Ad Buying

Don’t Throw Out The Programmatic Baby With The RTB Bathwater

Tom260Be honest.  When you hear the word “programmatic,” what’s the first thing you think of?

If you’re like a lot of marketers, your brain might conjure up images of digital ads, ad exchanges, bidding algorithms and targeting personas.  And this is a problem.

Digital has always had its issues with lingo and tech talk.  The one having to do with programmatic buying and real-time bidding is a big one.  Marketers tend to conflate the two, but programmatic buying is actually a much bigger landscape that encapsulates real-time bidding and a number of other processes for buying media, both online and offline.

There’s still plenty to talk about in the programmatic buying realm, even if you’ve decided for whatever reason to skip real-time bidding for digital display ads.

While real-time bidding is all about reaching your target profiles web-wide, programmatic buying is about saving you time, and making the process for planning, buying and maintaining media campaigns more efficient and easier to manage.

By way of example, let’s say you’re set to launch a digital display campaign on a dozen sites, but your campaign is delayed by a week because the required approvals for the creative aren’t yet in place.  If the campaign was purchased the old fashioned way, your agency would process the shift in launch dates by having 12 phone and e-mail conversations with ad sales reps, renegotiating any previously-reserved inventory, reissuing paperwork and dealing with any potential penalties associated with failing to launch on the agreed-upon flight dates.  It’s a lot of work.

But if the campaign had been purchased programmatically – let’s say executed with the 12 media properties by way of private marketplace arrangements – the agency might not have much more to do than adjust some flight dates in their platform of choice.

See the difference?  The former spends a lot more man-hours and can have variable costs associated with it, while the latter is more efficient and allows for sticking closer to anticipated costs.  Less work, fewer surprises.

One of the important things to remember here is that real-time bidding on the exchanges is just one of the early applications of programmatic ad tech.  There’s so much more programmatic can do, and is anticipated to do in the coming years.  The long-term vision, of course, is to purchase all media this way, so we can abandon the less-efficient method of contractually reserving ad space with paper contracts after lengthy negotiations with sellers.

So, even if you’re treading carefully around real-time bidding, it’s important to realize that this is only part of the picture and that programmatic buying is intended to bring unprecedented efficiency to the media buying landscape.