Beyond 3D, AR, and VR: Why the Next Big Revolution in Advertising May Be Getting You To Like the Ads You Already See

Programmatic advertising delivers relevant, personalized ads at scale.

If you venture online these days, you’re sure to see a lot of ads. Over the past decade, programmatic advertising — which automates ad buying and selling — has evolved rapidly and upended the traditional advertising process, helping brands reach consumers anytime and anywhere.

Advertisers used to buy ad space and deliver ad creative manually — an inefficient process involving phone calls and spreadsheets across hundreds of TV networks and publishers. But today, advertisers can reach discrete audiences on any screen in just minutes with automated software, they can personalize offers to audiences with dynamic creative optimization, and they can adjust placements automatically to optimize ad spend and performance with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

Adobe is leading the way with innovations for effective programmatic advertising and personalized creative on every channel.

The near future holds even more advances — extending automation to traditional mediums like TV, creating personalized ads that vary by viewer and household, publishing relevant ads based on real-time feedback of consumer context, and publishing in emerging formats to create a more engaging user experience.

But even as ad buying becomes more sophisticated and data-driven, several issues must be addressed before brands can achieve true personalization at scale and increase their campaign effectiveness.

Connecting with people

Programmatic has made advertising more effective and added a level of precision to targeting consumers that brands couldn’t achieve before. As it evolves, it’s changing brand relationships with consumers.

“By providing access to more granular levels of data and more signals of consumer intent, programmatic is enabling brands to personalize their one-to-one relationships with consumers,” says Steve Weeks, Adobe’s director of media strategy and planning. “For example, if someone visits the Adobe Photoshop page on, we know they’re probably interested in photography, so let’s send them a message around Photoshop, rather than Adobe Acrobat.

“It’s about providing more relevant content. We want to give them something they’re interested in,” he continues. “And it may not always be about selling. It may be simply providing value, such as alerting them to a new feature.”

Keith Eadie, vice president and general manager of Adobe Advertising Cloud, agrees.

“Programmatic has enabled brands to combine their data with the advertising opportunities that exist across thousands of websites, apps, and connected TV inventory to tell a story to consumers in a more personalized and relevant way,” he says.

Connecting the previously siloed worlds of marketing technology and advertising technology are key to that revolution. Analytics, data management platforms (DMPs), demand side platforms (DSPs), and customer relationship management tools (CRMs) are integral components to a successful digital marketing program. As the industry continues to grow, having the right technology — and a trusted, independent partner to help you get the most out of it — will be critical.

And the industry is growing. Over 70 percent of digital video ad budgets and over 80 percent of display ads were forecasted to be bought through automated channels this year. Traditional TV advertising bought through automated software is expected to eclipse $3 billion in 2017, and double in 2018 to $6 billion.

The role of artificial intelligence

The market is getting bigger, which means advertisers must capitalize on new technologies to remain competitive. Adobe’s programmatic advertising offerings take advantage of Adobe Sensei, which leverages machine learning to help understand audiences better.

“The data, the technology, and AI are going to help us be more precise with our messages for individuals,” Steve says.

“As we learn over the course of a campaign which types of ads deliver the highest index of marketers’ objectives, the Sensei algorithm will automatically redirect ads,” Keith says. “We’ve taken a lot of the models from the Sensei team and integrated those into the Advertising Cloud platform to make our customer optimization higher performing.”

Marketers also can make ads more personal. Dynamic creative optimization lets them target customers with flexible creative for display and search ads. It’s personalized in real time, based on site actions, customer and partner data, and third-party demographic data. Programmatic TV, addressable TV and over-the-top (OTT) ads bought through automated software are also enabling advertisers to extend personalized creative to branding campaigns.

Tackling the challenges

Despite these advances, programmatic advertising has a few challenges to overcome before it can achieve effectiveness and personalization at the levels anticipated.

“Two critical challenges have faced the industry in recent years,” Keith says. “The first is fraud, or non-human traffic — ads being served to robots and brands paying for the delivery of those ads. The second is content quality, or brand safety.”

Ad fraud has given programmatic a credibility issue. One recent study estimated that it will cost brands more than $16 billion this year.

Adobe fights the challenge of non-human traffic through a layered approach by using both Advertising Cloud technology and third-party fraud-protection technology. The DSP also ensures fraud is a non-issue for its customers by guaranteeing that any traffic identified as fraudulent by a trusted third-party will be automatically refunded.

Without proper controls in place, brand safety is also a challenge as the volume of ad delivery increases. It’s too easy for your ads to end up on sites that don’t align with your brand.

“The thing to remember about programmatic is that you are not buying ad placements, but audience segments,” Steve says. “Which means you have to be mindful about the sites your audience may visit.”

Here, too, Adobe relies on a collection of technologies to ensure advertisers never run an ad next to objectionable content.

“It starts with manual review of all properties from websites and apps,” Keith explains. “Then those layers of Adobe technology determine whether a website is what it says it is before we serve ads there. We also work with all of the major third-party technologies. Not everyone couples vigorous human review with in-house tech and all major third-party tools, but we do because we know that it’s critical for brands to maintain trust with customers.”

Cross-device or cross-channel targeting, an approach that involves trying to track and identify users across their smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, and even offline formats like TV, is another challenge. But solutions like Adobe Advertising Cloud’s cross-screen planner help advertisers ensure that viewers are seeing relevant ads as they move across screens — and at the right frequency so they feel engaged rather than bombarded.

The future Is programmatic

As programmatic advertising evolves, it will become more adept at delivering useful information to consumers in a meaningful way.

“I think of programmatic as having existed in the ‘Tactical Era’ for the past several years, with the capabilities focused on delivery,” Keith says. “But over the next two to four years, we’ll move into the ‘Strategic Era,’ where the software capabilities expand into planning and measurement, with an increased ability to allocate spend across different inventory types and media channels, execute and measure a credible ROI, feed intelligence back into the planning stage, and loop [this all] into a virtuous cycle.”

As the future unfolds, these benefits will continue to extend beyond online advertising to traditionally offline mediums. Adobe Advertising Cloud is already helping to make that possible, including in linear TV, out-of-home digital, and in cars via digital audio.

“In the future, advertisers will be able to effectively curate messages for a consumer’s journey across mobile, desktop, and even TV,” Steve says. “This will benefit advertisers by eliminating unnecessary ad frequency, but also consumers because they won’t be overwhelmed with irrelevant ads.”

Read more stories of innovation from Adobe’s 35th anniversary series.