The internet has redefined everything, but none more than the unprecedented change it has brought about in the state of advertising. Advertising now has lesser people, more algorithms, more machines, faster, precise, personal and a transformative experience. Ten years back, advertising was like throwing darts in the dark with a dozen salespeople assuring you that the target is somewhere there.
The digital advertising transformation was late in India, but has rapidly evolved into a colossal media empire. According to a study by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Indians consumed 13 percent more ads online than on print medium in 2013. If there ever was a watershed moment in the Indian advertising industry, this change is certainly newsworthy.
In other words, 2013 saw digital advertising spends eclipse advertising as we know it. There are many factors that make digital ads the giant it is today, but none more prominent than the chatter around the ‘programmatic’ manner in which ads are being bought and sold.
Using Supply Side Platforms (SSPs) and Demand Side Platforms (DSPs), companies are able to programmatically purchase ad real estate on thousands of publishers’ websites, in a matter of milliseconds.
With more & more inventory sources being lopped up by SSPs' and Ad Exchanges, (AdX) programmatic is truly a force to reckon with. But with all the talk around programmatic, is this the only way the world is shaping-up to buy Media?
Old is not always gold- How non-programmatic paved the way for programmatic
The industry is abuzz with the new way of automating ads and ‘programmatic’ is increasingly becoming the norm. However, one simply can’t discount the non-programmatic manner of buying ads. A specific target market can be tapped into based on years of knowledge and experience. Tie-ups can be made with websites to allow for premium ad displays.
Non-programmatic buying does have its shortcomings. Chief among them is its inability to scale. For example, Nike can crack deals with ESPN, Stars Sports, Ten Sports, Formula1 etc… but can Nike find a 100 ESPNs? 1000 ESPNs? This is where programmatic buying is important. In the digital world, scale matters.
Coding your way to brand awareness
Linking several ad inventories and customer data, programmatic has the ability to display the ad to the right person, irrespective of the website he or she browses. Let’s say a customer visits Nike’s online store and browses around for Nike shoes. After browsing, he checks NDTV website which has nothing to do with Nike or sports. At this point non-programmatic buying would have been stumped. But programmatic buying is able to contact the ad exchange with the visitor info and pull out a Nike ad to display, in a matter of milliseconds. But that’s not the holy grail of advertising by any means. It’s important that a consumer ‘discovers’ a product as much as the consumer is targeted with a focused ad. An advertiser can only ‘inform’ and ‘educate’ a customer of new products if they acquire inventory from a publisher in the non-programmatic way.
But we’ve also witnessed a few snafus of programmatic buying when the machine gets it distastefully wrong. For example, an advertisement of an automobile was placed in an article talking about rising deaths due to substandard manufacturing. Another example could be an ad of a fairness product in an article talking about a society obsessed with false beliefs of having better prospects with fairer skin.
Making sense of an ideal media mix
Many marketers choose to allocate a sizeable chunk of their budgets on programmatic buying because of the transparency involved in its pricing. There is also the matter of accuracy in displaying the ad to a relevant viewer than just on a relevant website. But a great marketer knows to balance his budget allocation between both programmatic and non-programmatic buying. The changing requirements that come from a wide diaspora of clients spread across the globe should reflect this mix with programmatic and non-programmatic.
Programmatic is making waves and everyone wants to jump on the industry bandwagon. But a smart marketer is not a punter, but one who hedges his bets based on years of understanding and learning the dynamic constraints of advertising and the bounties technology has to offer.
The author is VP, Global Media and Publisher Strategy at Vizury.