AdWeek Europe: When Will The Future Be All-Programmatic?

The market is reaching a turning point—consumers are leading the disruption in media, while agencies demand greater automation. What are marketers doing to keep up?

AdWeek Europe: When Will The Future Be All-Programmatic?

Experts agree that programmatic is the way forward. But it is important to explain what it is to consumers who plan and buy in traditional ways.

In the future, all advertising that can be traded programmatically, will be.

That was the opening position of Oli Whitten, SVP of Europe and interim head of international at online ad technology company Rubicon Project, who was moderating a session on “The Future of Automation” at Advertising Week Europe in London.

“We believe the market is reaching a turning point,” he said. “Customers are leading the disruption in media, choosing to use the technologies that are available to them, and we as marketers have to keep up.”

Whitten also highlighted the pressure coming from the agency side for greater automation. His question, to a panel representing TV, streaming audio, mobile, and out-of-home, was how far advanced the industry is now, and how long it will take to get to the all-programmatic future.

Jonathan Forster, VP EMEA advertising & partnerships at Spotify, confirmed that agency demand is a catalyst for increased automation. But he argued the industry also has to do a better job of explaining what automation is to people planning and buying in traditional ways.

“We can speak to advertisers about a lot of new opportunities,” he said, “but we’ve also allowed broadcast advertisers to buy Spotify ads in the way they’re used to. The two models can’t exist side by side forever, but it means we’re currently in a very fortunate position.”

And responding to Whitten’s question about how big a proportion of his business would be automated in five years’ time, Forster said it would be 100% “driven by cost savings and the need to make things simple.”

Martin Corke, sales director at out-of-home media owner Clear Channel, said the company is focused on making the medium more effective and easier to buy. Programmatic, he said, is the way forward.

“We’re starting from a low base,” he said. “Only between 5% and 10% of our digital activity is currently programmatic, but the vision is to be 100% automated by 2020.”

He also pointed out that digital means the company is now running campaigns that wouldn’t have been possible six months ago. His example was Lotto, the U.K.’s national lottery, where the old booking cycles wouldn’t have allowed the company to respond to a Wednesday rollover by the following Friday.

“We’re adding activation to reach, and data is fuelling that,” he said.

Theo Theodorou, GM EMEA at xAD Location Based Mobile, talked about the benefit of combining data across platforms.

“We did a collaboration with Posterscope for Westfield shopping centre. They were doing bus sides, but people nowadays aren’t always looking up when they’re outside, they’re looking at their phones. We showed a 50% uplift by extending the out-of-home campaign onto mobile.”

Crowe concurred. “Mobile data is helping plan better campaigns,” he said.

Theodorou also stressed the importance of location in mobile, which he described as “mobile’s cookie.”

“Location opens up mobile to programmatic,” he said. “It allows brands to build audiences and target them in the moment. It gives a degree of addressability not available before.”

And he agreed with the point made by Spotify’s Forster that simplification is crucial in growing the understanding and use of automation.

“How do we humanise the technology for brands and agencies to help them communicate with consumers?” he asked.

David Fisher, head of digital at Sky Media, discussed the convergence of digital and TV at the broadcaster, but he pointed out that, while the TV business is automated, most of it isn’t programmatic. Instead, the big opportunity is its tailored advertising product, AdSmart.

“There’ll always be a place for broadcast to do the fame job, but when people are in-market, we can do a better job of targeting them with AdSmart.”

And he called for “a more equitable arrangement around data with agencies” as another key step towards the automated future.