It is a challenge for marketers to keep up-to-date with technological advances in digital marketing as the industry continues to innovate. Programmatic buying and real-time bidding have changed the face of the digital media market, however many people are still trying to come to terms with what these terms mean and what opportunities they can offer.

According to IDC, spending on real-time bidding for display advertising will accelerate at a growth rate of 59% through to 2016, making it the fastest growing segment of digital advertising over the next few years. Additionally, IAB found that within the next two years 91% of advertisers and 83% of publishers expect to be using programmatic. Considering that soon a large majority of the industry will be using programmatic methods for buying digital advertising inventory, there is a long way to go in terms of educating the industry on the process and what it can achieve.

Defining programmatic can be a difficult task. At Rocket Fuel, we use the simple definition of ‘an act of bidding on advertising inventory in real time for the opportunity to show one specific ad to one consumer, in one specific context’.

The reason why programmatic buying has become such an essential part of our marketing toolboxes is that it allows advertisers to buy impressions individually based on rich data that provides an accurate picture of the ideal audience. Therefore, advertisers are only paying for exactly who they want to reach – consumers who are likely to buy their products.

Programmatic buying allows for digital marketing to be run with real-time optimisation, rather than on a campaign-by-campaign method. The level of data being generated by consumers online is constantly growing and by collecting and analysing this data, it is possible to gain immediate and accurate insights into ad effectiveness that can instantly be used to inform who else to serve the ad to.

Programmatic buying has changed the face of the digital marketing industry as marketers are able to spend money targeting customers that should be reached – targeting one ad, for one consumer in one context – 1:1 marketing at its best.

Programmatic buying of display advertising is fast becoming a must-have for every media campaign and this will continue as more people begin to understand the benefits it can provide. It is always exciting to see where a technology or trend is headed next and with programmatic, it has to be around the growth in social, mobile and video advertising as well as the emergence of TV and radio advertising.

Take for example the strong relationship we are starting to see develop between Facebook and TV-synced ads. A recent study found that Facebook News Feed ads sent out via the Facebook Exchange (FBX) in the few seconds after it starts to air on TV actually experienced over 60% lift in consumer click-through rates, compared to those sent out via FBX when the TV ad is not running. In today’s technological advanced society, viewer attention is heavily shared between TVs and companion devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones, showing a real opportunity for advertisers to be utilising social channels as a powerful channel for delivering TV-synced messages to audiences.

Another exciting area within programmatic that is moving from strength to strength is video. According to the 2013 IAB / PwC ad spend report the video marketing industry is now worth £325 million a year, a 63%+ increase from the previous year. Video databases have now enabled the majority of content to be available for programmatic buying and with branded video content reaching 46% of all UK internet users, this area is becoming one of the most important in our industry.

Video is also exciting because of the different benefits it can have compared with traditional online advertising. Videos, unlike static banner ads for example, have the ability to go viral and can also captivate audiences with a compelling story that then leads to an emotional impact on the viewer. However, in order to achieve this, the videos have to be placed in front of the right person at the right time, which is why programmatic can be so beneficial to an online video.

Programmatic is definitely an exciting space to keep a close eye on, and I will be watching it very closely.