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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Programmatic: Both the Villain and the Hero

April 30, 2015 | By Jason Kint, CEO – DCN @jason_kint

Nothing makes a narrative more compelling than a villain: evil that must be overcome so the hero can prevail. Maybe that’s why every few years a new nefarious buzzword arises that both energizes the digital media industry and rattles the cages of the establishment. But the business of digital media is just not as tidy as a formulaic series. The real problems are complex. And the bad actors aren’t parading their final 15 minutes of fame on Dancing with the Stars, they are lurking in the shadows, profiting from marketers’ best intentions and the great content created by others. While the story of programmatic is barely a few years old, the plot lines are deep and we’re clearly still early in the first season.

It wasn’t too long ago that programmatic was referred to as the latest chapter in digital media’s “race to the bottom.” The word was associated with everything bad in the digital advertising supply chain because it started off as a murky pool of third parties offering marketers an easy way to reach massive (if dubious) audiences and for publishers to offload “remnant” inventory at bargain basement prices. Unsold inventory from great brands mixed with a whole lot of garbage—the old ad network model. This (thankfully brief) period in the story of programmatic did little for anyone besides intermediaries—though it did help draw attention to the fact that digital advertising processes were ripe for change.

The reality is that programmatic emerged as a response to the complexity of the digital ad buy and has evolved into a way to automate as much as possible, making digital media easier for marketers to buy and potentially more profitable for publishers. Our research shows that forward thinking media companies have wisely jumped into the programmatic fray in order to address marketers’ desire for efficiency while also leveraging their first party audience data to deliver highly targeted, efficient and impactful campaigns.

Yes,  a whole lot of programmatic inventory is still remnant but that is starting to change as more premium inventory becomes available for programmatic buys. In fact, a growing number of our members are starting to see programmatic guaranteed and preferred deals that rival direct deals in terms of CPMs. The big difference is that the programmatic deals—those that have pre-agreed prices and guaranteed high-quality inventory—offer automation of the back-end processes.

As representatives for the digital content brands that marketers trust, it is our responsibility to shine a light on any “trust parasites” in programmatic and to work with advertising and agency partners to maximize their confidence in the value they will receive when they put money into programmatic. The rise of programmatic direct and private marketplaces offer an example of how this is taking shape. And right now, buying direct from a trusted premium publisher is the best way to execute a programmatic campaign without risk.

Villain’s and heroes aren’t what we need to focus on in the story of digital media. However we do need to recognize that there’s a lot at stake here if all of the players don’t work together to educate the market, given the predictions that programmatic will dominate digital advertising within a few years. If you are one of the few still debating whether or not to embrace programmatic: Stop now. Automating the bidding, buying, securing and execution of an ad campaign in real-time using machines rather than paper and humans is a no-brainer.

If you put on your marketer cap, it’s fairly obvious.  Do you want your ads to be viewable meaning actually show up in the active window? Absolutely.  Do you want your ads to be in front of humans rather than bots? Um, of course. Do you want your ads to run in a clean, well-lit brand-safe environment? Yes, please. Do you want all of the above as easily as possible? Bring it on.

With every change, every challenge comes an opportunity to step up and “save the day.” And there are few better examples of the opportunity for digital innovation than programmatic. Get on board and let’s drive this narrative forward.


Image credit: kosmolaut.

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