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My recent blogs on content and data have led to subsequent conversations about the role of content within RTB (real time bidding). In particular, how the recent announcements from Google, concerning programmatically served content, will play out over the next 18 months.

It's important when dazzled with new announcements from tech megabrands in particular to get perspective. To help set the context, here's a recap of my experience of the rise of programmatic media. 

RTB in the Spotlight

There have been a number of programmatic stats showing continuing over 60% spending increases in the first quarter of this year with surprisingly only 2-3% per cent of video served through RTB

A raft of new standards and measures designed to impose regulatory pressure upon the more qualitative factors underpinning this buying channel has also focused attention.

However, the topics that still dominate conversations often depict programmatic as a low brand performance trading alternative, where sites cannot be bought by name and there is very little post campaign insight or learning. 

Four parts...

Since there is a wide mix of topics and perspectives to cover (many of which I have noted from recent events and meetings), I have decided to split this blog into four instalments.

Today's is a little background and overview of the programmatic environment, while next week I will take a look at the underpinning mechanisms and the perspectives of the parties involved based on latest emerging intelligence from the media industry.

The third looks at the role of technology & people, data and planning and the final piece will look at the role of media attribution, case studies and a forward facing perspective on how RTB will be incorporated into client side trading desks.   

Behind the noise 

Regardless of whether we are discussing real time media (RTM), RTB, demand side platforms (DPSs),  supply side platforms (SSPs), data management platforms (DMPs) or the derivatives of these, the underlying programmatic mechanics are still relatively basic.  

What data is actually manipulated; predominantly cookie based data, in campaign optimisation data (still heavily reliant on people) and wider historical cross sector campaign data across multiple clients.

Although this has led to significant efficiencies in people, tech and process, it is often still only ‘kicking the doormat’ of the client challenge, with trading platforms yet to expand to encompass true site analytics data, live conversion data (from online checkouts to call centres), cross channel attribution and comprehensive CRM platforms.

I am sure there are a number of readers who will argue this statement, which I would expect in a dynamic marketplace, but the majority of conversations with clients are still best served as combined media and tech led answers to business challenges rather than another issue for the RTB platform. 

Quick word on measurement 

This silo sentiment was echoed in a conversation recently when an RTB trader expressed their disinterest in seeing creative copy during campaign optimisation, claiming it was irrelevant in optimising against KPIs, whereas the content chap who designed the imagery was duty bound to champion the merits of brand communication channels, and softer measures of audience engagement.

Both are right of course, but the old adage ‘you are what you measure’ assumes the measure is perfect, consistent and on the right side of the correlation/causation debate.

In reality, it takes a few perspectives working in tandem to fully utilise creativity and technology as the measures are often both quantitative and qualitative and computers are still fundamentally binary. 

Where we are in history 

Although we can discuss at length the quantitative functions underlying trading desks, unlike their financial counterparts, we are still working in a relatively nascent industry and still only analysing a relatively small pool of client and third party data, without any industry agreed measures or data manipulation frameworks.

Since ‘programmatic’ is a term subjected to a broad use and often laden with technical jargon, it often underplays the role of people, publishers, measurement, content and its impact on the greater planning mix.

A quick note about brand safety and the reawakening of CRM 

As a member of the Digital Trading Standards Group, we are keen to establish both a safe and effective environment for brands to find new customers and reconnect with existing consumers through a programmatic environment.

In the future, programmatic will no doubt become the invisible exchange to enable these interactions, in the same way that search evolved from a marketing channel to a key acquisition channel for most advertisers.

Once performance and content are harmoniously served through a device neutral technology stack, and the public welcomes cookie, session ID or login personalization as more ‘help’ than ‘hindrance’, the whole sector will have eloquently evolved from being a disruptive prospecting tool to revitalizing CRM systems across the industry.

While Google has dominated the conversation in search to date, programmatic media, client data and CRM is a brand new battle ground that will be arguably vastly more important for brands than search. 

Adding your input into the next piece 

I have been asked a number of questions recently from clients, publisher partners and general technology enthusiasts which I have tried to answer here using a ground up approach which includes a quick intro to make the perspective clear.

If you would like to add your thoughts to the next article please drop me an email or tweet me @darrenjgoldie

Next time….the mechanisms behind RTB and the perspectives of clients, agencies, publishers and technology vendors

Darren Goldie

Published 22 July, 2013 by Darren Goldie

Darren Goldie is Managing Partner, Digital  at Havas Media and a contributor on Econsultancy. 

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