Why programmatic platforms will never be equal across media in the foreseeable future

In this guest column, Lee Stephens argues that while programmatic platforms are the future, comparing data on reach and impact is still some way off.

With half of all digital media planned programmatically in Australia, it is easy to ignore major developments in ‘other’ media.

MCN has managed to build awareness of its entry into programmatic TV with AOL. Indeed, in late 2015 MCN, boss Anthony Fitzgerald announced a better than forecast uptake by media agencies. And it is selling programmatic advertising across Foxtel and Ten.

While working from a small base, MCN has clearly taken the lead over the TV networks and is entering unchartered territory for TV trading in Australia and overseas.

Other media are having a harder time explaining their programmatic offers.

In early 2015, Southern Cross Austereo and GroupM’s Xaxis announced the beginning of radio’s foray into programmatic planning and buying.

New senior management, poor Sydney ratings, and a change within digital media teams within SCA, have made for slow progress.

Not to be outdone, IPG Mediabrand’s programmatic brand, Cadreon, has teamed up with TubeMogul to create Australia’s first digital out-of-home (DOOH) network, capable of planning and running standard and pre-roll advertisements in real time.

These pilot projects within more traditional media are the first stages of an inevitable conversion of all media planning and buying to programmatic platforms.

Over time either media buyers will drive the transition, or a structural change in the economics of traditional media will demand it.

The big question is how will media buyers compare and evaluate media when all media is tradeable at the click of a mouse. Do programmatic platforms allow for more effective cross media plans?  The answer is yes… and no.

To really understand what the future will hold, it is helpful to understand that there are three different types of programmatic media:

1. Platforms that make the process of buying media more efficient or timely

The Cadreon/TubeMogul project is a good example of this. While research tools already exist to plan DOOH campaigns down to individual screens, the introduction of TubeMogul technology is closing the loop on purchasing and material scheduling.

2. Platforms that use publisher information and/or research data to enhance media planning and buying effectiveness.

MCN’s programmatic TV platform is the best example of this type of programmatic buying. Specific demographics and audiences can be targeted across programs and channels using Multiview and Quantium segment data.

3. Real-time digital programmatic buying

In a third-of-a-second there is a two-way exchange of audience and behavioural data to assess your value to a specific advertiser, or even a specific piece of creative from that advertiser.

Only then is an advertisement placed and charged for.

For example, Chemist Warehouse can serve an advertisement based on your previous visits and purchases from the Chemist Warehouse website.

If you purchased nappies yesterday, the system knows what else people who purchase nappies also buy and chooses the creative to match your behavior and audience segment. All in a third of a second.

The nature and data limitations of different media dictate the functionality of their programmatic platforms.

As a result all programmatic platforms will never be equal across media and not all can be in real-time in the foreseeable future. Yes, all media will be bought at the click of the button, but comparing reach and impact across media will remain elusive.

At a minimum, media planning will become much more responsive with trading platforms ensuring data on individuals is integrated into the media buy.

The potential, however, is to work around the limitations of each programmatic platform to create new ways to engage with almost ubiquitous multi-screen audiences.

For example, digital TV campaigns can be overlaid with mobile and tablet geo-location media with growing accuracy. Programmatic platforms make the process of planning complex media overlays possible.

Regardless of what the programmatic future holds, skilled and experienced media professionals will still be core to profiling, segmenting, designing and interpreting media performance.

Perhaps a rose by another name.

Lee Stephens is the CEO of Switch Digital


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