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Understanding What Brands Want When it Comes to Programmatic

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By Lisa Kalyuzhny, Director, UK Demand
November 1, 2018

IAB Europe recently published its 2018 Programmatic Survey findings. This wide-ranging research, now in its fourth year, garnered feedback from the key digital stakeholders – publishers, agencies and brands – across 31 EMEA markets – providing a wealth of insight.

Having participated in helping interpret the data and build out the key findings, three key themes were evident from the advertiser perspective and are important for programmatic going forward:

  1. Brand interest in in-housing is increasing – but still needs defining.

Ad fraud, ad misplacement and opaque platforms are all leading advertisers to consider in-housing to provide transparency, control and insight to deliver to their objectives.

The IAB survey shows nearly 40 percent of advertisers claim they are driving trading in-house. While this sounds great in theory, it brings major challenges.

56 percent of advertisers claim they don’t currently have an in-house strategy, with issues around recruiting people with the right skills as a key barrier. 58 percent of advertisers are also finding difficulties in training people thus adding pressure to build out their in-house capability. These concerns are also cited as obstacles to brands investing in programmatic.

When it comes to ‘in-housing’ different businesses have varying interpretations of what it means. Does it mean taking all things programmatic in-house? Does it mean the brand owning the technology and the data but the agency doing the execution around the buying?  Does it refer to just in-housing certain elements, such as the creative side?

In-housing is easier to talk about than implement. Full integration brings major technology considerations and there are a wealth of complexities to tackle when adopting this approach. Earlier this year Vodafone publicly announced its decision to bring digital media trading in-house, only to backtrack on this strategy, highlighting the difficulties for brands to adopt this approach.

  1. Fear of fraud is driving a move to private deals

PMPs appear to be an important deal type for advertisers but there are big opportunities for this to grow, especially in mobile and video. Only 19 percent of advertisers reported investing 41 percent or more of spend in mobile PMPs, while for video this sank to just 13 percent. For agencies, 44 percent invested 41 percent or more in mobile PMPs, while for video this was 51 percent.

For agencies, these high figures are indicative of the need to ensure safe environments for their brand clients. Advertiser percentages may be lower as they may assume (and expect) that the channels being used to reach consumers should be safe, so PMPs may not be seen as a necessity.

It will be interesting to see if the recent news around bid caching and auction manipulation impacts brands and drives interest in PMPs.

One area where PubMatic has seen a growth in PMPs is in mobile, especially in-app. There is huge growth as eyeballs move here and brands want to engage in those channels where consumers are increasingly spending time. However, they have concerns around digital ad fraud, with in-app being a very different environment to desktop and the host of challenges around control. PMPs help alleviate some of these issues. This development is something PubMatic identified in our most recent, and upcoming, Quarterly Mobile Index research.

  1. There is still a need to focus more on brand metrics

The IAB research highlights the ongoing challenges around campaign measurement for advertisers and their focus on sales’ KPIs for evaluating programmatic success. This suggests that the brand-specific metrics, important to advertisers, are still not being adequately addressed in a digital environment: an environment that has traditionally been direct- response led.

For advertisers, sales’ KPIs are critical, followed by brand awareness, purchase intent and viewability. Agencies have aligned to advertisers’ needs, with sales’ KPIs being the number one metric. However, targeting accuracy, plus reach and frequency, are then their key concerns; the focus here being more on deliverability rather than effectiveness. Going forward, brands are also looking at brand lift, something they have traditionally measured in other channels, as well as engagement. These results point to the opportunity for agencies to align more with brands in the future.

While challenges remain around programmatic, the survey highlights its continued growth and history shows that the maturing digital industry will develop solutions to address these issues.

To download a copy of the 2018 Attitudes to Programmatic research, please click here.