When Your Whole World Goes Programmatic

Updated: Oct 16, 2018

Article contributed by Matt Prohaska, Programmatic Advertising Director, The New York Times

When much of your world is in the programmatic digital media space today, you can easily start looking around you and realize that much of your world is already programmatic. We’re only talking about computer programs, or algorithms, that allow for the buying and selling of media, or really any task, to be done more automatically.

The elevators in our wonderful New York Times global headquarters building, that I’m lucky enough to go to, are programmatic. You push what floor you want to go to and it tells you in real-time which elevator to go to. This, of course, has been around for a while. The shades on our NYT windows go and up down based on sunlight, so you don’t have to get up and change it yourself. Pretty cool.

We recently bought a nest at home – programmatic temperature control. I can’t wait for it to get setup. A previous owner of our house decided he was a great DIY electrician, except he wasn’t. So hopefully we’re running in a week after a real electrician comes in, and I can then verify it’s the real deal.

StubHub, Priceline, Amazon recommendations, and plenty of other services are really programmatic now, right? Services and products that are run on algorithms that take the constant manual labor/decision making/memory needs out of our hands/brains and allow us to focus on more creative or strategic things, like remembering to feed the dog….

And it seems like every digital impression is being bought and sold programmatically. Well, only about 20% of US display now, but much more when you look at categories with DR as a big part of their objective, such as retail, finance, travel, and education. Maybe it seems like 100% because it feels like almost 100% of industry columns like this one are about programmatic.

Obviously not all media will be bought and sold programmatically, so let’s stop debating that. I have a list being shared with our team of the top 10 things you can’t do programmatically right now with our current display exchange partner, and where an IO is still necessary. Even on today’s standard ad units, smart, hard-working humans still need to be involved in negotiating preferred deals and doing a little setup, while shifting time fortunately to being more proactive, creative, and strategic for our clients. It’s just like every debate when people fear(ed) computers taking over the world, but in reality it’s more like us humans using computers better and better every day to take over our own world.

Let’s keep remembering it’s about the proper balance of art and science, human and machine, brain/heart, and algorithm. Though I could really use someone who can write me an algorithm that makes our daughter actually go to sleep when she gets tired….

So what are the best programmatic things in your life right now and what else should be getting done programmatically?

Matt Prohaska is Programmatic Advertising Director at The New York Times. Look for his column on the fourth Thursday of every month.