This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the first programmatic auction which first happened by MediaMath in 2008. In the decade since the technologies and the ecosystem underpinned by programmatic have grown and flourished.

In 2017, programmatic display spending reached almost $33 billion globally and in Australia, if you include all media that was transacted over programmatic pipes, then upwards of 52 per cent of media was transacted programmatically.

Already advanced technology solutions like header-bidding and programmatic-guaranteed, which are built on the foundations of the programmatic ecosystem, seem lightyears away from their humble beginnings of 2nd price auctions a decade ago.

  • LEARN MORE:  The Programmatic Summit 2018 will be held in Sydney on March 1.  For more information or to register to attend, visit the Programmatic Summit website.

The question marketers and agencies should ask themselves now is how will programmatic technology evolve in the future? Will the power of the advertisers and brands continue to influence the development of programmatic technologies? Will Brand Safety, Ad-Fraud and Viewability (BAV) be commodities (almost table stakes) in digital media?

So in anticipation of 2018, here are ten possible outcomes to watch for across the programmatic landscape;

  • Programmatic Technical Expertise: Every trading desk, agency and in-house agency team is looking for programmatic traders with the both several few years’ experience and good, applicable “soft-skills” (e.g. talking confidently to clients and advertisers). The demand far outstrips the supply and we can expect that wages will continue growing for these talented unicorns in 2018. Hold on tight to your talented staff, whether they work for you directly, via an ad-tech company or via a media agency, as they all are in high demand.
  • Solving Business Problems: There is no room in 2018 to hide behind soft metrics any longer. Programmatic media comes with many promises to clients and they are often summarised under the banner of “right user, right message, right time.” However, sometimes we focus so much on the technology that we forget about the consumer. The goal for many brands and advertisers is often simply (a) grow my customer base and (b) help me sell my products to my existing customers. This year we should think of programmatic in terms such as ‘how does this technology flip more hamburgers for my retail client’ or ‘how does it put more bums on seats for my travel client.’
  • Latency is the common enemy: There is an average of 20 different ad-tech vendors on many premium publishers websites. Some well-known sites are taking over 13 seconds to load! This extra code has a latency cost and slows down the overall page from loading. It’s a fine art to balance enough ad-tech to ensure that yields are managed but not too much ad-tech that it slows pages down too much and disrupts the consumer’s experience. This year we can expect the premium publishers to take a scalpel to their websites and remove unwanted/unneeded ad-tech.
  • Connected and Addressable Television (CTV): CTV offers the best of two worlds; (a) reach of TV and (b) addressability of digital. Premium publishers continue to evolve and refine their programmatic digital TV offering. Expect to see great leaps and bounds in this space with advancements in SSAI (Server-Side Ad-Insertion); greater targeting down to an SA1 (Statistical Area) as well as device targeting. We can also expect to see 1PD (1st party data from advertisers, e.g. their CRM systems) overlaid over CTV inventory from premium publishers. This allows for a very sophisticated level of user targeting that hasn’t existed yet for TV advertising in AU and rival what’s currently happening in the UK and US.
  • Self-Service Tools: The days of the managed service ad-tech companies are numbered. Agencies, brands and PBU teams are all crying out for more control. Technologies that were called “white glove” services previously are now furiously building their self-service tools. Brands and advertisers who want to run their own head-to-head tests of various ad-tech companies can only test self-service tools against each other. Testing managed service against self-service is like mixing water and oil. We can expect a renewed focus on building and improving on self-service tools in 2018.
  • Programmatic Guaranteed trumps Header-bidding: The benefits that header-bidding give the programmatic environment is primarily the ability to get a ‘first look’ at premium inventory before it is opened to the RTB market. However, this benefit comes at a cost and the cost is latency. More technology requires more coding which requires more time to execute. Programmatic Guaranteed, on the other hand, offers the same ‘first look’ benefits but without all the extra code integrations. It’s faster, requires fewer steps to integrate, and offers the same benefits of ‘first look’ inventory. In 2018 we will see the first case studies showing the benefits of Programmatic Guaranteed in our market. 
  • Continued Slowing of Digital Banners: During 2017 there was a slowdown of the digital banner landscape. Several Ad-Tech companies that earned their living solely on trading digital banner ads found it tough last year. Many companies reported that they saw fewer programmatic impressions in their network and had to revise their sales targets accordingly. We can expect that the digital banner market to continue to slow but at the same time we can also expect to see the CTV, mobile and video markets pickup to more than compensate for the continued slowdown of digital banners.
  • Church and State of Media and Tech: Any Ad-Tech company that sells Media will be seen as a Media company in 2018 and not Ad-Tech companies. That means that ad-tech companies must take responsibility for all brand safety and ad-fraud that exists on their network. Ad-tech companies must have sufficient safe guards in place to ensure that undesirable elements do not slip through. This especially applies to the purchase of any sites with user-generated content.
  • VAST Viewability for Brand Advertisers: Video Ad-Serving Template (VAST) is a standard way of serving video ads to consumers. Video Player-Ad Interface Definition (VPAID) is a very dynamic way of serving the same ad by using extra features like JavaScipt inside the ad. Think of the difference between the two like a sports car that breaks down a lot (VPAID) versus a tank that may be slower but is very reliable (VAST).  VPAID is flexible and therefore we can include viewability measurements into that code. However, in 2018 we will find a way of including viewability metrics into VAST templates. Think of it like a tank with racing stripes! Once the viewability plug-ins are enabled on VAST creative then we will have loads more inventory available for the AU market. This may have a significant impact on the supply vs demand and reset market prices.
  • Attribution for Dummies: Over the last two years we have seen attribution ad-tech companies arrive, offer the world, and then unceremoniously depart. Taking a step backwards this year with attribution will be a good and healthy thing. Attribution technologies should be simple to use and simple to understand. The control of attribution tools should be placed in the hands of the brands and advertisers in a way that everybody can understand. This year we will see a resurgence of simple, no-nonsense attribution models.

There are many more things that we can expect to happen in 2018 and if even half of the list above comes true then we are in for a good year.

Note: Timothy Whitfield is the co-MC at Ashton Media’s Programmatic Summit 2018  to be held at the Sydney International Convention Centre on March 1, 2018. For more information visit the website.

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