I’m not a fan of programmatic advertising — not because I’m a Luddite or I don’t understand how it works. It’s because programmatic advertising cheats everyone involved (except some in the tech stack).
I’ve been part of some of the critical innovations that power programmatic today, from the development of the dynamic ad server to the introduction of cross-site behavioral targeting, to the establishment of audience data-centric cooperative models.
I believe in automation. I believe in auctions. I believe in targeting and addressability. I believe in real-time decisioning. However, as much as I believe in those things, I believe more in the need for the advertising industry to fix many of the problems with programmatic advertising.
Programmatic has provided cover for a massive amount of fraud. It has created faux precision and faux control. It has caused consumers to get lots of ads that they don’t like — ads that irritate people. And, it has helped destroy a lot of great content-driven premium publishers who weren’t able to compete on similar faux business models.
I know programmatic folks see the world of TV and premium OTT as the next market to be conquered, hoping to do to TV what they did to digital display. Why not? To programmatic zealots, TV advertising and premium OTT audiences are just more nails to be pounded down by their hammers.
But it won’t work that way. Digital display supply outnumbers demand and can be created instantly by adding more ad units to more pages, and moving audiences to additional pages and more units. TV and premium OTT aren’t likely to be manipulated that way.
In TV and premium OTT, advertising units that command an audience’s attention are finite. Audiences are measured by ratings and sold on the basis of time. There are only so many people. They only have so much time, and there are only so many units that can deliver portions of that time.
In fact, the massive growth of ad-free, subscription-based streaming video products means the availability of access to that finite time and audience attention is shrinking, not growing.
In that world, why would owners of TV and premium OTT media let unknown media buyers wait until the last 10 milliseconds to try to buy perishable inventory cheap, selling and reselling those units like commodity pork bellies with no regard for the viewer’s ad experience?
Actually, they won’t. They will continue to sell most of it in upfront auctions for premium prices to known buyers and brands, and will sell their scatter availabilities for even higher prices.
Yes, we will see the entire system automated with software. Yes, we will see the entire measurement system upgraded from small panels of 10s of thousands of people to massive hybrid systems of panels and direct measurements of 10s of millions of people. Yes, we will see some ad decisioning in TV made seconds before delivery, not just weeks. Finally,we will see a lot of targeting and addressability, and digital-like performance-based attribution.
Maybe you will want to call all of that ‘programmatic’, but I don’t. It carries too much baggage from enabling and hiding many digital bad practices.
What do you think?
Dave Morgan, a lawyer by training, is the CEO and founder of Simulmedia. He previously founded and ran both TACODA, Inc, an online advertising company that pioneered behavioural online marketing and was acquired by AOL in 2007 for $275 million, and Real Media, Inc, one of the world’s first ad serving and online ad network companies and a predecessor to 24/7 Real Media (TFSM), which was later sold to WPP for $649 million. Follow him on Twitter @davemorgannyc
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