Three Things on My Programmatic Wishlist

Programmatic buying certainly aims to increase efficiency when it comes to buying targeted ad inventory, but there are some other process issues it seems positioned to be able to solve.

So much of the argument for adopting programmatic buying seems to be focused on its efficiency, relative to that of the traditional method.  But really, programmatic could solve a lot of problems we’ve historically had with digital planning and buying.  Here are three things on my wishlist:

  1. Competitive Tracking – Many of the competitive tools we use in digital planning have some terrible flaws in methodology.  Competitive spending tools have a great difficulty in determining the size of campaigns they encounter while crawling the web.  They have an almost equally difficult time figuring out how much the advertiser ended up paying for the ads they observe.It seems to me that organizations like the IAB could push for standards that make the advertiser who wins a bid more easily identifiable and reportable, and that bid data could provide a more accurate picture of what was paid across the exchange landscape.Such standards would make competitive tools easier to build and more accurate in their assessments.  Of course there would be pushback from advertisers and agencies that enjoy the layer of opacity that protects them from competitive observation, but one also can’t ignore that a bit of industry-wide transparency would also help protect against fraud.

  2. Sizing Market Opportunities – Whenever a client asks an agency to give them an idea of how much a campaign might cost, digital display has always been at a disadvantage.  Planning in broadcast or print is comparatively easier, and a planning team can put together rough plans with readily-available market costs, audience data and planning tools to give clients an idea of what something might cost.It’s more difficult for digital planners to answer questions like “How much can I spend in digital against this target before I’d reach a point of diminishing returns?” or even “How much inventory is there against this audience?”With a combination of historical impression, pricing and targeting data, someone on the LUMAscape could build an interesting tool to give input on the size of display campaigns and help agencies and clients set budgets and evaluate market opportunities.  This is sorely lacking today, and requires a lot of manual input that isn’t terribly efficient.

  3. Contextual Relevance Scoring – Quite a few companies are in the contextual relevance space, putting advertisers into the right contextual environments across environments that use the exchanges to source ads.  The problem I tend to see across many of the tools they offer is that while they can identify quite a bit of relevant inventory, certain lower-tier publishers have obviously gamed the algorithms and tend to appear to be relevant to keywords and concepts they don’t address.When we have to aggregate contextually relevant inventory the old way, it tends to involve having to purchase less-relevant inventory in order to gain access to the really targeted stuff.  With programmatic contextual tools, the untargeted inventory creeps in by gaming the system.  In either case, we’re buying stuff we’d rather deprioritize when looking at the opportunity as a whole.I’m looking to programmatic to provide better contextual filtering.  It should be unbiased at this point, since buying impression-by-impression gets us around the old notion of having to buy $20K of Run of Site inventory just to be allowed to buy the $5K of inventory that hits the sweet spot of the target audience.

These are three areas where programmatic can, with a bit of work, shine versus the status quo.  I’m hoping that somewhere, off my radar or in a garage somewhere, technologists are working at addressing some of these opportunities.

Tom Hespos is a contributor at The Makegood and Founder and Chief Media Officer at Underscore Marketing, a boutique firm that creates and manages digital marketing  programs. Look for Tom’s column the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month.