatic is growing, and the service offerings are getting stronger as the data gets better.  But there are key challenges unique to this type of marketer.  Among them:

  • Onboarding of first-party data – how to identify and implement a DMP that is going to best serve needs, as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution
  • Sensitivity around personally-identifiable information (PII) and associated legal hurdles, and the slowdowns they bring
  • The final conversion/sale for B2B products often doesn’t happen online – there’s no shopping cart checkout – so how do we measure and assign attribution?
  • The sales cycle is often very long, compared to B2C

Challenges notwithstanding, here at Point It we are excited to test new B2B data options from Dun & Bradstreet and Pacific Data Partners in particular, in our never-ending quest to drive results for our clients.

#3: Creative is not receiving the focus it deserves

Data and technology get all the attention, and they’re important.

But if there is a piece missing from the pie, it’s often creative optimization.  Brands need to think about custom messages tailored to each audience they’re targeting.  A/B testing should be a requirement for every campaign, not an option, and probably isn’t going far enough – what about dynamic creative, and sequenced messaging?

If marketers spend all their efforts on thinking about audiences, data, and cost but neglect to give that same energy of thought to creative, then a critical component is missing, and full ROI potential is not being realized.

#4: Programmatic needs to get simpler and clearer

Recent forecasts from Goldman Sachs indicate that the majority of digital ad spend growth over the next few years will go toward lining Google and Facebook’s pockets.  The rest of the industry will be left to fight over what’s left.

Why?  There are a lot of reasons, but one of the key ideas that was highlighted by multiple speakers at the conference is that Google and Facebook make it easy.  Marketers can onboard first-party data, activate that data, and be spending at scale within minutes, and all within the same platform.

Programmatic offers much more potential than these walled gardens do, but it needs to get a lot easier and the barriers to entry must be reduced.  Further, programmatic needs to become clearer and less confusing.  Partners that keep trotting out the tired old lumascape in an effort to appear clever or overwhelm their clients are doing the entire industry a disservice.  Removing the veil of confusion and making programmatic more accessible is a common goal that benefits the entire industry.

#5: Cross-channel multi-touch attribution is hard

There are a ton of very smart people who are working really hard to address the need for cross-channel multi-touch attribution.  As a result, there are multiple attribution tech solutions which approach the problem in different ways.  The methods of measurement are different, and relative to the type of conversion (i.e. retail walk-in conversions, app conversions) and limitations of technology.

Nobody has this completely figured out, and there’s no clear winner in the space yet.  Brands are looking around to see who’s going to be the first to take the plunge.  Many are hesitant to take action for fear of doing it wrong, but they don’t want to wait too long and be late to the game either.

Read more about the challenge of multi-touch attribution here.

In the meantime:


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Billy Tarter About the author

Billy Tarter (@digital_billy) is the Director of Programmatic Advertising at Point It. He oversees a dynamic team of Programmatic Campaign Managers who buy display, audio, and video spots to drive results for our awesome clients. Previously he worked at Expedia's Media Solutions partner marketing group, and he cut his teeth on digital marketing at WhitePages.com. Billy was born in Haiti, and in a previous life he was a TEFL teacher in Indonesia. In his free time, he serves as a wrestling dummy for his small children in between singing them songs and telling them stories.

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