Alex Kuhnel Chief Operating Officer, TGI, Kantar Media, looks at how programmatic campaigns must adapt to meet branding requirements and answer advertiser and publisher needs.
From a strategic perspective, the most profound change that programmatic has had on the advertising industry since its beginnings is how it has shifted the emphasis in campaigns from placement to just the audience. As a result, online display advertising has become increasingly driven by performance metrics alone.
Stark performance metrics are great, but are far from everything
‘Hooray!’ cheer some, who feel this represents a highly efficient democratisation of online spend. But here’s the thing. Did you choose where you live solely because it was the perfect balance between the cost of the property and the commuting distance to your workplace? And did you therefore turn a blind eye to the fact you hate the neighbourhood, the shops and the local amenities? I doubt it.
The same is true with online advertising. A cookie-based campaign might dictate – in theory – that a denim jeans warehouse clearance sale should advertise on the fashion trends pages of Elle’s website. But I daresay Elle’s management would rock back on their elegant heels in horror at the prospect of their brand being sullied in such a way.
This is not the only issue threatening programmatic’s ongoing growth. I have identified five key reasons why so much online inventory – particularly premium inventory – is still sold outside of a programmatic environment:
1. The publisher is largely disintermediated from the real value of their inventory by a cookie-based approach – i.e. the high quality of their content.
2. Non-cookie based targeting has been a tried and tested formula for successfully selling inventory for many years. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
3. Programmatic is subject to data leakage – ad tech can be used to target users of a site elsewhere online at a cheaper cost, depreciating a publisher’s ad inventory.
4. Non-programmatic selling of high-value inventory can be more efficient than programmatic – cookies are not infallible, they can be deleted and their quality can be questionable.
5. Cookies subject to fraudulent activity is still very much an issue today and cookies are unable to distinguish between high-quality and fraudulent inventory.
Programmatic needs to perform with as much quality as the inventory it seeks to sell
The reality is programmatic’s rise has hitherto been based principally on advertising on low value online ad inventory, which has suited both publishers and brands seeking advertising at the right price to the right audience. But premium inventory is a different ball game. Here, the campaign is not just about hitting an audience at the right price, it’s about getting the branding right. Publishers and brands want reassurance that advertising appears in the right environment and supports their respective positioning and values.
Placement is a concern programmatic must address to evolve
Thus, placement is as important as ever, in particular on premium inventory. And as much as appropriate placement is an anxiety for publishers, it is a huge concern for brands too, who obviously want to appear in an environment that chimes with their positioning and values, not one that undoes all their hard work in these areas.
At the moment, programmatic pays little heed to these concerns, but this needs to change if it is to continue growing into the lucrative premium inventory space.
More important than ever that publishers can prove their inventory value
Essentially what this all boils down to is that it is more important than ever that publishers prove the premium value of their inventory – differentiating it from competitor inventory effectively and proving engagement with high quality audiences. If programmatic itself takes little account of placement, then whilst the demand for optimised placement is higher than ever, it is up to the publisher to fill the void.
More insight options mean stronger premium arguments
To do this, publishers need as broad and granular a range of consumer insights as possible from which to select the most compelling arguments. Product and brand use, attitudes, leisure activities and consumption of other media brands are all important to build a full picture of a consumer target and match that to inventory audience.
Insights must be neutral and credible to both buyer and seller
The consumer insight metrics need to be credible and they need to be neutral so both media seller and buyer can each draw upon them before agreeing on their worth in advance of money changing hands.
First-party publisher insights can be useful in positioning inventory effectively, but of course their drawback is that they are by their nature bespoke to the publisher and so cannot be assessed independently by the online planner/buyer. First party insights also lack the broad, comprehensive mix of online and offline consumer insights that give the publisher the creative freedom to find all of the arguments that prove engagement of premium audiences.
Thus, the prospect of programmatic sustaining its growth into the future need not be uncertain, it just needs to adapt and complement its existing audience-driven model by catering better to the branding requirements that will enable publishers, advertisers and, by extension, trading desks and ad networks, to flourish.
By Alex Kuhnel
Chief Operating Officer
TGI, Kantar Media